Mike Beltzner, the director of Firefox, was in New York City today and dropped by my office to talk about Firefox 3.5, which is now officially being rolled out as a “preview” version (a very stable beta) to everyone using the current 3.5 beta. Firefox 3.5 is supposedly much faster than earlier versions, which is always a good thing. Honestly, the nanosecond speed differences between most of today’s latest browsers is becoming hard to detect. Three features of Firefox 3.5 which stand out for me are: 1) its embrace of open-source video standards, 2) its geo-location capabilities, and 3) support for downloadable fonts and other graphic tricks.
In the video above, Beltzner demos some of the new video and graphics capabilities of Firefox 3.5. Built into the browser is a video player based on the open-source video formats Ogg Vorbis and Theora. The video player supports HTML5, which means that links and other interactive elements can easily be placed inside videos. The demo page Beltzner shows in the video can be found here (but the effects only work if you are looking at it in Firefox 3.5). Being able to treat the content inside videos like Web pages opens up a whole new world of possibilities for Web video. Already, DailyMotion offers all of its videos in the Ogg Theora format. If this takes off, Flash video could be come history.
Look closely at what Beltzner is showing off in the video, because you can’t do any of that with Flash.
Update: There is a lot of great debate in the comments about whether or not you can do this stuff in Flash. Technically, you can, but the only examples I’ve seen are where the entire page is done in Flash or a proprietary overlay is being used. The videos in the demo all sit within regular Web pages and are written in HTML5. What is interesting in my mind about the Ogg Vorbis format is that it makes videos programmable. Videos today are still for the most part siloed off from the rest of the Web in their Flash players as a separate experience. It is time to break down those walls.