YouTube’s HTML5 player has improved a lot lately and it’s almost ready to replace the Flash player. You can enable annotations and captions, the contextual menu lets you copy the embedding code and the video’s URL, YouTube now offers 480p and 1080p options for WebM videos and there’s native full-screen support if you use a Firefox nightly build or Chrome’s dev channel.
I’ve also noticed that sometimes embedded videos use the HTML5 player even if you’ve already installed Flash and you haven’t enabled the HTML5 trial.
YouTube might default to the the HTML5 player even if you haven’t enabled the experimental feature. If you’re using a supported browser (the latest versions of Chrome, Safari, Opera, IE9 beta, Firefox 4 beta), YouTube could test the new player.
“You are in a trial for HTML5 video on YouTube. Some users of supported browsers are automatically entered in to the trial. If you wish to leave the trial, use the link at the bottom. HTML5 is a new browser technology that allows us to show videos without the Flash plugin,” explains YouTube.
If you right-click on the video, you’ll see a menu that offers two options: “save video as” and “about HTML5″. You might assume that “save video as” lets you download the video, but it actually sends you to this video.
In January, YouTube launched a player that used the HTML5 video tag. To try this player, you have to go to youtube.com/html5 and enable the player. If you have a browser that supports the video tag and the YouTube video doesn’t use captions, annotations and doesn’t show ads, you’ll be able to watch the video in YouTube’s HTML5 player.
What if you want to switch to the HTML5 player for a single video or you want to link to the HTML5 version? YouTube has a special parameter that lets you do that: just append “&html5=True” to the video’s address. Here’s an example:
For now, YouTube’s HTML5 player works in Google Chrome (h.264; Chrome 6 adds support for WebM), Opera 10.6+ (WebM), Safari 4+ (h.264) and Firefox 4 (WebM).