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Are mobile browsers HTML5 compatible?

The mobile browser  landscape is constantly changing. And HTML5 is still a draft specification. So what’s the current status of mobile compatibility of browsers and HTML5?

First let’s look at the current market share worldwide as calculated by statcounter.

mobile browser usage chart

This chart shows the top 9 mobile browser market shares for the last three months worldwide. The default Android browser is the most used, closely followed by the iPhone browser (Safari) and Opera. The UC Browser is primarily used in China with 400 million users which accounts for its position in fourth place.

The “other” category contains a huge variety of browsers. Everything from handheld gaming systems like Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s PSP to proprietary browsers for a specific mobile phone like SonyErricson.

Getting back to HTML5, there are over 100 tags (elements) and no browser supports 100% of them. But when it comes to using HTML5 for streaming, the multimedia video and audio tags are what matter. And the good news is that most mobile browsers support these tags, though not necessarily every attribute.

The folks at mobileHTML5.org regularly test mobile browsers for compatibility and post their results online. The bottom row in this screencapture highlights the multimedia tags and browser compatibility.

mobile browser compatibility matrix

You can see that all current mobile browsers support these tags. Older versions of the browsers though, may not. Looking at the Android results, only versions higher than 2.3 or Gingerbread as Google likes to name their versions after food. Based on reports from android.com, more than 98% of Android devices are running versions compatible with the HTML5 multimedia tags. There are other exceptions too, for the Kindle Silk browser and Nokia’s Symbian. But the installed user base of the older versions is also very small.

Knowing your audience and what devices they use is the best way to make sure your videos can be streamed to them without any issues. You might not always have that information though, or it can change quickly as we noted above. Based on the current state of mobile browsers, if you make your video available using HTML5 the great majority of viewers won’t have any issues on mobile devices. At least they’ll be able to play your videos. If you use advanced attributes for playlists, captions, subtitles, etc. then you may need to look closer at each browser to examine what attributes are supported and what isn’t.

Are you using HTML5 for your multimedia? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments.

Oliver Burt

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