HTML stands for Hyper-Text Markup Language. Essentially, anything (including this page of this blog) that you view through your browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera, Chrome) is written in HTML. Currently, HTML is setup to show pages of written text and pictures. Whenever you add videos, music or active integration to a page, you need to add a third party player.
Last week, YouTube became one of a select few sites to offer HTML 5 support. It’s in beta, but it’s worth the link. For an overview of HTML 5, may I suggest the Wikipedia page on it. Briefly, HTML 5 makes things like video and sound part of the page rather then requiring a player. It also enables a richer display and storage of data.
Most of the press on YouTube’s support of HTML 5 has centered around the effects of the standard on Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. I think these miss the larger impact of HTML 5 though, the progress toward a browser that functions as an operating system. HTML 5’s support for Rich Internet Applications (applications that feel like desktop programs, but run in the web), will allow applications like Google Docs to replace office. It will allow applications like SalesForce.com to replace Siebel, and other such SaaS companies to replace standard software companies. As this transformation nears completion (still years away), people will be able to buy less powerful computers (think tablets) running skinny operating systems (think Chrome OS) that essentially are just web browsers.
That is the really exciting thing about HTML 5; not that Microsoft Silverlight going down isn’t a nice byproduct.