Ready, Schmeady

In case you have been living under a rock: Apple has just released the iPod Touch XXL iPad. The device itself doesn’t interest me much, so I’d like to talk about related subject: Apple’s official list of “iPad-ready websites.”

While Apple is being vague what “iPad-ready” really means, from the language on the page and the accompanying Technical Note one can infer that a website that uses the latest web technologies (HTML5, CSS3, javascript,etc.) and no plug-ins (most notably, Flash, as Apple refuses to allow those on their iPad en -Pods) should be ready. Which is all fine and dandy. No problem there.

Today, the leading news site of the Dutch public television announced that their website was now “iPad-ready”. By which they probably mean, “In certain cases, after some browser sniffing, we serve a page with an HTML5 <video> element instead of the default Flash-player.” Now that kinda, sorta worries me.

You see, I don’t think that HTML5 video is quite ready for general use on the world wide web. Reason the first: so far, no version of Internet Explorer can handle it. And reason the second: at the moment, you need at least two versions of the same clip to make it work in every other browser, due to, well, a video-format war. If you can’t be bothered to produced two versions of the same clip, you need to jump through all kinds of technical hoops to provide your content to the browsers that do not support the format you decided on. Not quite the ‘code once, work everywhere’ utopia we have been promised.

So, if you think that making your website “iPad-ready” means that you need to use the <video> element to serve MPEG-encoded video, well, you clearly have a lot to learn about the open web.

(Of course, it’s quite easy to envision a scenario where Apple is using the iPad/iPod to manipulate the browser market into adopting MPEG as the de facto standard for web video because, well, everybody knows that everything Apple does has the potential to be the cure for cancer and can bring about world peace. But I’m neither a Apple fanboy nor a tinfoil hat wearing, paranoid conspiracy theorist, so I won’t go there.)