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YouTube Unwraps HTML5 Video Experiment

Google's YouTube is pushing the boundaries of what can be done on the popular video site with the launch of an experimental HTML5-based player.

The HyperText Markup Language, or HTML , is the rendering language to create, format and lay out documents on the Web. Among the many changes in HTML5, the latest version of the markup language, is the elimination of the need for a browser to embed a separate video player, such as a Flash-based player, so the Web page itself can control the player.

"This means that users with an HTML5-compatible browser and support for the proper audio and video codecs can watch a video without needing to download a browser plugin," said Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) engineers Kevin Carle and Chris Zacharias in a blog post.

The blog also noted that the most frequent request YouTube heard from users recently was to do more with HTML5.

For now, the Wednesday launch is just an experiment and YouTube was quick to note in the blog that it won't do all the things users might expect from HTML5:

"Our support for HTML5 is an early experiment, and there are some limitations. HTML5 on YouTube doesn't support videos with ads, captions, or annotations and it requires a browser that supports both the video tag and h.264 encoded video (currently that means Chrome, Safari, and ChromeFrame on Internet Explorer). We will be expanding the capabilities of the player in the future, so get ready for new and improved versions in the months to come," the Google engineers wrote.

Users can try out the HTML5 video at the YouTube TestTube page along with other experiments. HTML5 can also be combined with another YouTube experiment called Feather, that's designed to simply and speed video viewing as much as possible.

YouTube is by far the most popular video site on the Web, serving up billions of videos every year. Surprise singing sensation Susan Boyle along had over 120 million page views in 2009 topping YouTube's list of the most watched videos of the year.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.