Choosing the Best Video Format for the Web

Video has come a long way since magnetic tapes were involved and it’s time to ensure that you’re using the best format for displaying video content on your website. Including videos helps make your content (eCommerce, information, or otherwise) easier to connect with and digest. Give your visitors the ability to watch in full-screen mode and it’s an immersive experience.

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An embedded YouTube or Vimeo player will work just fine for many situations but if you’d like to have greater control over your video player and its controls then the HTML5 video tag is your solution. The video tag only works with a few file formats (currently) - MP4, OGV, WebM, and WebVTT - and each format has at least one strong reason to employ it.


MPEG-4 is the HTML5 supported file format that has been around longest. Version 1 debuted in 2001 as one of the earliest digital video file formats. In a time when digital data was beginning to replace mechanical video tapes in mass, MPEG-4 became a wildly popular file format. However, its span means that it was not designed with today, and tomorrow’s, internet in mind. The smartest phone available in 2001 was Palm’s Kyocera 6035, and one of its strongest selling points was (limited) web browsing.


OGG was originally designed as an audio compression package in the early ‘90s but matured over the next two decades. What started as a workaround led OGG to give birth to OGV, a digital multimedia file format redesigned for efficient streaming over the internet. However, the format’s longevity does not guarantee success in an ever-changing future. The format does not (currently) work with any version of Internet Explorer nor Safari - not to mention today’s most popular mobile devices.


WebM is a completely open-source video format, which meshes well with the current and future state of the internet. It debuted in 2010 and was designed and developed with widespread web use and sharing in mind. Many of WebM’s features were created with an eye towards the future, including the file format’s low computational footprint. It delivers the highest quality video it can in real time, adjusting file weight depending on connection and processing power. Despite its recent development and release, however, WebM (currently) has the same HTML5 browser incompatibilities as OGV (WebM’s one advantage being its compatibility with Chrome on Android devices).


Similar to the WebM format, WebVTT was released in 2010 with the hope of overtaking all other video formats used on the web. WebVTT’s greatest advantage over its competitors is that WebVTT was developed by W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium). WebVTT was created directly from W3C’s own HTML standard, making it the most compatible video tag format (currently) available. The cross operating system and cross-browser support that WebVTT offers make it the logical choice for videos on any website.

Many video file formats, more than those named here, can be employed successfully online. But ultimately, the targeted goal is ensuring the greatest number of your visitors can interact with your media without issue. W3C’s WebVTT format is the best format to reach that goal. Contact us to start adding video to your site today.