BBC BLOGS - dot.Maggie
« Previous | Main | Next »

An HTML5 experiment with Arcade Fire

Maggie Shiels | 09:35 UK time, Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Music and technology have long been willing bedmates.

Regine ChassagneNow the band Arcade Fire has jumped in with search giant Google to create an interactive video for the song We Used To Wait aimed at answering the question "What would a music experience designed specifically for the modern web look like?"

Aaron Koblin said that Google Creative Lab's answer was to devise a "project built with the latest web technologies [which] includes HTML5, Google Maps, an integrated drawing tool, as well as multiple browser windows that move around the screen".

Billed as the Wilderness Downtown, you are asked to insert your childhood address. As the video plays, a window pops up zooming into the area if it has been mapped by Google Street View.

"These modern web technologies have helped us craft an experience that is personalised and unique for each viewer, as you virtually run through the streets where you grew up," said Thomas Gayno, Google Creative Lab.

No sitting back and just absorbing the music, then.

Arcade Fire videoIs this the future of music video? As an artistic endeavour, it is fun and compelling and clearly illustrates what is possible with HTML5 technology.

The director behind the mash-up is Chris Milk.

Google recommends you watch the video on Chrome, but it worked fine for me on other browsers. I watched on both Safari and Firefox.

And if you're minded, don't forget to "write a letter of advice to the younger you" that lived wherever it was all those years ago.


  • 1. At 11:01am on 31 Aug 2010, ginnerchris wrote:

    That's cool. very clever way of getting you to 'own' the video.

    Complain about this comment

  • 2. At 11:42am on 31 Aug 2010, Coup Attempt wrote:

    Doesn't work in Opera. My interest disappeared at that point. I certainly won't be downloading Google's browser (or the other two already mentioned) for the privilege (ahem) of watching and listening to an Arcade Fire song.

    Complain about this comment

  • 3. At 12:29pm on 31 Aug 2010, newcastledavid wrote:

    Well Phil90125 it's not really about the music, it's about the things that you can do with HTML5 - and I was mightily impressed. Gecko (the rendering engine used by Opera) doesn't currently support as many HTML5 elements as Webkit (used by Chrome and others). So be a stick in the mud by all means - but you're missing out on something rather good...

    Complain about this comment

  • 4. At 12:43pm on 31 Aug 2010, Coup Attempt wrote:

    I don't think I'm missing out on anything. And I suppose that's really my point. With all these myriad of standards and the corresponding prescriptive advice as to which browser you "have to use" to enjoy the content, somewhere along the line the whole point of the exercise is lost. There is little point in saying "wooow look what this can do" when to get it to do what it's supposed to do, you have to download yet another piece of software to make it work. But then, as I've realised from my long exposure to to software design and development, the people expected to use it don't merit any consideration at all. You'll either download what we tell you, use it in the way we describe or we'll take our metaphorical ball back.

    Complain about this comment

  • 5. At 1:05pm on 31 Aug 2010, Coup Attempt wrote:

    Of course the irony that you have to use a certain subset of browsers to see a demonstration of what the "open standard" HTML5 can do compared to that offered by the proprietary equivalent (which works on any browser) shouldn't be lost on anyone.

    Complain about this comment

  • 6. At 1:34pm on 31 Aug 2010, SiCurious wrote:

    Are you sure you know what you're talking about, Phil? HTML 5 is in working draft at the moment. Presto (Opera's layout engine) is holding fire on full support at the moment, but you can bet Opera will support HTML 5 when (if?) it is completed. Essentially, it's like saying LPG fuel is rubbish because it doesn't work in your diesel car.

    Complain about this comment

  • 7. At 1:46pm on 31 Aug 2010, Laurence wrote:

    Actually Phil, the irony is that HTML5 isn't officially a standard yet (and won't be until at least 2012) as it is still in development. So technically any browsers implementing parts of HTML5 are doing so in a proprietary manner.

    Complain about this comment

  • 8. At 3:38pm on 31 Aug 2010, Coup Attempt wrote:

    Cheers for the patronising responses. In your eagerness to er "demonstrate" your superiority you miss my point, and neatly prove it in the process. If I want to watch it I have to download something else. As an end user (rather than a coder) I fail to see the logic in this. Where is the benefit? What is in this for the end user right now? As a technical exercise I'm sure this is great (I certainly won't be installing another browser on my PC just to see it). But as for offering a tangible, measurable benefit to the end user? That clearly open to debate, a debate that will, as usual. be lost in bitching over the technical minutia. Of course you could just have been momentarily awestruck by the celeb (well as much as Arcade Fire are "celebs") endorsement of this thing. But I rather suspect you haven't and that you believe the people who'll end up using this will actually know and care about HTML5, when all they really want is something which works.

    Complain about this comment

  • 9. At 3:53pm on 31 Aug 2010, parkjisung86 wrote:

    what a brilliant and innovative way to enjoy and interact with music. i want more!!!!

    Complain about this comment

  • 10. At 4:09pm on 31 Aug 2010, SiCurious wrote:

    Sorry Phil, you seem to have gotten a firm purchase on the wrong end of the stick. I thought you were a technical person, due to your use of the phrase "my long exposure to to software design and development". It was a bit misleading to include a sentence like that if you have no technical background.

    You know what a web browser is, and presumably you know there are a number of different browsers made by different companies (and open source communities). Some web browsers (and the layout engines they use) currently support the working draft of HTML 5. Others, for various reasons, do not. It is not up to W3C, Arcade Fire or experimental web developers to dictate if and indeed when a web browser should start supporting working drafts of open web standards; it is up to the company or community who develop your browser. All I can suggest to you is stick with mainstream websites or get a browser that supports HTML 5. If you want cutting edge effects and gizmos, you're going to need more up-to-date software.

    Complain about this comment

  • 11. At 4:44pm on 31 Aug 2010, Aidy wrote:

    What I find most interesting here isn't the technology but the language used. As has already been said, html5 is not set yet so some browsers will support it in varying degrees and some might decide not to support it at all until it is final. That's just life when you're talking about standards that are half-way done. Browsers that support html5 now may need to change their implementations in the future if the requirements change. Again…that's just how it is, most people who understand standards know this is how it is. CSS3 is also still not finalised.

    What’s different though…and where things get interesting…is when the browser not supporting non-confirmed standards is IE. Then the language is entirely different and it's all "IE doesn't support standards, typical M$ doing things its own way, I hate IE" yadda yadda. Now that one of the browsers not fully supporting html5 is not IE all of a sudden the language being used is far more sensible and measured.

    BTW don't bore us all by turning this into a "yeah but no but yeah but here are some CSS2 things IE doesn't support", I'm talking specifically about CSS3/HTML5. I have read countless comments on the net slagging off IE for not doing certain things, when those things are part of CSS3 or HTML5 (not being supported til IE9 I believe).

    Complain about this comment

  • 12. At 5:38pm on 31 Aug 2010, Coup Attempt wrote:

    "W-e-b b-r-o-w-s-e-r" you say? Is that something you use to read the interwotsit with? Will I have to fit one of those on my "c-o-m-p-u-t-e-r?"

    It seems to me that the outlook being articulated by some is firmly planted in the already well populated "wood for the trees" area of the IT sector.

    Complain about this comment

  • 13. At 5:46pm on 31 Aug 2010, SiCurious wrote:

    Aidy, there's a number of reasons why we appear to see sensible and measured comments on this thread. One of them has to do with the fact that I personally am quite sensible and measured, if I do say so myself ;) I am not a fan of Opera, though, so don't take my comments as a generic defence of a non-IE browser.

    Another reason might be that the BBC boards are heavily modded.

    The most likely reason is that developers may be biased against Microsoft, sometimes justifiably, sometimes because they control the monopoly and sometimes because of their track record of not complying to standards. They're a big target but I'm sure they can stand up for themselves.

    Complain about this comment

  • 14. At 5:48pm on 31 Aug 2010, SiCurious wrote:

    Phil - correct. And that is a masterful impersonation of me talking to someone who doesn't get the Internet, I might add.

    Complain about this comment

  • 15. At 6:56pm on 31 Aug 2010, Martin Rigby wrote:

    Even at a mundate level, HTML5 is good for music on the web. Any HTML5 compliant browser should let you stream music, even playlists, straight to your browser.

    Apple, often the villain pilloried for restricted access to its platform, supports and implements this functionality in Chrome on iPhone.

    So, HTML5 really is making a difference to the experience of music on the Web.

    Complain about this comment

  • 16. At 8:37pm on 31 Aug 2010, ElephantTalk wrote:

    Although HTML5 is a work in progress, it is usable, and by developing it, the W3C are working towards another internet standard. Internet standards are good, it means you shouldn't have to download a different browser to make something work. We all know about the pain IE6 caused and is still causing by not sticking to standards.

    Now, HTML5 is made up of several new elements and their associated attributes, which the four main layout engines have implemented to a greater or lesser degree, work in progress again. What we are talking about here is the 'video' element, which is in Gecko (Firefox and other Mozilla), Presto (Opera) and Webkit (Chrome and Epiphany). Trident should follow with version 5 (IE9).

    I can play an OGG video through the 'video' tag using Firefox, Opera or Epiphany; i.e. using the three main layout engines that have implemented the 'video' element to date. So there is no need to switch from your favourite browser!

    However, this Google contraption 'the Wilderness Downtown', is a right pigs ear of a mess. It is so resource hungry in any browser, it absolutely cripples my machine. I urge anyone not to judge HTML5/'video' on this offering.

    If you'd like to see how your favourite browser shapes up, have a look at:

    Complain about this comment

  • 17. At 11:06pm on 31 Aug 2010, ElephantTalk wrote:

    Just to clarify some misconceptions:

    HTML5 as defined by the W3C is open-source just like previous versions of HTML.

    Non-standard HTML of which there is a lot in IE and some in Opera, is proprietary, because IE and Opera are proprietary. So non-standard proprietary HTML does not work in all browsers, only the browser that implements it.

    Complain about this comment

  • 18. At 00:02am on 01 Sep 2010, marcdraco wrote:

    CSS3? Some (many) browsers can't support parts of CSS2 yet... Try the ACID tests for CSS2 and CSS3. The recent Gecko engine I'm running can do ACID 2 but fails (after a valiant effort) on ACID 3.

    Either way, proprietary functions are bad for everyone, but it seems like everyone has them. At least Webkit and Gecko go some way to hiding them to they don't break other browsers.

    Complain about this comment

  • 19. At 10:13am on 01 Sep 2010, Aidy wrote:

    @RedLinuxHacker #17

    "Just to clarify some misconceptions:

    HTML5 as defined by the W3C is open-source just like previous versions of HTML."

    Thanks for clearing up that misconception. Could you please tell me where I can find the source for HTML5? I think I'd like to take a look.

    Complain about this comment

  • 20. At 12:18pm on 01 Sep 2010, ElephantTalk wrote:

    Sure thing Aidy, here it is:

    Complain about this comment

  • 21. At 1:37pm on 01 Sep 2010, Laurence wrote:

    I think Aidy is trying to point out that the HTML5 standard is not 'Open-Source' (RedLinuxHacker's link is to a specification not source code). Rather it is an 'Open Standard'.
    You can't get the latest code, make changes, and submit them for inclusion as you would with an 'Open-Source' project - but you can make suggestions regarding the specification to the W3C who may do whatever they want with them.

    Complain about this comment

  • 22. At 2:00pm on 01 Sep 2010, Laurence wrote:

    I suppose I ought to also point out that Firefox also uses proprietary standards (e.g. safebrowsing and the MULTICOL tag - I'm sure there are more).

    Complain about this comment

  • 23. At 2:58pm on 01 Sep 2010, Daniel Walker wrote:

    "Non-standard HTML"? Not much of that, any more.

    Non-standard DOM, however... there's still plenty of that: "innerText", for instance, as opposed to "textContent".

    Complain about this comment

  • 24. At 7:27pm on 01 Sep 2010, ElephantTalk wrote:

    Oops. I got my terminology mixed up, thanks for pointing it out guys. In my defence I only used 'open-source' once and 'standard' on other occasions, when referring to HTML.
    I guess I was in a haste to point out that poster @5 was wrong in assuming that HTML5 didn't work in his browser 'cos its open standard, whereas proprietary standards work in all browsers.
    Yes, its a shame that most browsers seem to have some proprietary elements, I suppose its up to web developers not to use these and stick to open standards that are common to all browsers.

    Anyone have the same experience as I had, where I could get the 'video' tag to work in several browsers, but not the Arcade Fire video from the article?

    Complain about this comment

  • 25. At 10:05am on 02 Sep 2010, Graphis wrote:

    Nice idea. Sadly, for me, it was let down by not being able to find the precise postcode of the street where I grew up. Guess that's what happens when you grew up in a cul-de-sac!

    Complain about this comment

  • 26. At 1:55pm on 03 Sep 2010, Pastey wrote:

    Once again a discussion breaks out when people talk about browsers. I've been a developer for a long time, so I feel I know where I'm coming from here, but do feel free to correct me where I go wrong, or shout me down if I say something you don't like.

    We used to have non-standard HTML, anyone remember the marque tag? Or the blink tag maybe? They were horrid and useless (in my opinion) and they didn't work on all browsers. When CSS2 came along into the main stream it only got worse, some browsers supported the standards, some didn't. Others then tagged on their own css elements and attributes, back to the old way of "use this browsers because you can get this cool effect" Remember those "Best viewed in..." graphics you used to get at the bottom of websites? I truly did believe that those days were gone. Developers like myself have spent a lot of coding hours implementing hacks to make sites look the same across all browsers, to get the user experience the same regardless of what browser, or indeed what operating system a user was using. We can sit here debating the minutae of pros and cons of each browser, but let's face it, the average user just wants the thing to work.

    One of the pros of HTML5 was that as an updated version of the open standard, browsers could stick to them with it providing everything needed, along with CSS3 to keep the websites the same regardless of what platform and browser you used. Development time was supposed to drop.

    I've been working with the HTML5 spec for a while now, not just the video tag as although that's getting a lot of attention it's just a small part. In my opinion the local storage should be getting more attention, but that's my opinion. What I've seen of the spec and how it's been implemented by the browsers so far leads me only to one conclusion, we're heading back to how it used to be.

    Webkit based browsers have a whole range of css just for them, Firefox has some quirks with javascript (still) and Opera seems to be playing safe implementing only the parts it feels stable enough. IE9 I've not had much testing time with yet, but the pre-release platform demos aren't too bad. But all we tend to see when it hits the press is the browser makers trying to show off how good their browser is with certain parts of it, claiming that they are the HTML5 browser.

    Apple did this with its Safari showcase, not even letting you see their demos unless you were using Safari. Even though nothing in the code wouldn't work on any of the other HTML5 enabled browsers. Microsoft have been doing it with their platform previews, and now Google have done this to show off how good Chrome is. At least in Google's defence they haven't crippled it to not work on other browsers.

    Is there anything impressive in this demonstration? Well, there's nothing I haven't seen done elsewhere already, but this has done it much smoother, slicker and to be honest better.

    Will it inspire me as a developer to start using Chrome as my main browser? No. Chrome isn't a good development browser. Opera is. If it works in Opera, it'll work in anything.

    Complain about this comment

  • 27. At 5:33pm on 03 Sep 2010, Laurence wrote:

    @26. You asked to be corrected when you go wrong. The MARQUEE tag is still in use, and is supported by Firefox as well as Internet Explorer - and I beleive it is currently mentioned in the HTML5 working draft (
    As I said earlier, HTML5 isn't a standard yet, so any browsers implementing it will certainly be doing so in a proprietary manner. Though this isn't a bad thing as their implementation may well show up discrepancies in the specification which can be clarified before it becomes a standard - but as a web developer I wouldn't use any HTML5 features until it does become a standard and the majority of browsers support it as per spec.

    Complain about this comment

  • 28. At 6:24pm on 04 Sep 2010, ElephantTalk wrote:

    The 'marquee' tag is non-standard proprietary HTML introduced into IE by Microsoft. It has been deprecated by W3C in favour of a CSS solution, but most browsers tolerate the tag for legacy compatibility.
    HTML5 is an internet standard, but its status at the moment is 'working draft'. As has been pointed it will be some time before it reaches the 'recommendation' status.
    Again, its up to web developers not to use deprecated proprietary HTML and stick to open standards, including HTML5 that are common to all browsers.
    I for one would prefer to see the 'video' tag 'cos it works for me, except in this Arcade Fire video. I would also prefer it to Flash, 'cos Flash is the only thing that crashes on my Linux box.

    Complain about this comment

  • 29. At 08:23am on 06 Sep 2010, Laurence wrote:

    HTML5 is not a standard (yet). You can't have a standard which has not been agreed yet, which is still being worked on, and which is still referred to as a 'draft'.
    As HTML5 isn't a standard yet, anyone using it is effectively perpetuating the use of non-standard HTML. The VIDEO tag may not work because it still relies on non-standard codecs which may not be available on your system.

    Complain about this comment

  • 30. At 9:25pm on 06 Sep 2010, ElephantTalk wrote:

    I finally got the Arcade Fire video to work in Firefox after waiting forever for it to load. I was totally underwhelmed and won't be watching it again. It seems to be an over-complicated implementation of HTML5/video, unless Google has optimised it for Chrome which defeats the object of having cross-browser standard HTML.

    The HTML5/video tag doesn't rely on non-standard codecs and works perfectly well using the open standard container format - OGG. I have tested it using Firefox/Gecko, Opera/Presto and Epiphany/WebKit, I haven't tested the developer preview of IE9 as its not available for Linux.

    Whatever terminology is used for HTML5 it is certainly not 'non-standard', as it is being developed by the standards authorities WHATWG and W3C. WHATWG call it a 'Draft Standard'. Regardless of what stage the development of HTML5 is at, it is the next major revision of the HTML standard.

    Complain about this comment

View these comments in RSS


Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.