I recently created a web site for my daughter’s elementary school choir, and selected the open-source publishing system WordPress as the basis for it. It’s been over a year since I first installed WordPress to build ranchochase.com, and I was overwhelmed at the many improvements and additional features that have evolved in such a short time.

I was really amazed at the vast array of plugins that have been written to extend the functionality of an already dynamic publishing system. In particular, the ability to integrate content from other sources like flickr, twitter, and RSS feeds means WordPress can serve as an ideal container for all kinds of remote media.

This makes it ideal for a web site that needs to feature audio, video, and photographs. I am still trying out different ways to present the content, though. I’d dearly love to move away from using a Flash player for the audio – in fact, I’d like to be able to include content without having to worry about the end user having any third party plugins at all. Novice Windows users especially are very reticent about installing software they aren’t familiar with and their OS throws up so many warnings during the process they are actively discouraged from doing so.

So I am eager for the day to arrive when the modern browser alone can handle displaying stylish controls for playing audio, video, and zooming pictures with cool effects like those implemented with highslide or lightbox.

I came across a brand new plugin for wordpress that claims to do just that using HTML5, letting the browser take responsibility for the above tasks but degrading to lightweight Flash players if the browser isn’t able to. It has the catchy name of Degradable HTML5 audio and video plugin and here’s an example of what it can do with an audio link:

Annie Medley

http://ranchochase.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/PSC-Annie_Medley

This is what the flash player looks like (borrowed from the WPAudio plugin):
Annie Medley

This is what it looks like if you just insert a song into a WordPress post or page:
Annie_Medley

I really like the first option but it relies on your site visitor to be using a very recent browser. It also demands two formats of audio for each song (ogg and mp3) since Firefox and Safari look for content in different formats.

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