The Most Exciting Feature of WordPress 3.6: Native Audio and Video Support

The Most Exciting Feature of WordPress 3.6: Native Audio and Video Support

We’re all eagerly looking forward to WordPress 3.6 with its beautiful updates to Post Format UI and bright new default Twenty Thirteen theme. But there’s one feature that far and away surpasses all the others.

The upcoming WordPress 3.6 release will add native support for audio and video files. This one is a real game changer. We’re going to give you a full introduction to the new capabilities and show you how you can use them on your WordPress site. But first, let’s take a look at how we’ve previously been managing multimedia files.

In the old days…

If you’re a podcaster or video blogger, in the old days your WordPress site required a plugin in order to play the audio or video files that you created.

For example, if you were going to upload a video, here’s what it would look like in the WordPress post edit screen:

Inserting an uploaded video into a post just results in a clickable link with no player.

As you can see, inserting an uploaded video into a post just results in a clickable link with no player on the front end. Boo! If this was a first time discovery, I’d be off to find a suitable plugin for displaying my media.

Of course, you could always take advantage of a third party service like Youtube or Vimeo and easily embed it in WordPress. But what if you just want to use your own server? There was no way to do this before without the help of a plugin.

A Preview of Audio/Video Uploads in WordPress 3.6:

Below is a quick preview of how you might upload a video in WordPress 3.6. You can also see how the post format selection will appear:

Option to post embed code or upload your own video file

What I like about the update is that it provides a clear path of action. Once the user selects “Video”, he doesn’t have to wonder what’s next or how to get the video to display. He can either paste in the URL to the video or upload one. The shortcode is automatically provided. Here’s what that looks like on the front end:

Front end video display

The whole experience is much easier than before, don’t you think? These updates make it possible for anyone to post the occasional audio or video file without having to search for a media player.

What’s under the hood?

Some of you may already be familiar with MediaElement.js and have perhaps even used in on your WordPress site via a plugin. There are a number of reasons MediaElement.js was chosen to power WordPress’ core audio/video support, but these are perhaps the most compelling:

  • Outstanding support for all major browsers and devices
  • MediaElement.js uses the same HTML markup, regardless of playback implementation
  • The players can be easily skinned with CSS

If you’re wondering just how robust the browser and device support is, check out this chart from the MediaElement.js website:

MediaElement.js Browser and Device Support

MediaElement.js Features:

  • HTML5 audio and video players in pure HTML and CSS
  • Custom Flash and Silverlight players that mimic the HTML5 MediaElement API for older browsers
  • Accessibility standards including WebVTT

The awesome thing about the media players is that any regular Joe with just a little bit of CSS can style them to make them look completely custom. Full visual control of the media player was quite rare in the old days of using plugins. In fact, many media players come branded for the software and make their logos/links difficult to remove. Not so with the new native players. The display is entirely under your control.

Why Native Audio/Video support makes life easier for everyone:

Finding the right audio or video plugin can be a gigantic hurdle, especially for a beginner. Not only does it require a plugin compatible with the current version but it also requires learning how to use it, and some of them don’t make it easy. The new native audio/video player makes it possible for anyone to upload and display multimedia content without having to be familiar with plugin installation and customization. Not only is it easier for those posting blogs but it’s also fantastic for the readers, given the broad support for browsers and devices. This is the way it should be and I’m glad it’s finally here.

Third-party services like Youtube and Vimeo no longer required

So now if you take a quick video with your phone, you can easily upload it to your WordPress blog without having to jump through a bunch of different hoops. Multimedia bloggers, bands, podcasters, magazines and news sites can their own audio and video libraries with WordPress – no plugins or third-party services required. Just remember that streaming audio and video can take a huge toll on your server, so you may still want to use a service like Youtube or Vimeo. WordPress 3.6 has you covered with new embed handlers if you go that route.

The new native audio and video support is a giant leap forward for all WordPress users. Since WordPress powers a very large chunk of the web, we’re bound to see a huge increase in multimedia blogging. Are you excited about the changes in WordPress 3.6? Will you ditch your audio/video plugins and use the new native capabilities?