Alginate has been widely used in a variety of biomedical applications including drug delivery and cell transplantation. However, alginate itself has a very slow degradation rate, and its gels degrade in an uncontrollable manner, releasing high molecular weight strands that may have difficulty being cleared from the body. We hypothesized that the periodate oxidation of alginate, which cleaves the carbon-carbon bond of the cis-diol group in the uronate residue and alters the chain conformation, would result in promoting the hydrolysis of alginate in aqueous solutions. Alginate, oxidized to a low extent (approximately 5%), degraded with a rate depending on the pH and temperature of the solution. This polymer was still capable of being ionically cross-linked with calcium ions to form gels, which degraded within 9 days in PBS solution. Finally, the use of these degradable alginate-derived hydrogels greatly improved cartilage-like tissue formation in vivo, as compared to alginate hydrogels.