HTML5 still taking shape

David Rubinstein
February 27, 2012 —  (Page 2 of 3)

HTML5 not quite finished yet
Make no mistake, there still are certain kinds of applications for which plug-ins aren’t bad. Silverlight runs in and out of browser, is great if you’re in a homogeneous Microsoft environment, and your developers are skilled in Visual Studio and ASP.NET. Similarly, Flash has a powerful gaming and rich media engine that HTML5 cannot yet match.

So, has HTML5 risen to the level of Flash and Silverlight? Most experts say not yet, but it’s getting there.

Ian Jacobs, spokesman for the W3C, which is advancing HTML5 and its specifications, admitted that not every piece is yet in place, but he said that as the platform continues to grow and build momentum, “We’re getting a more diverse community to the table.”

Performance “has been the one area that keeps people up late at night,” said Aditya Bansod, senior director of product management at development platform provider Sencha. But Jacobs said there is a performance working group at W3C looking to tackle the issue. “They have some performance APIs so developers can fine-tune performance,” Jacobs said. “The standard’s not done, but it’s already being used.”

Bansod said performance is now higher on the list of HTML5 needs than user experience. “User experience and what works well on mobile devices have been well-defined in the last three years. There’s a lot of knowledge being built up around that,” he said.

(Interestingly, EffectiveUI’s Franco said you can’t separate performance from user experience. “How is performance not part of the user experience?” he asked.)

Jacobs also pointed out content protection and the need for streaming as two other areas in which HTML5 is not fully built out, as well as the audio implementation for gaming. Further, he said, the industry has not yet rallied around one codec for HTML5.

“The things we’re working on are what features do we need for trustworthy communication,” he said. “We’re working on tracking protection behind the scenes, linked data, privacy and security issues.”

In a February 2012 assessment of standards for Web applications on mobile devices, the W3C said it is releasing two competing drafts for audio: the Web Audio API and the MediaStream Process API. The W3C’s Audio Working Group is seeking feedback on which approach Web developers prefer in terms of having their needs met.

Specifications for touch, Web storage and defining an API that enables Web pages to use the WebSocket protocol for two-way communications are all advancing, Jacobs said.

He also said the W3C’s Web Applications Working Group is working on a new charter to address “universal access to Web applications across a wide range of devices and among a diversity of users.”

On the graphics side, SVG 2.0 facilitates integration with HTML5, so advanced graphic filters can be applied to multimedia content. Efforts in the works at the W3C include the 2D Programmatic API under the HTML Canvas 2D Context specification; CSS Backgrounds and Borders work on rounded corners, complex background images and box shadow effects; and CSS 3D effects and animations.

Efforts to create audio and video playback standards, and to capture audio/video, are in the early stages of work, Jacobs pointed out.

The fact that HTML5 is not completely built out leaves developers in somewhat of a pickle. “Most organizations are going with straight HTML4 and JavaScript,” said EffectiveUI’s Franco. “It’s like playing the game with one hand tied behind our back.” Thus, Web application development becomes a compromise. You can write a rich, full-featured application for Flash or Silverlight and limit where the application can be used, or you can go for broader reach across devices but having to sacrifice some of the richness.

Related Search Term(s): RIAs

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02/27/2012 03:52:54 PM EST

David's comments make sense, but possibly need some amplification. The speed problem (which indeed is a part of UI) is concentrated a lot in Javascript and the libraries and has been getting better. I'm not sure why code written in Objective C or Java or C# or ActionScript would have a native speed advantage. But the point that HTML5/JavaScript/CSS3/SVG is still taking shape is important, but if I were looking forward, given the moves of both Adobe and Microsoft, I sure would be looking in that direction. (There has to be a clever acronym that encompasses all of the HTML5 stuff.)

United StatesTom Mariner

02/28/2012 07:25:31 AM EST

The burden of responsibility in ensuring compatibility across browsers will move from a couple of providers (like Microsoft and Adobe) to every single developer who is going to try and implement an RIA by using HTML5. In complex RIAs it's likely that even a small incompatibility between browsers could cause the app to malfunction.

United KingdomAngus Rose

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