August 31, 2010

From a reader:

I think the case for HTML5 is being a bit overstated. Even if it is widely adopted (which I think it will be) I am not sure how dramatically different the experience will be. It removes the need for plug-in RIA’s like Flash and Silverlight, but that is tantamount to standardization of technology that has more or less been around for years.

From one angle, the whole point is indeed that the experience will be the same. So from a typical end-user’s perspective, it doesn’t matter a hoot.

It does matter for some end-users from a marketing perspective — just yesterday I met with a prospective client and they wanted to move their (uneditable, unsearchable, unmanageable) site from Flash to HTML. They’d heard for themselves that HTML itself could do any of the cool stuff like animations, while potentially solving the usual pitfalls of Flash because HTML is more a part of the web — and they’re novice. There’s been a perception that if you wanted a cool, ” flashy”, interactive site (especially for entertainment, fashion, arts) you wanted to go with Flash. That’s now going out the door, thanks to fodder from Google and Apple and the broader community, and I welcome that. I would have to explain to clients that they didn’t need Flash just because they wanted a rotating feature spot or fading graphics on their website!

And it of course does matter from a developer’s perspective and a broader development-of-the-web perspective. The case for HTML5 is largely a developers rallying cry, pushing the community to adopt it and pushing tool-makers to support the standard. Why? A web based on standards makes for a better web — no more plug-in issues (how many businesses refuse to allow Flash) = less dependencies to worry about, deep integration with every other aspect of the client-side stack = a richer experience, lighter-weight and tightly-coupled to the core standard = easier to deploy and support on all kinds of devices on our fragile web, open versus binary = searchable and editable the web way, standard versus proprietary = legally and forever a part of the open web owned by no one, and so on and so on. Further, it bridges a gap amongst the web development community which is important from a broader industry standpoint.

So the case for HTML5 is a case because that’s how evolution and adoption goes. It’s as simple as that.

Some HTML5 fun:

Apple’s HTML5 examples: http://www.apple.com/html5/ Chrome Experiments: http://www.chromeexperiments.com/ Full-on Quake game w/ HTML5 (must be a geek to compile): http://code.google.com/p/quake2-gwt-port/

If you want to try the Apple stuff on Chrome, change your user-agent to trick the site into thinking you’re running Safari with this extension: https://chrome.google.com/extensions/detail/aafciojnlamllgpkpdkbamkfgbofhgcj?hl=en