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Here’s looking at you: HTML5 (Part II)

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on August 3, 2009

Continued from earlier post:

However, HTML5 is handicapped by the following factors:

513636061_98d07f7966Lack of Extensibility:

One of the new things HTML 5 sets out to do is to provide web developers with a standardized set of semantic page layout structures. However, the new elements may not be entirely forward-compatible, as they are constrained to today’s understanding of what makes up a page. An extensible mechanism, although less straightforward, would offer more room to grow as the web evolves.HTML5 does add new elements like header, nav, article, section, aside, and footer which expand the structural definition of a page, but does not provide the level of extensibility that people have been seeking.

Documents versus Applications:

From a future perspective, HTML5 is seen as a document publishing, however, in its present avatar it is painfully evident that it lacks the tools it needs to describe the documents sufficiently.

There is also a burning need to address the short-comings of HTML for web applications —especially when it comes to being able to build rich web applications for mobile devices.

While most of the smartphones in the world use the Webkit in some form or the other and HTML 5 will have to build upon this platform as a base, it is worth bringing to notice that Webkit Does Not Equal HTML5 Support… Yet

To be clear, just because a device uses webkit does not mean that it has the latest version of Webkit and can use HTML5. Recognizing the market share of Webkit is important solely as an indicator that a significant portion of smart phones will have access to HTML5 sometime in the near future.

There is great incentive for mobile operating system vendors to upgrade to the latest versions of Webkit. They see the success that the iPhone has had and the fact that one of the main contributors to that success was the browsing experience. They understand that not many companies can afford to develop native applications for all of the various platforms which makes the features of HTML5 attractive.

Because of this, browser improvements need to be a high priority for mobile operating systems.

Here’s looking at you: HTML5 (Part I)

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on August 3, 2009

World Wide Web Consortium’s decision to not renew the XHTML 2 Working Group charter effectively means that XHTML 2 (as a web standard) is effectively dead. In its place as the future of web development stands HTML5.

Given the emergence of “mobile internet” as the next revolution in internet medium, HTML5 is going to big a deal and it will be relevant much sooner than people think. Adoption of HTML5 will be driven by the needs of mobile, not the needs of desktop developers.


When Can We Use HTML5?

HTML5 did not really matter until IE supported whatever new standard for mobiles or IE no longer has the majority of the market share.

Given the fact that IE doesnot have a mobile bias, the smartphone growth will drive HTML5 adoption. The iPhone, Google Android, Nokia, and the Palm Pre are all based on the open source Webkit browser engine. Those phones represent somewhere around 65% of smart phones sold.If you look past mobile phones to other mobile devices like the iPod Touch, Nokia’s internet devices, and the upcoming Google Chrome, you see that Webkit is even more broadly distributed.

The two major platforms not using Webkit are Windows Mobile and Blackberry. Some of the capabilities of HTML5 are available to Windows Mobile users via the Google Gears plugin.

Blackberry has its own specialized browser not built on any of the major browser engines. It only recently started handling html, css and javascript reasonably well, but still is insufficient and buggy compared to other browsers.

Fortunately, for both Windows Mobile and Blackberry, Opera’s browser is both available and popular. It is consistently one of the top if not the top download on mobile applications sites. And Opera is one of the leading developers of HTML5.

HTML5 for Mobile

HTML5 is a critical step for mobile web application development. Some of the key elements that it provides are:

  • Offline Support — The AppCache and Database make it possible for mobile developers to store thing locally on the device and now that interruptions in connectivity will not affect the ability for someone to get their work done.
  • Canvas and Video — These two features are designed to make it easy to add graphics and video to a page without worrying about plugins. When supported by the phone’s hardware, as is the case with the iPhone, they provide a powerful ways to get media into a page.
  • GeoLocation API — This is actually not part of HTML5, but is a separate specification. That said, it is often bundled together because the mobile phones that are including HTML5 are generally supporting the GeoLocation API.
  • Advanced Forms — Even simple things like the improvements in HTML5 for forms could make life easier for mobile applications. Fields that can be validated by the browser are improvements for mobile devices. The more that can be handled by the browser means less time downloading javascript code and less round trips to the server if validation can be found before the form is posted.

Most importantly, nearly all of the hybrid applications frameworks—Phone Gap, QuickConnect, RhoMobile, Titanium Mobile, and others—rely on HTML5 features to provide a rich application experience.

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