5 Misconceptions About HTML5

By David Tulip

Ok, it’s time to clear up a few issues that have been bugging me recently. For some reason there seems to be a fairly significant backlash against the whole HTML5 standard, largely in the form of Adobe supporters. Now I really don’t subscribe to the whole Apple vs. Adobe debate, I think it’s petty. There will always be corporate politics but to me as a developer and an end user I care about how the standard is going to push the envelope, allow for innovation, enhance the user experience, bring together disparate technologies and ultimately make my life easier. This whole “us vs. them” them mentality is frankly juvenile and short sighted. It’s no secret that I’m excited about HTML5, but NOT because I think Google and Apple are finally giving Adobe what they deserve. Corporate spats are for corporations to care about, not you; they’re not your friends, they don’t pay you to stick up for them on the internet, it’s just absurd. Recently I’ve been noticing quite a few people posting several arguments that they don’t really grasp attempting to undermine the HTML5 project. So without further adieu these are the 5 broad categories into which these typical fallacious arguments fall.

HTML5 won’t be “ready” until 2022

Top of the list has to be this ludicrous assertion, and before anyone points me towards Ian Hickson’s statement, of course I am aware of what he said. He said that 2022 is the official date for Proposed Recommendation, but to really understand how irrelevant this date is look at CSS 2.1. This has been in universal use for many many years now, in fact as CSS 3 is already used everywhere now you could say it’s old news, and yet you may be surprised to learn that CSS 2.1 only became a “Proposed Recommendation” on the 23rd of April 2009. And even now only one browser supports the “full specification”, not the supposedly required two that HTML5 will be expected to pass by 2022. The point is that in practical terms it doesn’t mean anything! HTML5 is already in use, it’s in YouTube for god sake so how people can seriously assert that no one will touch it till 2022 is beyond me! I can guarantee that by 2022 HTML5 will be old news and we’ll be having these same silly arguments over the next big thing!

The whole HTML5 standard is marred by disagreements

This one I hear time and time again “HTML5 is a mess because companies can’t agree on the features”. This is basically the result of disgruntled Adobe fans trying to pretend the codec debate is representative of the whole standard…of course it’s not. Funnily enough the video codec debate is restricted to the video feature. None of the other features from canvas to client side storage to geo-location are bound by any such corporate quarrels because there are no such collisions of financial interests. Even in this early stage support is looking good across browsers (even IE9 is going to support html5 fully!) and all the APIs for these elements will also be agreed upon and determined by WHATWG. Even in the case of the codec debate there is just too much demand for an open free codec for it not to happen. Perhaps Google will respond to the Free Software Foundation’s pleas and make VP8 free and open source, I will expand on this issue in my next article. Suffice to say which ever codec wins this battle you’ll be surprised how little effect this has on you the end user. But aside from that all in all HTML5 is largely not a competition of individual interests at all but a free, open and consistent standard.

HTML5 is fuelled by Apples agenda against Adobe

Apple has thrown its weight behind HTML5 as has Google and many others (INCLUDING Adobe which I will expand on in the next point!), might it be that they see potential in the project? Does it have to be a conspiracy to undermine Adobe for their own sadistic pleasure? Come on, grow up. I’ve heard all sorts of claims, I was recently told that because some of the founding members of WHATWG were Apple employees (among others Mozilla and Opera) that Apple therefore effectively owned HTML5! No one owns own HTML5 in the way that Adobe owns Flash and no one company has the power to dictate the standard, that’s one of the great things about it. Google and Apple certainly have the combined power to drive acceptance of HTML5 forward and yes this may be at the expense of Flash, but that’s because Flash is outdated, it’s natural selection not a secret agenda. I’m not ashamed at all to admit that I am an HTML5 supporter, but this does not entail that I am particularly in support of Apple or Google or particularly against Adobe as some would have us believe, none of these guys pay me! Again this attitude is juvenile and simplistic.

HTML5 can only be a bad thing for Adobe

This is a very short sighted assertion too. Sure HTML5 is a direct threat to FLASH, but Adobe consists of way more than just Flash. That’s one thing that astonishes me, people who are clearly fighting tooth and nail for Adobe fail to realise that actually they could benefit from it greatly. Dreamweaver CS5 already features “smart paste” whereby you can import a piece of Flash into a web page directly…yes as HTML5 canvas. There are people who deny that this could be possible and to that I say see it for yourself. Adobe themselves see the potential in HTML5 clearly so why does it have to be one big fight? I would never deny that Adobe make great creative software, the best in the business and they could really lead the way here by making great development tools for HTML5. Adobe zealots love to point to the fact that HTML5 doesn’t have any dev tools yet and it’s a fair (if very hasty) comment. So why doesn’t Adobe do for HTML5 what it has done for Image, audio, video and code editing and fill that gap? That would be the way to take advantage of the situation and I bet that pretty soon that will be exactly what they do. Flash CS* will still exist, and will be much as it is today but I think it will primarily export in HTML5 canvas format (or a video tag compatible container) with the option to export as.swf or.flv if desired. Would that really be such a terrible thing?

HTML5 will be horrible to develop with

I keep hearing this in various forms some of which are pretty hilarious such as when one young Adobe supporter told me that “developing a web app in a mark-up language would be too hard”, no my friend it would not be hard, it would be fundamentally impossible! In canvas for instance the tag demarcates the edges of the element, everything that happens inside is controlled using the JavaScript API. Now some people find this in itself a horrendous prospect and I don’t know why because JavaScript is not a hard language. Let’s not forget that ActionScript is a dialect of JavaScript so how easy would it be for someone to create a Flash type development environment for the canvas API? Pretty damn easy, like I said in my previous point Adobe already seems to be gradually heading in that direction and if they don’t do it someone else will. Only with HTML5 because it’s open source there will be competition from loads of companies pushing things forward and no doubt we will see amazingly effective and free tools that have never been considered from within the walls of a Flash based web.

To summarise I’m not an “Apple supporter” at all (in fact I oppose their profiteering from h.264), Apple is for Apple to worry about, they’re not my friend. What I am is a supporter of is open standards, free software, web development and innovation and exciting new technology. I fear that by subscribing to these petty corporate spats people are really missing out on the bigger picture: the web does not/ should not exist to benefit individual companies EVER, it’s there to benefit a global community of users. By freeing us from proprietary software the web is one step closer to that ideal. This is not a bad thing, not even for Adobe (perhaps in the short term). So to all the Adobe fans out there don’t close yourself off, be receptive to what HTML5 can do for you and for god’s sake do some research before you make any of the claims above!


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