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HTML5 – the confusion of the web

Tweet I’ve been in the online industry for over 17 years, during much of that time I’ve been a ‘hack’ developer. I recall my earliest days of HTML, which I chose to learn after refusing to learn HyperCard – something about HTML felt so right. I’ve always felt HTML had more potential than we ever [...]

I’ve been in the online industry for over 17 years, during much of that time I’ve been a ‘hack’ developer. I recall my earliest days of HTML, which I chose to learn after refusing to learn HyperCard – something about HTML felt so right. I’ve always felt HTML had more potential than we ever realised.

Oh sure along the way I’ve learnt more than just HTML of course. I still recall experimenting with “Future Splash” which became Flash (which is now on deaths door with the death of Flash on Mobile), toyed with Silverlight (which also is being killed off by Microsoft), and I remember being ‘forced’ to learn PHP in a hurry to help save a company I was working with at the time. I’ve battled with Javascript, I love CSS and I’ve experimented with so many different web-technologies. Alas now I find myself no longer coding much of anything. The last project I worked on is ‘Localwhiz‘ a location based exploration tool that I never really finished – I even started a version 2 (dev.localwhiz if you try it, simply close the empty splash window to explore the map) which is 100% HTML, CSS, Javascript (and a small PHP Proxy) to build on others API’s. (Version 1 is limited to Canada becuase it uses, Version 2 isn’t limited as it uses Sensis, YellowAPI and Google Places. Both use Foursquare, and V2 also uses Flickr API and … anyway it’s not going anywhere fast at the moment)

So why am I writing this blog post about HTML 5 after a period of time away from blogging?

I have the privilege this week of attending Google Developer Day in Sydney and during this time I sat in on a couple of sessions by Eric Bidelman. I’ve know of Eric for a long time, but had never met him before or really listened to him present. One of the sessions he took was “HTML5 Bleeding Edge”. And this is why I’m blogging today.

HTML5 – the confusion

Lets go back a second. Why are both Adobe and Microsoft moving away from technology they both saw as empowering the ‘interactive’ or ‘engaging’ web? Well Adobe and my old mate Mike Chambers would tell you one of the key reasons they are killing off Mobile Flash is in part due to Apple and it’s lack of adoption for Flash on the iPhone. Sure this might have been the catalyst for this, but it is by far the primary driver. Both Flash and Silverlight existed to fill a void, a void that HTML historically left open. One of engagement.

HTML is a semantic structure language that defines on the page what elements are. That’s it. It simply says “This is a paragraph” or “This word should have emphasis“. HTML was never about “move this from here”, “reveal this”, or even “have I been clicked”.

HTML is and always will be a semantic markup language. It’s dumb. It does nothing other than tell you what an element is. In the same light CSS is a semantic language  that is also (by n large) dumb. It tells you how an element should look (excuse CSS animations for now). So we still have a void, a gap that links together elements, layout and actions. Enter stage left, Javascript.

I don’t know about you but to me HTML has always been just HTML, Javascript and to a lesser extent CSS were supporting acts to HTML. As I watched and listened to Eric presenting and showing off HTML5, everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) he did, had elements of ‘engagement’ (think ‘actions’, ‘movement’). There was movement, there was fluidity, there was cause and reaction. He talked long and hard about the power of HTML 5 and demoed these things. Time and time again he used phrases like ‘raw html’, ‘power of html5′, ‘native html5 in the browser’.

A reality check here

So wait, HTML5 Rocks, I agree, but it would seem when we talk about HTML5 we are no longer talking about just HTML. What I’m seeing is HTML5 as more of a family, 3 in one if you will. The ‘holy trinity’ of the web.

  • HTML – structured understanding and markup of elements on a page
  • CSS – structured language for defining how an element sits on and what it looks like on a page
  • Javascript – a defined set of API’s that allow engagement, interaction between elements (in this place you can consider a user, mouse, web server, or almost any outside influence as an element) on the page

To that point, the folks over at HTML5 Rocks even have a slide that outlines this. They say that HTML5 is this family.

HTMl5 – the future, today

It’s nice to sit here and type out a blog post realising that finally after 17+ years, I’m seeing the true potential of what the web can be. HTML5 is what HTML2 should have been.  I wonder if we hadn’t so easily chased after technology like Flash and Silverlight if the web would be in a much stronger place now. If the W3C had fought harder for standards, earlier, would Internet Explorer be a stronger (and by that I mean better) browser than it is today? I don’t lay all the blame for IE’s short comings at Microsoft, I lay part of that blame at Adobe’s feet. Flash made web developers and designers lazy, it made the W3C & web standards fights harder.

Today we no longer need Flash, we have HTML5 – sadly, Microsoft have promised 10+ years of support for Internet Explorer & Flash on the desktop is still around (for now). So yes we might have the future technology, today, but thanks to Adobe and Microsoft, most main stream websites still can’t make use of many of these technologies today, and won’t be able too for many years to come.


Yes I know that apparently Internet Explorer has dipped below 50% market share for the first time, and speculation is Chrome will replace it as the #1 browser within 18 months to 2 years. But for most websites (at least here in NZ) Internet Explorer is still in the 70% range of users – thanks in part to corporations not upgrading from Windows XP.


One Response


In my opinion when Flash arrived it opened the door for artist and creative minds to get involved with web-development that properly would not otherwise have join the www band-wagon.. and I believe these creative minds has inspired the whole industry and shown the world that the www does not have to be like the printed paper.. it can be dynamic, interactive and fun… And for that I salute FLASH.. but some common standards would be great.. so I say ‘bring-it-on’ HTML5.. let’s see what you got ;-) — Regards/Harbo – freelance flash developer since 2001