Posted on April 14, 2010
What you should know about HTML5 today
If you teach online journalism, you’ve probably been hearing questions from students about the validity of what they are learning today. If you’re teaching Web design for current standards and current browsers, they are asking, “What about HTML5 and CSS3?” If you’re teaching Flash, they are asking whether HTML5 will be a “Flash killer.” And you are probably wondering how soon you will need to update all your assignments and teaching materials.
Me too! So I’ve been out there scouring the blogs and the trade press for information.
I’ve concluded that HTML5 and the future of Web design must be considered by category, because each one of these will be affected differently:
- Mobile and handheld devices
- General Web design
But first, let’s consider the timeline for HTML5.
When will HTML5 be here?
According to Philippe Le Hégaret, of the Worldwide Web Consortium, “I don’t expect to see full implementation of HTML5 across all the major browsers until the end of 2011 at least.” (Reported at Webmonkey, Nov. 17, 2009.)
Dublin-based software developer Devon O. Wolfgang writes: “HTML5 is barely out the door in beta form and is already being implemented differently on different browsers. Eventually (2012, 2014, or maybe not even until 2022, according to various sources), HTML5 might just settle down and assume a lowest common denominator standardization across most, if not all, browsers. … HTML5 is still at least 2 years from being implemented in a widely usable fashion.” (Posted January 31, 2010.)
So if all you’re worried about right now is your syllabus for fall 2010 — relax. Change is slow, and when we teach Web design, we need to focus primarily on the browsers and platforms currently in use.
I’m going to wait until I see a whole lot more green boxes in the “Elements” table on this Wikipedia chart page before I start worrying about teaching HTML5 in depth.
For now, I think it’s important to show Web design students how the standard will change, and have a discussion about why. Here are two good, clear resources that will help you have that discussion:
Video and HTML5
This is at the heart of current screaming and backstabbing between Adobe and Apple. Most video seen on the Web today is served up via the Flash Player. Apple has declared that Flash is bad because it makes the Safari Web browser crash. The Safari Web browser is the only Web browser that can be used on the iPhone and on the iPad.
It is ironic that much of this argument is tied to HTML5 and open standards when what is preventing Flash from running on the iPhone and the iPad is Apple’s refusal to embrace an open standard for experiencing the Web on those two devices. I mean, the Firefox and Opera browsers can’t appear on the iPhone or the iPad. The Safari Web browser is made by Apple. On the iPhone and the iPad, the Safari browser blocks the Flash Player plugin. (Update: The free “Opera Mini” browser for iPhone made its debut in the App Store on April 13.)
Please note, I am not disputing Apple’s claims about Flash. I’m sure Flash does make the Safari browser crash. Sometimes it makes Firefox crash — on my MacBook Pro (which I love, I might mention). On occasion, Flash probably makes Firefox crash on my Windows XP computer at the office.
But I watch a heck of a lot of video online, on all kinds of Web sites (not only YouTube), and Firefox really does not crash very often. Maybe once a week or less. And, as you might imagine, I’m online pretty much every waking minute of the day. I probably spend at least five hours a day online on my MacBook Pro (like now, while I am writing this) in Firefox. And I also view and use a lot of Web-embedded Flash interactives. I’m just sayin’.
For an overview of the video issues surrounding HTML5 (apart from Apple and Adobe, the video issues involve Google and Microsoft as well), please see the 22-slide PowerPoint I posted yesterday.
Canvas, the other ‘Flash killer’ in HTML5
Video is really the big stake in all this shouting and posturing about HTML5 and its potential for “killing Flash.” A much smaller and quieter discussion is taking place about the myriad other capabilities of Flash — the authoring application, not merely the Player or plugin for Web browsers.
Last week I posted 7 examples of exceptional Flash packages. Those seven examples indicate a range of what authoring in the Flash application makes possible. Note that I said “range” — I’d like to emphasize that it’s a pretty broad range. Then, if you’re really interested, you could have a little browse through an earlier post here, 21 examples of Flash journalism.
There are people who argue that one day you will be able to make all those packages and interactives without Flash, using the <canvas> element in HTML5.
I have serious doubts about that.
Jeremy Allaire, founder and CEO of Brightcove, wrote about this in a column published at TechCrunch:
There [is] … a class of Web Productivity Apps where Flash is the preferred runtime, especially those that involve working with and manipulating media such as images, audio and video. We, like many companies, are pragmatic and use both Flash and HTML as the technology needs require. Other examples of this include rich data visualization applications, where Flash has gained prominence …
Rich Media Apps … include largely consumer-facing, audience and media centric experiences. In particular, this includes online video, rich media advertising and marketing, and online games (casual games). … Here, Flash is dominant. … It seems unlikely that HTML5 would be at all positioned to replace Flash for these categories, though it is clearly worth watching how consistent rich media runtimes find their way into the HTML5+ standard. Right now, it is a non starter. (Posted Feb. 5, 2010. Boldface added.)
Note that Allaire is referring to exactly the kinds of in-depth packages we use in journalism — the kinds highlighted in my post 7 examples of exceptional Flash packages.
Update (6:38 p.m.): In a post about Adobe’s new CS5 line, ReadWriteWeb reported, “A tool in the new suite will allow for easy import of Flash animations into HTML5 Canvas code. Once IE9 launches, all major browsers will support Canvas.” Thanks to @dansinker for the tip!
I’m a huge fan of Flash, although I readily admit that it is not perfect — and Adobe has favored Windows in all its development efforts in recent years (not only for Flash, but for its industry standard products Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign too).
I’m also a huge fan of several Apple products, including the iPhone and the MacBook Pro.
On top of that, I strongly support open source efforts (including HTML5), open standards, and a steady movement away from the proprietary messes in which large corporations such as Microsoft have mired us, the users and producers.
But there is no open-source iPhone, and there is no open-source Flash. And the claim that H.264 video is open is plainly incorrect.