UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Posts Tagged ‘HTML5’

HTML5 Standardisation Last Call – May 2011

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 Feb 2011

I recently described the confusion over the standardisation of HTML5, with the WhatWG announcing that they are renaming HTML5 as ‘HTML’ and that it will be a ‘Living Standard’ which will continually evolve as browser vendors agree on new features to implement in the language.

It now seems that the W3C are responding to accusations that they are a slow-moving standardisatioin body with an announcement thatW3C Confirms May 2011 for HTML5 Last Call, Targets 2014 for HTML5 Standard“.  In the press release Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO, states that:

Even as innovation continues, advancing HTML5 to Recommendation provides the entire Web ecosystem with a stable, tested, interoperable standard

I welcome this announcement as I feel that it helps to address recent uncertainties regarding the governance and roadmap for HTML developments.  The onus is now on institutions: there is now a clear roadmap for HTML5 development with a stable standard currently being finalised.  As providers of institutional Web services, what are you plans for deployment of HTML5?

Posted in standards, W3C | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The HTML5 Standardisation Journey Won’t Be Easy

Posted by Brian Kelly on 3 Feb 2011

I recently published a post on Further HTML5 Developments in which I described how the W3C were being supportive of approaches to the promotion of HTML5 and the Open Web Platform. However in a post entitled  HTML is the new HTML5 published on 19th January 2011 on the WhatWG blog Ian Hickson, editor of the HTML5 specification (and graduate of the University of Bath who now works for Google) announced that “The HTML specification will henceforth just be known as ‘HTML'”. As described in the FAQ it is intended that HTML5 will be a “living standard:

… standards that are continuously updated as they receive feedback, either from Web designers, browser vendors, tool vendors, or indeed any other interested party. It also means that new features get added to them over time, at a rate intended to keep the specifications a little ahead of the implementations but not so far ahead that the implementations give up.

What this means for the HTML5 marketing activities is unclear. But, perhaps more worrying is what this will mean for the formal standardisation process which W3C has been involved in.  Since it seems that new HTML(5) features can be implemented by browser and tool vendors this seems to herald a return to the days of the browser wars, during which Netscape and Microsoft introduced ‘innovative’ features such as the BLINK and MARQEE tags.

On the W3C’s public-html list Joshue O Connor (a member of the W3C WAI Protocol and Formats Working Group) feels that:

What this move effectively means is that HTML (5) will be implemented in a piecemeal manner, with vendors (browser manufacturers/AT makers etc) cherry picking the parts that they want. … This current move by the WHATWG, will mean that discussions that have been going on about how best to implement accessibility features in HTML 5 could well become redundant, or unfinished or maybe never even implemented at all.

In response Anne van Kesteren of Opera points out that:

Browsers have always implemented standards piecemeal because implementing them completely is simply not doable. I do not think that accepting reality will actually change reality though. That would be kind of weird. We still want to implement the features.

and goes on to add:

Specifications have been in flux forever. The WHATWG HTML standard since 2004. This has not stopped browsers implementing features from it. E.g. Opera shipped Web Forms 2.0 before it was ready and has since made major changes to it. Gecko experimented with storage APIs before they were ready, etc. Specifications do not influence such decisions.

Just over a year ago a CETIS meeting on The Future of Interoperability and Standards in Education explored “the role of informal specification communities in rapidly developing, implementing and testing specifications in an open process before submission to more formal, possibly closed, standards bodies“. But while the value of rapid development, implementation and testing was felt to be valuable there was a recognition of the continued need for the more formal standardisation process.  Perhaps the importance of rapid development which was highlighted at the CETIS event has been demonstrated by the developments centred around HTML5, with the W3C providing snapshots once the implementation and testing of new HTML developments have taken place, but I feel uneasy at the developments. This unease has much to do with the apparent autonomy of browser vendors: I have mentioned comments from employees of Google and Opera who seem to be endorsing this move (how would we feel if it was Microsoft which was challenging the W3C’s  standardisation process?). But perhaps we should accept that significant Web developments are no longer being driven by a standards organisation or from grass-roots developments but from the major global players in the market-place? Doesn’t sound good, does it – a twenty-first century return to browser vendors introducing updated versions of BLINK and MARQUEE elements as they’ll know what users want :-(

Posted in HTML, standards, W3C | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Further HTML5 Developments

Posted by Brian Kelly on 25 Jan 2011

Updated HTML5 Documents

Back in November 2010 in a post entitled Eight Updated HTML5 Drafts and the ‘Open Web Platform’ I described how the W3C had published draft versions of eight documents related to HTML5.  It seems that W3C staff and members of various HTML5 working groups have been busy over Christmas as the HTML Working Group has published further revised versions of eight documents:

HTML5 Marketing Activities

HTML5 LogoThe significance of the development work to HTML5 specifications and the importance which W3C is giving to HTML5 can be seen from the announcement that “W3C Introduces an HTML5 Logo” which describes this “striking visual identity for the open web platform“.

The page about the logo is full of marketing rhetoric:

Imagination, meet implementation. HTML5 is the cornerstone of the W3C’s open web platform; a framework designed to support innovation and foster the full potential the web has to offer. Heralding this revolutionary collection of tools and standards, the HTML5 identity system provides the visual vocabulary to clearly classify and communicate our collective efforts.

The W3C have also pointed out how the logo is being included on t-shirts, which you can buy for $22.50.   The marketing activity continues with encouragement for HTML5 developers to engage in viral marketing:

Tweet your HTML5 logo sightings with the hashtag#html5logo

In addition to Web sites owners being able to use this logo on their Web sites and fans of HTML5 being able to wear a T-shirt (“wearware”?) as I learnt from Bruce Lawson’s post on “On The HTML5 Logo”  users of FireFox and Opera browsers can install a Greasemonkey Script or Opera extension which will display a small HTML5 logo in the top right hand corner of the window of HTML5 pages. I’ve tried this and it works.

Such marketing activities are unpopular in some circles with much of the criticismcentered around the FAQ’s original statement that the logo means “a broad set of open web technologies”, which some believe “muddies the waters” of the open web platform“.  In light of such concerns the W3C have updated the HTML5 Logo FAQ.

I have to say that personally I applaud this initiative.  In the past the commercial sector has taken a lead in popularising Web developments as we saw in the success of the Web 2.0 meme – it’s good, I feel, that the W3C are taking a high profile in the marketing of HTML5 developments. I also feel that this is indicative of the importance of HTML5, which, judging from examples of HTML5’s potential which I have described in a number of recent posts, will be of more significance than the moves from HTML 3.2 to HTML 4 and HTML 4 to XHTML 1.

Spotting HTML5 Pages – Including the Google Home Page

Use of the Opera extension which embeds a small version of the HTML5 icon in the top right hand corner of the browser display is shown (click to see full-size version).

Whilst searching for a HTML5 Web site to use for this example I discovered that the Google search page now uses HTML, with the following HTML5 declaration included at the top of the page:

<doctype html>

I had previously thought that Google was very conservative in its use of HTML as, in light of its popularity, the page had to work of a huge range of browsers. Note, though, that on using W3C’s HTML validator, which includes experimental support for HTML5, I found that there were  still HTML errors, many of which were due to unescaped ‘&’ characters.  Some time ago it was suggested that the reason Google wasn’t implementing the simple changes in order to ensure that their home page validated was in order to minimise the bandwidth usage – which will be very important for globally popular site such as Google’s which, despite losing the top slot to Facebook in the US last  year, is still pretty popular :-). Hmm, if there are around 90 million Google users per day I wonder how much bandwidth is saved by using & rather than & in its home page and search results?

Posted in HTML, standards | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Apple Ditching Preinstalled Flash On Future Macs

Posted by Brian Kelly on 27 Oct 2010

A couple of days ago there was an announcement that “Apple [is] Ditching Preinstalled Flash On Future Macs“. On the surface this decision has been taken to minimise security problems associated with Flash software – as described on the CultOfMac blogBy making users download Flash themselves, Apple is disavowing the responsibility of keeping OS X’s most infamously buggy and resource heavy third-party plugin up to date on users’ machines“.

The Guardian reported the news in rather more aggressive terms: “Apple has escalated its war with Adobe’s Flash Player by stopping including the browser plugin on the Macintosh computers that it sells” and points out how this will inconvenience many users as “The surprising and unannounced move means that buyers will have to figure out how to download the player and plugin on any of the computers that they buy – a process which Apple has not simplified by including any “click to install” links“.

Since the Guardian article pointed out that “Jobs has criticised [Flash] as ‘proprietary’” and “praised HTML5 and the video codecs available on it” this story might be regarded as a success story for open standards.  But there is a need to be aware that Flash’s proprietary nature has been recognised as a concern to those seeking to make use of open standards in development work for some time.  The NOF-Digitise Technical Advisory Service provided an FAQ which pointed out in about 2002 that “Flash is a proprietary solution, which is owned by Macromedia.  As with any proprietary solutions there are dangers in adopting it as a solution: there is no guarantee that readers will remain free in the long term, readers (and authoring tools) may only be available on popular platforms, the future of the format would be uncertain if the company went out of business, was taken over, etc.“.

In retrospect the FAQ could also be have said that “As with any open standard there are dangers in adopting it as a solution: there is no guarantee that readers will be provided on popular platforms, readers (and authoring tools) may fail to be available on popular platforms, the future of the format would be uncertain if the open standard fails to be widely adopted, etc.

It is only now, about eight years after that advice was provided, that we are seeing Flash started to be deprecated by major players and open standards alternatives being provided by such vendors. And although the vendors will inevitably cite the benefits of open standards in their press releases, since such benefits have always been apparent, in reality decisions to support open standards are likely to have been made by vendors for commercial reasons – in this case competition between Apple and Adobe.

But what can be learnt from such history lesson?  Perhaps that the availability of an open standard is no guarantee that it will supersede proprietary alternatives and that commercial vendors can have a significant role to play in ensuring the take-up of open standards.  In which case it does seem that HTML5 will be an important standard and Flash is under threat.

But whilst that view seems to be increasingly being accepted it is worth noting concerns that have been raised within W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, with Philippe Le Hegaret pointing out thatThe problem we’re facing right now is there is already a lot of excitement for HTML5, but it’s a little too early to deploy it because we’re running into interoperability issues”.

Hmm, it seems as if the HTML5 maturity debate will continue to run.

Posted in HTML, standards | Tagged: | 1 Comment »