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Archive for April 2011

Tell me again, why should I be looking at HTML5?

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UPDATE | 6th JUNE, 2010

Why should I care about HTML5

Two or three weeks back I mentioned on Twitter that I’m pretty much clueless about HTML5. Yes I know it brings more functionality to HTML, but what is it and why does a it matter?

As if by magic, Joakim Ditlev formerly of Zmags, fired an email over saying he was working on a blog post covering this very subject and that I could run it on Flipping Pages if I wanted. Hell yeah! You can read Joakim’s full post over at the Zmags blog, but here’s a quick version that I found very useful in my initial efforts to figure out why I should care about HTML5. Now I’m all fired up to learn some more…

5 reasons to look closely at the development of HTML5
Joakim Ditlev, Zmags Blog

HTML is in the midst of a major retooling. The current version has been rolling along since 1997, but to deliver far more exciting, interactive websites, web developers need to start adding supporting technologies. The coming HTML5 standard promises to leverage websites running video, animations or interactive features, without requiring technologies like Flash or DirectX. The new engine will have more power and more gears, and the smooth interior will come as standard.

Here are five reasons why you should pay closer attention to HTML5:

1. All major tech companies are solidly behind HTML5

HTML5 is still under development, but lot of powerful stakeholders are now pacing its development. Apple, whose website boasts of HTML5 support on all newer iDevices, doesn’t like Flash and hopes HTML5 will fill the gap that exists when you are on your iPad surfing a website featuring Flash and you find no content displayed.

Google is committed to be the first to do anything on a mobile platform and seems happy to make huge investments in driving the future development of HTML5 to bring mobile web users a more exciting online experience. The main architect of the official HTML5 standards just “happens” to be a guy working at Google.

Even Adobe – the mother of Flash – is in the game, recently announcing an experimental tool called Wallaby that allows web developers to convert Flash content to HTML5.

2. HTML5 makes enriched applications possible in the browser

What makes HTML5 truly exciting are the potential applications. The current version of HTML was designed for creating websites; the coming HTML5 standard is built with rich Internet applications in mind. That allows developers to use local storage, multimedia content, geo-location, and crisper interfaces directly in the browser. Critics claim that it still just moves HTML to the level where Flash was 5 years ago, but the all-important advantage is that it will work without the need for users to install anything. And, the user experience will be similar no matter if the gadget being used is called iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, or a clunky family PC.

3. HTML5 will become the standard – eventually

Efforts to release the official HTML5 specifications have just moved up a gear, and the current plan is to have them ready by 2014. As a content provider you shouldn’t wait another 3 years before you start investigating the technology. All new browsers now support basic HTML5 elements, so it is possible to try it out today. Internet Explorer is an obstacle; Microsoft just added minimal support of HTML5, but there are still a lot of PCs running older versions of Internet Explorer, and that will probably be the case in 2014. So it will be some time before  HTML5 becomes a standard on all devices.

4. HTML5 is the only alternative to ‘walled gardens’

There has been a lot of talk about Apple recently, focused on how and when they charge for distribution of content through their App Store. These discussions have helped content providers realize the juggernaut they are up against: an app store is more than a distribution channel;  it’s an entire eco-system where the gadget producer and the content providers fight for the users’ favour and loose change. That’s done in one way at Apple, and another way at Google (Android Market). Microsoft, Nokia and all the others have their own rules.

As it is now, HTML5 is the only real alternative to delivering content directly to users on smartphones and tablets while bypassing app stores. The standard is open and the content is available on the vast majority of handheld devices.

5. HTML5 brings back control to the content provider

In addition to working across devices, HTML5 posses one clear benefit for content owners: the ownership of the content is preserved no matter what device is being used. Apple may reject iPhone or iPad apps, but they can’t restrict access for users surfing the mobile web.

The open approach in HTML5 also allows you to add links to your content and share it on social media. This is where most content apps fall short. If you follow a link from a friend or colleague, you will have to install and perhaps pay for an app, rather than accessing the content at once. Most users bounce off here, and for content providers who are interested in increasing reader scope as much as possible, this is a real obstacle.

Bottom Line: Get Ready for a Paradigm Shift

HTML5 is quickly getting up to speed, and holds the potential to become the new technical foundation for developing and delivering digital content. Reaching that point will include a lot of potholes, most notably the lack of support from major browsers, and the ‘white spots’ that now exist in the official specifications.  These bumps in the road will mean challenges to content providers who are now jumping on the HTML5 bandwagon. It could turn out to be an inexpensive lesson to learn today, but it will pay off the day HTML5 is all set.

Originally published by Joakim Ditlev on the Zmags Blog.

Written by Peter Houston

April 6, 2011 at 4:30 pm

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