I'm Not Sold on HTML 5

Ok, let me get this straight.  HTML 5 is supposed to offer RIA (Rich Internet Application) type abilities to the browser rendered (i.e. no compile, Just In Time-JIT) web.  How JIT & no compile, markup based, mixed platform technologies are supposed to offer a comparable performance and UX/UI experience seems sketchy at best.  Now let me clause with, I am not writing this idea off, just hesitant to believe that there will be comparable performance to frameworks such as JavaFX, Silverlight, or Flash.  With out of browser Silverlight, or Adobe AIR Apps, or heaven forbid WPF based RIAs there really is NOT a performance comparison.  I can safely assume that Silverlight & WPF (mainly because I've seen them perform) will smoke HTML 5 for advanced rendering or solid advanced RIA style interfaces.  Especially in a Line of Business (LOB) type application.  There just is NOT a comparison in this sense.

The video & audio elements are an entirely different rant.  Sure, it looks great, the O3D demo looks great, but this is still not going to compare to Silverlight or Flash.  These tools are going to smoke HTML 5.  The complexity of getting video, audio, and these other advanced elements of HTML 5 supported has the same issue as Silverlight has for penetration.  Sure, the browsers will start having these things built in, but that will be completed about the same time as Silverlight has similar market penetration as Flash (i.e. the 98th percentile).

Now some, such as Matthew David, wax somewhat poetically about HTML 5.  His article Inside HTML5:  The Browser becomes a first class RIA citizen is an interesting read.  He obviously has great enthusiasm behind this idea.  But I'm not buying it.  The technology is not comparable, HTML is band aided already beyond belief (remember, it was supposed to render documents for linking kind of like a library – NOT for all the advanced things people tend to try and use it for these days).  HTML 5 is merely another band aid, albeit a bigger band aid, then the last several versions of HTML.  The core focus of the markup at this point is basically ignored.

The Positive

The cool thing, I will admit, is HTML 5 does add a lot of options to the browser based web.  I don't think we'll keep going down this rather archaic version of the web forever, but it does provide a stop gap between much more interactive applications.  It also provides a stop gap fix for companies that aren't ready, for whatever reason, to jump on the RIA bandwagon.  HTML 5 will provide great features, but I just don't see it as a prime mover, but more of a stop-gap between the next best way to connect to the web.  Maybe that is Silverlight, Flash, and AIR, or maybe it is some other type of platform or tool.

In the end, something will definitely eclipse HTML 5, but HTML 5 will be great in the meantime.  At least until we run out of fingers to poke in the holes of the dam (i.e. HTML 5).

9 thoughts on “I'm Not Sold on HTML 5

  1. I have to agree with your sentiments about HTML 5. Everyone seems to think that this is going to mark the end of Flash or Silverlight because of two tags in HTML, Video and Canvas. I agree that you can do some pretty nifty things, but the O3D beach scene demo really tells me that it’s only going to be for simple things. That demo, while it looks pretty, try messing with it for more than 2 or 3 minutes. Even Chrome ends up becoming unresponsive and I had to end task it to just get it to quit.

    Then mix in the fact that we have had HTML standards forever, and we still get different rendering between all the browsers (not just an IE vs. everyone thing either, FireFox renders things differently than WebKit).

    You are right, this is just a band aid.

  2. I don’t know if Silverlight can ever get as much penetration as Flash – and Flash isn’t everywhere, I know what Silverlight is, but when I see the "install the silverlight plugin" message I get creeped out – another example of Microsoft’s difficulty in building trust.

  3. I see your point Robin, but at some point everyone also had to click on the "Install Flash Plugin" or "Install Macromedia Flash Plugin" and also had to click on the "Install Flash Update".

    Same goes for Silverlight. But also, Silverlight will be included in most Microsoft OSs, and also available via Windows Update. Two advantages Microsoft has over Adobe. In addition, Adobe has already made declarations that they’ll fight HTML5 while Microsoft has embraced it (for once!!). So Adobe has an uphill battle to A: keep Flash on the desktops & in browsers and B: keep it updated.

    Because really, a developer can and will be able to do things faster, easier, and more elaborate with Silverlight. If there is something that Flash excels at still, it won’t for very long. There is just too much $$, too many minds, and too much effort by a lot of people.

    Flash will remain, but I doubt it will remain the leader. HTML 5, I’m still betting will be stop gap as we see more and more utilization of the desktop power and see more and more demand for real RIA type applications. Line of business apps are already a no-brainer, they’ve demanded RIA style capabilities since day one.

    However, you do have some valid points there. šŸ™‚ The "Install the silverlight plugin" is annoying. I’m of the opinion Microsoft should do a mass Windows Update push to get that out there. But they’re being honest and not forcing it onto people’s machines. Maybe a dual push of "Remove IE6 and Install Silverlight" might work out. šŸ˜®

  4. Well, Silverlight can really shine for some applications, such as games or photo/video-related stuff. However I do not like using Silverlight in common business apps for several reasons, even if it is possible to make sure that all clients have it installed (which is not obvious in itself).

    First and most important problem with Silverlight/WPF is that if something is not here, it is not here. With HTML, it is also true for some advanced stuff (camera/etc), however a lot of other things you can build even if they are not supported by themselves. There is no concept of sealed classes in HTML/JavaScript, you can change whatever you want. I have worked with WPF and artificial and unexpected limits there were extremely annoying at times, I fear Silverlight is even worse.

    Second problem is that interaction with browser plugins like Silverlight is often awkward as compared to HTML. There is no guarantee Back button will work as expected. The context menu does not allow you to copy text by default (this is annoying beyond all limits). No browser enhancements (like recognition of phone numbers or language translation) can be used. Form auto completion may work or not.

    Third problem is styling and reusability of styling. Silverlight allows more styling options, however it is nowhere near the power and usability of CSS selectors. I used to dislike CSS for styling limits, however after working with WPF I feel that I am ready for any styling limits as long as I have decent selectors and layout flexibility.

    Final thing about Silverlight is that as long as you know Silverlight you can build a lot of cool things, but if you know HTML/JavaScript, you are practically limitless. You can work in a hot startup or build enterprise sites for customers, you can work with any server language and any client configuration. jQuery plugin, once built, can be reused in thousand kinds of projects.

  5. The success of HTML 5 mostly depends on stable browser support of the new features. I’m sure IE will have its standard crappy rendering issues of the new language. It still can’t display 24-bit transparent PNGs properly.

    As designers and developers, we need to provide quality viewing experiences for the average user. Forcing a viewer to download a plugin to view content on a website is a big usability issue. That’s the reason I no longer offering Flash to my clients – with exception to embedding video. jQuery and Ajax can provide the same experience and will validate without any hacks. I consider myself an advanced user (of the Interwebs) and constantly run into Flash-based or Silverlight sites that take more than a minute to download on a cable modem. Most people view a page for about three to five seconds. There has to be something better. I agree that HTML 5 may not be the full solution but it’s a welcome and intriguing progression.

  6. Chuck – I agree with you, I guess my premise really is something along the lines of what you summarize with, "There has to be something better. I agree that HTML 5 may not be the full solution but it’s a welcome and intriguing progression."

    Exactly what I’m saying there, HTML 5 is a great progression for web sites, but it isn’t this leap that it is being made out to be. The leaps in technology are in vastly different realms of computers. Processing, analytics, gaming, complex systems, etc, but HTML 5 has cool progressions, but is by no means some type of societal leap into the Renaissance or something. šŸ™‚

  7. Steve Peer says:

    It’s a very simple decision, actually:

    bloated, slow, buggy, gaping security holes, non-compliant with standards, operating system-specific, browser-specific

    VS

    clean, simple, elegant, fast, platform-independent, standards-compliant.

    Silverlight is nothing less than Microsoft’s attempt to re-leverage their operating system monopoly with a replacement for the failed Active-X framework.

  8. Steve – I do agree that Silverlight is kind of Active X Pt 2, except in the sense that it works almost everywhere, they’re actively making it cross browser, and Active X had the exact opposite motives. Also the team has it as personal motive to make it multi-browser/OS compliant. Even works on Linux – albeit that is an open source project because Microsoft can’t legally develop Silverlight for an Open Source environment because of licensing (and yes, I know, that’s a lame excuse too)

    Either way, HTML as a "RIA" still just seems silly. If one wants an RIA, they have choices, but it isn’t HTML 5 (or existing HTML).

    …and thanks for the comments!!

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