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September 21, 2009

HTML 5: Browser Wars Reprise?

Recently, I ran across an article by Rob Cherny in Dr. Dobb’s Journal. He suggests that the added features in HTML 5 combined with an end to the development of XHTML point to a brighter standards-based future. He sees closed solutions like Flash, Silverlight, and JavaFX being supplanted directly by HTML 5 code. His view is that the web owes its success to standards.

It’s tempting to agree. Standards certainly allow for collaborative growth. Though I’m not the least bit convinced that collaborative growth is the foundation of the web’s success. I believe that the web’s incredible success is really traceable to the simplicity and flexibility of HTML. Each new version takes us further from that simplicity.

Through the browser war years we saw the impact of new features in HTML—incompatibility among browsers. My sense is that the success of Flash is largely due to the fact that Adobe owns both ends of the problem. They create the tools that generate Flash code as well as the viewer. Web developers can pretty much assume that what they see, when they build a Flash-based solution, is what the end user will see.

I fear that we will head right back to the bad old days if HTML 5’s complex capabilities are widely employed. I suspect that ‘wait and see’ will last a pretty long time. I have other concerns about HTML 5—more on that later. What do you think—will your organization take advantage of these new capabilities as soon as they are available?