HTML 5 : Oh please!

HTML 5 is arriving. Sometime. We have no clue when, but it will arrive. Although at this moment I am afraid it will be more or less of a let-down. I am working day-in day-out in the IT development and part of it is usually keeping up to date with developments taking place. And there are some nice developments going on; Adobe is releasing Air for mobile platforms, what kind of impact will the iPad release have, Windows Phone 7 is announced, C# 4.0 is announced… and there is HTML5.

HTML 5 is in my personal opinion a little too late. About 10 years too late. 10 years ago HTML was what you had to play with. That was your tool if you wanted to do anything online. Although, even back then Flash 3 already was around and allowing basic interactions. But usually, it was only used for gaudy intro animations that you usually were not able to skip through. That was in the days that ‘Flash Site Of The Day’ was still something every designer would visit and that vision airs like Tim Burton launched Atom Boy, an online serial cartoon to show that Flash was excellent as a narrative tool on its own.

But in that time we were also still struggling between IE 4 and Netscape, layout problems galore. A solid knowledge of HTML was required to build a good page. At that time, you gould peek at a website and immediately knew if it was based solidly or by an amateur. But these days, with the possibilities of Silverlight, Flash, Ajax… isn’t HTML 5 just becoming another player on the market for embedded media? And not even a strong one at that.

Personally, I think the time for old-fashioned websites has come, and you see it slowly happening that more and more sites run their complete content and layout from within a Rich Internet Application (RIA). The HTML is there only to embed the site in. Table here, table there, embed object, done.

And to be honest, with the embedded objects, you don’t need external video players when you have excellent control within. One of the issues right now with the definition of HTML 5 is what kind of video-codec it should support. An Open Source or a Closed Source one? I do understand that discussion, but my honestly professional opinion is; “I don’t care!”. I really don’t. If I build my production in Flash, I use a flash-movie streaming video. If I build it in Silverlight, I’ll use wmv streaming video. Preferably Flash, because I know over 96% of the people online are able to run it.

For me it is the end result that counts. For my clients it is that global reach is important. If you now see how many companies still were working with IE6, which has a limited usage of style-sheets and is buggy and has been succeeded by IE7 3 years ago, almost 4, there is no hope of having the HTML 5 standard widely accepted around the globe anywhere soon. That is not interesting enough for companies who just want global reach.

FireFox and IE are supporting parts of HTML 5 in their newest browsers. Wow. Whoop-tee-doo. The HTML 5 standard is not even written yet. They mostly point towards the video tag that is in there. But the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has not even defined what codec should be used. That is as if I am going to a Ford Dealer and the sales guy wants to sell me the 2015 car. It is simply not there! Supporting a couple of tags out of the HTML 5 base is not any kind of support at all. As anyone in the IT business knows, requirements for any kind of project will change, preferably until deadline. So what is the reason here to be an early adapter?

HTML 5 will be a relief for programmers, because what they wanted to do in HTML before with a lot of programming can now be done with less. True. And the remark that a lot of sites still run in HTML so a successor for more possibilities is requested is all fine and I totally agree. But once again, still 25%+ of all the users online are using a desperately old browser. These are people or companies that don’t have a solid update policy. That means that 1 of every 4 internet users is a slow adapter. If we might expect that it will take at least another year before the HTML 5 standard is finalized, it is halfway 2011 that people will start to have access to HTML 5. If we simply follow the time-line it takes to adapt, it might be another 5 years before 93%+ are able to visit HTML 5 sites in their full glory. That’s 2016!

In that time, new possibilities have gone from the horizon into every day life, and HTML will again be running behind server-side and multimedia possibilities. If you make things for marketing and the commercial world, you need to be one step ahead and don’t have to wait for possibilities.

So in my personal opinion; yes, HTML 5 is 10 years too late. I will use it where required, and deploy it where it will be the best match, but until it at least has a 90%+ global reach, I will not advice it.


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