W3C: Hold off on deploying HTML5 in websites

Despite the hype, the HTML5 specification isn't yet ready due to interoperability issues, a W3C official says

HTML5, which updates the HTML specification to accommodate modern Web applications, has gained a lot of adherents in vendors like Microsoft, Google, and Apple. But the specification is plain not ready yet for deployment to websites, an official with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which oversees HTML5, stressed this week.

"The 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," including differences between video on devices, said the official, Philippe Le Hegaret, W3C interaction domain leader. He is responsible for specifications like HTML and SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).

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"I don't think it's ready for production yet," especially since W3C still will make some changes on APIs, said Le Hegaret. "The real problem is can we make [HTML5] work across browsers and at the moment, that is not the case."

His advice on HTML5 was endorsed by industry analyst Al Hilwa of IDC.

"HTML 5 is at various stages of implementation right now through the Web browsers. If you look at the various browsers, most of the aggressive implementations are in the beta versions," Hilwa said. "IE9 (Internet Explorer 9), for example, is not expected to go production until close to mid-next year. That is the point when most enterprises will begin to consider adopting this new generation of browsers."

A vendor with an interest in the specification said some parts of HTML5 are ready and some are not.

"The point of HTML5 is this has been an ongoing effort for a while now and many parts of HTML5 are already in the wild," such as Canvas 2D capabilities and WebSockets, for communicating between browsers, said John Fallows, CTO of Kaazing, which makes a WebSockets gateway.

Le Hegaret acknowledged HTML5 is viewed as a "game changer." Companies now can deploy HTML5 in their applications or in intranets where a rendering engine can be controlled, said Le Hegaret. But it is a different story on the "open Web," where interoperability is an issue, he added.

"What's happening is the industry is realizing that HTML5 is going to be real," said Le Hegaret.

The HTML5 specification itself features support for video and Canvas 2D. But other technologies such as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and MathML are considered part of the "open Web platform" along with HTML5, even if they are not covered by the actual specification, Le Hegaret said. SVG is referenced by the HTML5 specification.

Apple has positioned HTML5 as a replacement for Adobe's Flash rich Internet technology. But Flash and similar technologies, such as Microsoft Silverlight, still have a place, Le Hegaret said.

"We're not going to retire Flash anytime soon," Le Hegaret said. It will take years before all Web clients support HTML5, he said. He cited Microsoft's IE6 browser as an example of popular client not supporting the standard. "IE6 is still being used on the Web today, and it is 10 years old."

Over time, however, HTML5 will become the standard for websites, he said. "You will see less and less websites using Flash," said Le Hegaret.

Meanwhile, HTML5 is headed toward final approval in two to three years. HTML5 development was begun in 2004 by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group.

"We basically want to be feature-complete by mid-2011," Le Hegaret said. Once the specification reaches that stage, W3C will issue a last call for comments. The next stage would be the candidate recommendation stage and then a recommendation stage. "And then we're done," Le Hegaret said.

Le Hegaret also acknowledged some other shortcomings in HTML5. For example, HTML5 lacks a video codec, and Le Hegaret does not expect to have one in the upcoming specification. "It's a patent issue," he said. The MPEG-4 codec, for example, is covered by patents, Le Hegaret said.

Digital rights management also is not supported in HTML5, he said. This means some video producers will not deploy their videos in HTML5 without this type of protection, he said.

HTML5 is an open standard, presenting a problem for DRM. "If we are going to develop a solution for DRM which is open, it would be broken by a hacker within two days," he said. "There is no point of us doing that."

There is a possibility for DRM in HTML5 at some point, however, but it is not in the plan at the moment, said Le Hegaret.

HTML5 also lacks authoring tools at the moment, he said. Adobe does offer one that works with its Creative Suite package, however, said Le Hegaret.

This article, "W3C: Hold off on HTML5 in websites," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.

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