Sounds great, doesn't it? But HTML5 is years away from becoming a real standard. Indeed, Dave Story, Adobe's vice president of developer tools, has pointed out that "the HTML5 timeline states that it will be at least a decade before the evolving HTML5/CSS [cascading style sheets] 3 efforts are finalized, and it remains to be seen what parts will be implemented consistently across all browsers. In the meantime, the Flash platform will continue to deliver a ubiquitous, consistent platform that enables ever richer, more engaging user experiences."
And, even when HTML5 does kick in, so what? Take the newly approved HTML5 draft's codec-neutral
video tag. In theory, this will make it easier to embed multimedia content in Web pages. In practice, it's not so easy. That's because HTML5 doesn't spell out which codec should be supported by the
So, for example, YouTube and Vimeo are already supporting the HTML5
video tag with the H.264 video codec. But, while H.264 isn't a proprietary codec in the same way that Adobe Flash is, it does come encumbered by patents.
The same is true with other potential codecs. Even the open-source favorite Ogg Theora isn't completely clear of patent issues. In any case, though, the problem of a universal Web video format standard is simply being shifted from the HTML standard to where it already lies: the Web browser creators. In other words, we're just stuck with the same-old, same-old when it comes to Internet video.
It's not just video, though. HTML5 will also include several features that address building Web applications that work while offline. These will include support for a client-side SQL database and offline application and data caching. Again, that sounds great. But while Google, for example, is switching its Google Gears offline functionality to HTML5's approach, it isn't stopping with just that. Instead, as former Google open Web advocate Dion Almaer said, "Gears is always going to be a superset of HTML5." And, of course, as a superset, that means that even if a browser did support all of HTML5, it still might not work with a Google Gears-based offline application.
Get the idea? Sure, everyone is in favor of HTML5, but the devil is in the details. For the foreseeable future, the Web is going to stay the way it is now: a mix of open standards with the most interesting parts locked away by exclusive or proprietary formats or methods.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting-edge and 300bps was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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