11 hard truths about HTML5

HTML5 offers Web developers powerful new features, but spec limitations may prevent it from unseating native apps

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But now programmers must pay attention to whether these additional features are available, and it's not clear how to find out how fast your code is running.

The game designers at pirateslovedaisies.com, for instance, included a switch to turn on and off the features that IE enables. Is there an API that makes it possible to guess about these features? Not really. The simplest thing is to test for the browser name and try to estimate the frame rate. Yes, I know that native game developers have been dealing with the wide range of available hardware for years and the only real solution is to ban innovation, but this is yet another wrinkle for Web developers to come to terms with.

HTML5 hard truth No. 11: Politics as usual

Some folks call Ian Hickson, the main drafter of the HTML5 standards, the Supreme Dictator for Life. They're joking, I guess, but the title doesn't match. The standard writer is just making suggestions, and the coding geniuses at the browser companies are the ones who make the real decisions. They may or may not choose to implement a feature, then the Web developers get to decide whether the results are stable. After a few years, the standards are often changed to match the implementation.

Many JavaScript developers have left the issue of compatibility to those who create the libraries, such as jQuery. These layers insulate us from the cross-browser differences. Will they be strong enough in the future to smooth over the differences? Only time will tell.

This issue highlights the fundamental problem for the field. We want the freedom, creativity, and cornucopia of features that come from pitting many browser companies against each other in a tough competition. The pace of innovation is great, but it creates even more differences, as the browser developers rush to add new features to gain an edge.

But we also want the stability that comes from putting one central dictator in control of the platform. Alas, the world has never found an ideal solution for the battle between authoritarianism and democracy. Instead of grousing too much about the headaches that come from the differences, we might want to adopt the attitude of Winston Churchill, who told the House of Commons, "Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

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This article, "11 hard truths about HTML5," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest news in software development, languages and standards, and HTML at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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