10 apps pushing HTML5 to the limit

HTML5 is breathing new life into Web applications, hinting at major shifts in programming to come

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"The beauty about working in HTML and JavaScript is that you can accomplish almost anything," he said. Then he preceded to grouse about the cross-domain security limitations of HTML5 that restrict an application to calling only its home server. His group worked around these limitations with proxies and by embracing the HTML5 notification API, which TweetDeck used to avoid endless server polling.

Local storage was among the most valuable additions to HTML5 as far as TweetDeck was concerned. This new feature allows TweetDeck to cache data used for autocompleting forms and account details. This data has traditionally been kept on the server, forcing the user to wait seconds for the latest tweets to kick in.

Whittaker also praised many granular enhancements to CSS and HTML, such as gradients that improve the look and feel. HTML5's audio tag has also given TweetDeck "the ability to play the famous TweetDeck chirp when you get updates."

HTML5-optimized app No. 2: Pirates Love Daisies

Grant Skinner is CEO and chief architect of a design firm that once specialized in Flash games. Then Microsoft asked his outfit to create something to show off the promise of HTML5 and the power of Internet Explorer 9. The casual game called Pirates Love Daisies was the result. "Microsoft is really focused on graphics performance. One of our big goals was to build a game that showed off what IE could do," he explained.

The game comes with a button that can turn on and off dust storms, shadows, and "a lot of visual extras that you don't get on other browsers." IE9's tight integration with the graphics card allows it to draw more details on the canvas object at a faster frame rate. It still can't approach a native game, but there's a big increase in visual complexity after pushing the button.

While he praised the performance and the new opportunities, Skinner said his firm had to build a number of tools and libraries that they take for granted when creating Flash games. He also said there were plenty of glitches and the technology was "still maturing."

The audio tag, for example, behaves differently in many browsers, requiring plenty of code to smooth over the inconsistencies. On iOS, with the Safari engine, "you can have one active audio tag. And you can only play it on touch event." Getting the page to make a noise to accompany another event, such as the arrival of new data, is not possible.

HTML5-optimized app No. 3: NakshArt

If you look up in the night sky to see stars, identifying the major constellations is simple with NakshArt. The HTML5-savvy site collects your location and time from the browser, then uses this data to compute what the night sky should look like. NakshArt also stores the information about the night sky in a local database to make the site more responsive on repeat visits.

While all of these features make it much easier to display the stars in the right location, Premkumar, architect at HCL Technologies, says that HTML5 still feels unfinished. "Canvas elements lag lots of visual features, like 2D line effects," he said. "There is no straightforward way to create dotted lines."

Seshadri says he's built a number of sophisticated libraries on top of the line-drawing primitives. "Once canvas matures like today's Flash, you'll get to see a lot many sophisticated applications," he predicted.

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