HTML 5: Believe The Hype - InformationWeek
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9/15/2010
02:36 PM
Jim Rapoza
Jim Rapoza
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HTML 5: Believe The Hype

HTML 5 is one of the most important new technologies, both an engine for a revitalized "web operating system" and a key means to a single platform for mobile applications. Many of you have probably heard tons of hype about it. Or you're thinking, "what's HTML 5?"

HTML 5 is one of the most important new technologies, both an engine for a revitalized "web operating system" and a key means to a single platform for mobile applications. Many of you have probably heard tons of hype about it. Or you're thinking, "what's HTML 5?"That's the strange thing about this technology. It is both one of the most heavily hyped emerging technologies today and also something that many people who are otherwise highly knowledgeable about tech know very little (if anything) about.

Maybe the problem is that it is an underlying technology and that mainly only developers and web standards geeks have been paying attention to it. But if you haven't been paying attention, you should. Because HTML 5 is worthy of most of the hype it is receiving and will be one of the most important technologies in coming years.

Put simply, HTML 5 is the next version of the key language of the Web. However, for most of its life, HTML has mainly been about displaying content on web pages. HTML 5 moves it into dealing with the development and deployment of applications.

There are a lot of parts to HTML 5, and to be honest, many of the things that people refer to as HTML 5 capabilities are actually features of other emerging web standards, such as CSS 3. But here are some of the essential elements of HTML 5.

First, in HTML 5, video becomes a first class citizen of the web. What does this mean? It means that browsers can treat video the same way they handle images, straight from within the browser with no need for third party plugins such as Flash, Quicktime or Windows Media.

More importantly, HTML 5 has a rich graphical interface layer. This means that with the technology it is possible to build rich, highly interactive web applications that have many of the characteristics of standard desktop applications.

Added to this is the ability of HTML 5 to enable offline web applications. By using localized data, developers can build web applications that won't immediately stop working or become useless when an Internet connection is lost or not available.

So what does all of this mean? It means that you'll be able to build much more powerful web-based applications that will work across all modern browsers and most desktop and mobile operating systems. On the mobile side, you can avoid the restrictions of app marketplaces and build whatever application you want and deliver it however you want to your users.

Put simply, HTML 5 will move us from a web of content to a web of applications.

But the technology has probably been overhyped a bit. While it is a way to avoid mobile application marketplaces, developers in most cases won't have all of the same capabilities they would if they built a native mobile application.

And while the interfaces and capabilities that HTML 5 make possible within browsers are impressive, RIAs like Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight already offer these capabilities and more (though they do require an installed plugin and runtime) and as HTML 5 evolves these technologies will also continue to evolve and will probably stay ahead of the standards when it comes to features.

Probably the biggest factor working against HTML 5 is that it isn't even a standard yet and won't be one for a while. All the work currently being done on HTML 5 by browser makers and other developers has been done with non-final versions of the standard.

Of course none of these things change the fact that HTML 5 will be one of the most important new technologies in the near future. And it is already deserving of most of the hype it is getting.

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