Is HTML 5 the olive branch for the Open Web?

The web is in a state of transition where the experience and more so, the language of the web is receiving a makeover. This update, however, does not just improve the functionality, but promotes everybody to speak the same language. The open web, or a standardised architecture, is very promising and this doesn’t necessarily need to happen in one extreme and daunting overhaul. That’s according to Robert Nyman, Technical Evangelist for Mozilla.

The experience of the Web is evolving along with our expectations and the capabilities of the current level of technology. So as our computers and phones become faster and smarter, we expect the experience to become richer. And in order for this to happen we need to expand the Web’s vernacular to graduate from chit chat to poetry.

The greatest influence to this update will be occurring in HTML5, the language behind the web or to keep with the makeover analogy, the suit or dress that pulls it all together. We also know that a new suit or dress varies by designer. The same goes for browsers. Chrome reacts differently from Firefox, which in turn reacts differently from Internet Explorer and so on. HTML5, however, is attempting to impose a standard across the board, allowing for relatively similar experiences between the browser giants.

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HTML5 now includes all the semantics and innate functionality necessary to provide a rich (media) experience. Basically, the bells and whistles come with the outfit. New elements/tags (All the new elements can be found at have been added that allow better categorisation or replace functionality that would previously be handled by Flash, scripts, plugins, essentially a whole stack of superfluous jibber jabber.

Nyman stresses that this does not necessarily mean Flash must die like Highlander, but rather needs be used more selectively. The same goes for HTML5, use it pragmatically. Yes it works in most places however you don’t need to code the whole site in HTML5, just use elements or portions to add value.

The elements I am referring to above are things like the <video> tag. This replaces the flash based player with a native browser handled video player. All one needs to do is specify the source/location of the file in the tag and the browser will know how to render and play it. The formats this will handle are the .mp4 (ht4 codec owned by Apple) and the .webM (owned by Google and is completely open). The debate over which will be the default format is, however, still open.

Alternatively you can use which will give you a single url for all your videos. This shift away from Flash is hinting that Youtube would be no more than a content hosting site illustrating the divergence from proprietary technology.

But why move to the new <video> tag? Because code is powerful. The video can be altered real time in many forms. It can be rotated, enlarged and even layered with image filters such as sepia, saturation or photo negative. Universal Subtitles, for example, allows for the altering of subtitles on the fly. Video content can also be synced with Butterapp (using popcorn.js) and when combined alongside other mediums such as mapping or twitter falls, the user experience is greatly enhanced. Also in the video vein, sound can be synced to a site as it scrolls between pages. The sound would crossfade between tracks relative to how far in between each page one scrolls.

Being a developer myself, the progression of forms and server submissions is very enticing. Autocompleting forms using the datalists, colorpickers, datepickers(calendars), progress bars, etc… are all great additions that were previously handled by cumbersome code, which can now be handled by the browser. If you wish to have the same functionality of HTML5 in the older browsers, however, Polyfill allows a piece of javascript to simulate the experience and achieve the same effect of the new browser.

So is HTML5 ready? Is it commercially viable or is it just a pipe dream? The comforting thought is that the browsers are committed, says Nyman adding that Mobile is receiving just as much consideration. So the fact that it is open technology and will hopefully become a standard across the board, bodes well for the future. Software built in isolation such as app stores and webkits, would hopefully receive an adverse reaction and overcome these barriers that prevent the full and true adoption of the technology. In order for HTML5 to truly be a success, an open web with as little propriety and monopolistic barriers as possible, will be key for the future.



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