HTML5 is the new buzz word in terms of web development but what is this current breakthrough and how does it actually differ compared to its predecessor, HTML 4?
HTML5 is considered these days as a gateway that brings a lot of potential, changing the web as we know it. HTML5 is defined as the most advanced, the latest, and the most improved (and still being improved) version of the HTML language, aimed to fulfill the hopes of web developers and designers to create web sites which are compatible to all browsers. By compatible, it means that it should be viewable and proficiently functioning even for mobile web browsing. It is a platform that addresses the need for cross-environment and platform compatibility issues especially important in today’s mobile environment where integration, functionality and ubiquitous browsing is essential. Such platform is aimed to address the demands of today’s modern web.
This new web technology was foreseen to trigger a revolution which allowed certain features to be enabled, which used to be unattainable using flash applications as the standard platform. HTML5 enables web site developers to embed audio and video; incorporate images, drawings, and animations; as well as storage databases even for offline web applications. Plug-ins are no longer necessary to effectively run features since most of the latest web browsers already support HTML5. With HTML5, developers wouldn’t have to create separate web sites to fit mobile device specifications. HTML5 opens doors to a lot of opportunities for businesses and consumers alike, at costs which allows room for growth.
HTML5’s inception was never an accident. Developers have painstakingly dealt with problems concerning web site functionality and speed in the past. Because of this, they have spent tremendous efforts in improving the way HTML4 functions. Although a collaboration of work was actually rendered by a huge number of dedicated programmers worldwide, it was Apple who finally adopted and reinvented the wheel and changed the face of how people browse, with a cleaner and more versatile web platform especially through mobile devices.
Since Apple’s launch of its first version of the Safari browser in 2004 utilizing the HTML5 platform, things have never been the same. It didn’t use Adobe Flash in its system which the rest of the vendors are doing. Contrary to what most may think, Apple and Adobe used to be close-knit. In fact, they have had a long-term relationship from the very beginning. Apple used to own 20% of Adobe for years and still jointly operate to serve the creative market until now, with Mac users patronizing half of Adobe’s Creative Suite offerings. Apart from such, the two companies have grown apart hence because of different target market segments – Apple focusing on the consumer market and Adobe venturing into corporate with its Acrobat products.
Since the beginning, Apple has been focused in using alternative platforms in replacement of Adobe’s flagship. In fact, in his speech last April 2010, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs explained the reasons as to why Apple refused to use Flash on iPhones, iPads, and iPods, attributed to technology issues.
As a venture to fortify the web browser, Apple has made sure that performance is enhanced by as much as 30%, with the addition of Bing search capability as well as secure sandbox extensions. Apple also ensured support for around a dozen new HTML5 developments which strengthened the package offering. Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing affirmed their confidence in such product, "Safari continues to lead the pack in performance, innovation and standards support."
And while Apple deploys proprietary iOS, it was not a hindrance or a limiting factor to offer open standards for the web, manifested as it built applications and platforms around the HTML5 platform. Known as WebKit, Apple built the system to function as the core mechanism in which the Safari web browser relies on for all Apple products. Since then, Webkit has been widely used. Even Google, Palm, Blackberry, Nokia, and every Smart phone vendor out there (save for Microsoft) has adopted them which goes to show that Apple has indeed opened doors to great possibilities in the mobile web browser space. "Safari now runs on over 200 million devices worldwide and its open source WebKit engine runs on over 500 million devices," Schiller proudly exclaimed.
With improved developer resources available for both Windows and Mac interfaces, Safari 5 propels developers to create competitively positioned, dynamic, and full-featured web sites. The HTML5 technology is Apple’s answer to the list of frustrations encountered using Adobe Flash platform. Highlighted are:
a) Proprietary Issues
As a result, Adobe has chosen to stop developing Flash for mobile browsers and has conceded in penetrating this space altogether. With continued problems being encountered using Flash on the mobile environment, people cannot help but doubt its entire ecosystem capabilities. The company announced that Flash Player 11.1 would be their final attempt to penetrate the mobile device arena but will continue to provide support and provide bug fixes for previous releases.
Mike Chambers, Adobe’s Developer Relations Lead stated, “The decision to stop development of the Flash Player plugin for mobile browsers was part of a larger strategic shift at Adobe,” admits Chambers. “One which includes a greater shift in focus toward HTML5, as well as the Adobe Creative Cloud and the services that it provides. No matter what we did, the Flash Player was not going to be available on Apple’s iOS anytime in the foreseeable future,” he says.
b) Full Web Functionality
Adobe claims that Apple mobile devices cannot provide full web functionality and experience to users since 75% of videos available on the internet are formatted using Flash. While the numbers are correct, what Adobe missed is the fact that a majority of all the videos can also be viewed on Apple mobile devices since they are in H.264 format. Youtube, Netflix, Vimeo, Facebook, National Geographic, The New York Times, etc. and other huge sites and platforms can be viewed on iPhone, iPad, and other Apple offerings.
The downside, however, is that Apple devices will not be able to run Flash games. The good thing, on the other hand, is that since HTML5 is again, an open platform. Because of this, a lot of developers have taken the initiative to develop games and other applications that are offered in the cheap, if not free.
c) Security, reliability, and performance issues
Flash is often dubbed as one to have the worst security performance in 2009. Popular browsers and Apple mobile devices crash constantly which became a concern for Apple. Regardless of the efforts Adobe has taken to improve, the problem still persists which brought about Apple’s decision to cross out Flash initiatives to incorporate Adobe onto their mobile devices. Historically, Flash had no success rate whatsoever when mobile computing is concerned which makes HTML5 all the more viable as an option for Apple to resort to.
d) Battery Life
One consideration when choosing a mobile device is a long battery life. However, regardless if your mobile device brings just that, if the platform used is inefficient, battery life would still be depleted faster which could be unfavorable for users. Such occurs when Adobe Flash is used for mobile. Compared to HTML5, it uses significant battery especially when running videos or games since it utilizes a software decoding mechanism which depletes battery life much faster than the H.264 decoders Apple use.
Apple, in its ‘invention’ of HTML5, was able to pave the way to an improved mobile web experience in a lot of ways. It has augmented the mobile browsing experience and made it notches better. Now, businesses can now take advantage of this open platform to improve their web sites. Whether they will be outsourcing development services from third-party service providers or might resort to development utilizing in-house technical staff, the good news is that it can be done. Unlike proprietary systems that require licensing, plug-ins and incremental charges to tweak and customize applications, HTML5 proves to be a worthy technology to venture into especially if a company wants to improve web services on a shoestring budget. With the mobile web going at an accelerated pace, it is a wise step to invest efforts into HTML5 services and enhancements.
Truly, Apple has made a bold step to endless possibilities. To get hold of the new HTML5 developments and enhancements that Apple is brewing, visit http://www.apple.com/html5/ to get the lowdown.