HTML5: The Future of The Web

(Part 2)


In 2007 Microsoft released a video streaming plug-in. This was quickly extended with .NET support to provide a RIA (Rich Internet Application) platform.

Microsoft did this, as it had observed that web applications were getting richer in experience and at the time AJAX was the method most developers used, when Flash was not being used. AJAX uses weakly typed JavaScript code which is not only hard to maintain but also is interpreted differently between browsers and Flash’s ActionScript language was not as easy to manage as the object oriented code that C# coupled with .NET had to offer.

Silverlight was aimed to aid web developers by exploiting the well established and good architecture of the .NET platform. This also enabled previous .NET applications to be rapidly converted into web applications simply by switching to use Silverlight for the user interface.
Microsoft’s Silverlight quickly became widespread but has never reached the same level of popularity as Flash has done [3]. One must take in consideration the fact that Adobe’s Flash has been around for many more years.




In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee proposed an internet-based hypertext system [5]. He specified a description of this system in document called “HTML Tags” [6]. In this document he proposes syntax in which to express information on the web. It is a simple syntax and an easy way to describe and link information together.

But the rapid development of the home computer led to increasingly more demanding content and media distribution capabilities of the web, which in hand led to required updates of the system created by Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues, but also led to the conception of Flash and Silverlight.

21 years later we are at the brink of the release of HTML5, which hopes to address all the flaws from previous updates of the initial HTML specification [2] and finally add capabilities hitherto only possible through RIA platforms.


What is new?


There are many interesting new features that HTML5 brings to the table, not only video playback which seems to be the most discussed feature. With the update of the specification the authors and contributors hope to improve the not only the experience for content and information users but also for developers who have had to learn to use different systems and platforms to achieve their goals.

For example, it simplifies a lot of the tags many of us have become so familiar with, to the extent where mistakes seem close to impossible [7]. New tags have been added to make website development more intuitive and simple, while others have also been replaced or renamed to better suit their purpose.

The more interesting features are the addition of the canvas tag for example which allows for immediate drawing of graphics inside a rectangular box, streaming of video and audio content also allowing playback control, offline storage which allows web application developers and website creators to store persistent data up to 5 megabytes [8], editing documents online, which has gained popularity with web users [9], native support has been added. I will compare these improvements with existing technology used by the already well established RIA platforms we use on a day-to-day basis in the next chapter.?


HTML5 vs. Rich Internet Application Platforms


HTML5 is an open industry standard, it is not dependent on any single vendor such as most other RIA platforms are i.e., Adobe, Microsoft. Anyone is free to implement the standard and take part in its development and developers need not fear that a vendor stops supporting or changes the standard entirely. This is a crucial distinction one must make when doing a comparison to the well established RIA platforms.

Since HTML is completely non-interactive and only intended to specify the structure of a web page, HTML5’s new added features depend a lot on JavaScript scripts to add interactivity to a page after it has been loaded and rendered. The standard acknowledges this and supports the use of JavaScripts. Many of current market leading browsers are competing in implementing faster JavaScript interpreters into their browser while still maintaining support for its open industry standard.