Google Bets Big on HTML 5: News from Google I/O

“Never underestimate the web,” says Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra in his keynote at Google I/O this morning. He goes on to tell the story of a meeting he remembers when he was VP of Platform Evangelism at Microsoft five years ago. “We believed that web apps would never rival desktop apps. There was this small company called Keyhole, which made this most fantastic geo-visualization software for Windows. This was the kind of software we always used to prove to ourselves that there were things that could never be done on the web.” A few months later, Google acquired Keyhole, and shortly thereafter released Google Maps with satellite view.

“We knew then that the web had won,” he said. “What was once thought impossible is now commonplace.”

Google doesn’t want to repeat that mistake, and as a result, he said, “we’re betting big on HTML 5.”

Vic pointed out that the rate of browser innovation is accelerating, with new browser releases nearly every other month. The slide below, from early in Vic’s talk, shows the progress towards the level of UI functionality found in desktop apps through adoption of HTML 5 features in browsers. This looks like one of Clayton Christensen’s classic “disruptive innovation vs sustaining innovation” graphs. It’s also fascinating to see how mobile browsers are in the forefront of the innovation.


While the entire HTML 5 standard is years or more from adoption, there are many powerful features available in browsers today. In fact, five key next-generation features are already available in the latest (sometimes experimental) browser builds from Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Google Chrome. (Microsoft has announced that it will support HTML 5, and as Vic noted, “We eagerly await evidence of that.”) Here’s Vic’s HTML 5 scorecard:


  1. The canvas element provides a straightforward and powerful way to draw arbitrary graphics on a web page using Javascript. Sample applications demoed at the show include a simple drawing area and a simple game. But to see the real power of the Canvas element, take a look at Mozilla’s BeSpin. Bespin is an extensible code editor with an interface so rich that it’s hard to believe it was written entirely in Javascript and HTML.
  2. The video element aims to make it as easy to embed video on a web page as it is to embed images today. No plugins, no mismatched codecs. See for example, this simple video editor running in Safari. And check out the page source for this YouTube demo. (As a special bonus, the video is demonstrating the power of O3D, an open source 3D rendering API for the browser.)

  3. The geolocation APIs make location, whether generated via GPS, cell-tower triangulation or wi-fi databases (what Skyhook calls hybrid positioning) available to any HTML 5-compatible browser-based app. At the conference, Google shows off your current location to any Google map, and announces the availability of Google Latitude for the iPhone. (It will be available shortly after Apple releases OS 3.) What’s really impressive about Latitude on the phone is that it’s a web app, with all the platform independence that implies, not a platform-dependent phone application.

  4. AppCache and Database make it easy to build offline apps. The killer demo is one that Vic first showed at Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco a few months ago: offline gmail on an Android phone. But Vic also shows off a simple “stickies” app running in Safari.

    (I love the language that Vic uses: “You can even store the application itself offline and rehydrate it on demand.”)

  5. Web workers is a mechanism for spinning off background threads to do processing that would otherwise slow the browser to a crawl. For a convincing demo, take a look at a web page calculating primes without web workers. As the demo says, “Click ‘Go!’ to hose your browser.” Then check out the version with web workers. Primes start appearing, with no hit to browser performance. Even more impressive is a demo of video motion tracking, using Javascript in the browser.

During his keynote, Vic was joined on stage by Jay Sullivan, VP of Mobile at Mozilla and Michael Abbot, the SVP in charge of application software and services at Palm. Both showed their own commitment to working with HTML 5. Jay expressed Mozilla’s commitment to keeping the web open: “Anything should be hackable; anything should be scriptable. We need to get out of plugin prison.” Javascript rendering in Firefox 3.5 is 10x faster than in Firefox 2, with support for video, offline storage, web workers, and geolocation.

Michael showed how Palm’s WebOS relies on HTML 5. “You as a developer don’t need to leave your prior knowledge at the door to develop for the phone.” He demonstrates the power of CSS transformations to provide UI effects; he shows how the calendar app is drawn with Canvas, how bookmarks and history are kept in an HTML 5 database. Michael emphasized the importance of standardization, but also suggested that we need new extensions to HTML 5, for example, to support events from the accelerometer in the phone. Palm has had to run out ahead of the standards in this area.

If you’re like me, you had no idea there was so much HTML 5 already in play. When I checked in with my editors at O’Reilly, the general consensus was that HTML 5 isn’t going to be ready till 2010. Sitepoint, another leading publisher on web technology, recently sent out a poll to their experts and came to the same conclusion. Yet Google, Mozilla, and Palm gave us all a big whack upside the head this morning. As Shakespeare said, “The hot blood leaps over the cold decree.” The technology is here even if the standards committees haven’t caught up. Developers are taking notice of these new features, and aren’t waiting for formal approval. That’s as it should be. As Dave Clark described the philosophy of the IETF with regard to internet standardization, “We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.”

Support by four major browsers adds up to “rough consensus” in my book. We’re seeing running code at Google I/O, and I’d imagine the 4000 developers in attendance will soon be producing a lot more. So I think we’re off to the races. As Vic said to me in an interview yesterday morning, “The web has not seen this level of transformation, this level of acceleration, in the past ten years.”

Vic ends the HTML 5 portion of his keynote with hints of an announcement tomorrow: “Don’t be late for the keynote tomorrow morning.”

Additional Resources

Here is a convenient list of the HTML 5 demo apps shown in the keynote this morning. Be sure to look at the page source for each of the applications.

New developer features in Firefox 3.5

To learn more about these HTML 5 features, check out these tutorials from the Opera, Mozilla, Palm, and Google teams (plus a few others):

HTML 5 Canvas: The Basics

Painting with HTML 5 Canvas

Video: A Call for Video on the Web
HTML 5 Video Examples

Geolocation: Track User Geolocation with Javascript

Web cache and database:
Palm WebOS HTML 5 DataBase Storage

HTML 5 Features in Latest iPhone Applications

Gmail for Mobile: Using AppCache to Launch Offline

Web workers:
Using DOM Workers

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  • Google going big for HTML5 is probably helped by the fact that the sole author for HTML5, Ian Hickson, works for Google.

    There are other issues, including having to be dependent on JavaScript just to get IE to see new HTML5 sections in order to style them with CSS.

    Frankly, I’m not seeing the frenzy of excitement you seem to be seeing. And I’m on the W3C HTML WG. Which probably explains why I’m not in a frenzy of excitement about HTML5.

  • Shelly,

    I think the whole point of my post was that Google was making a bet, and committing early to help drive adoption. They are leading, not following.

    An important reminder: there wasn’t a lot of excitement about the features now collectively called Ajax before Google stunned the world with Gmail and Google Maps five years ago, pushing the boundary of what was possible in Web apps. They are looking to push the envelope again.

    Stay tuned.

  • Andrew Mager

    On point Tim, great read. Very excited to work with HTML 5 in the future.

  • Daniw de Leon

    @Shelley Isn’t David Hyatt of Apple a co-author of the draft spec?

  • I’m curious: what are the units Google uses to quantify “user experience”? How do we measure the the “rate of innovation” to be able to tell that it’s “accelerating”?

    Oh, and isn’t there a rather important column missing from the scorecard? Or does Google know something about the air in Redmond that the rest of us don’t?

  • Great post Tim. I was sitting in the audience too and was really surprised by how old looking lots of the HTML I was writing was looking in comparison to what was being shown on the big screen. Seems to be a big change coming round a very near corner in how we write and even think about web apps. Not mere information resources, more data playgrounds.

  • Tim, Yes, Google maps and GMail helped generate interest in Ajax, but I think the actual term is really what generated the buzz. People like things they can refer to using a snazzy sounding term.

    And now we can see burn out on Ajax, as those of us who have written books on the topic can attest.

    Daniw, no, I’ve not seen anything of David Hyatt, probably for a year or two. I may have missed him. It’s all Ian Hickson now. All Hixie, all the time.

  • Larry Myers

    Does this mean geolocation is -finally- coming to mobile safari? A good chunk of the apps in the App Store could be web apps, with the exception that currently there is no way ask for the user’s location through the browser.

  • David Weller

    Interesting comments from Vic. For the record:

    1) I was the guy he sent to Keyhole and put together a connected application that he demonstrated back in 2004 timeframe. You can see the demo that he sponsored here: (that’s my voice in that video — I did it at Microsoft and Accela still uses it, I suppose, even though it’s horribly dated). Notice that there was no “web” oriented component as the focus was on client apps connunicationg through the cloud
    2) Not once do I recall Vic saying, “Oh, Keyhole proves that the web makes the difference”. Contrarily, he was charged up by the integration of Keyhole’s client app and the tablet PC. It was, and is, quite amazing to use the two together.
    3) This comment isn’t an assault on Vic. He’s a sharp guy and a great motivator, I just wanted to point out that the “Aha!” moment most likely came much later :-)
    4) I don’t work for Microsoft anymore, so it’s not like I’m trying to shill for them. I think Google was, and is, doing some fantastic stuff. We should all be delighted at the innovation that is coming form Google (and other places), but maintain a vigilance about creating a complete dependency on a constant connection to the internet for any applications that are critical to the execution of our business or day to day lives.

  • The Bespin editor is very cool. I would also recommend anyone interested in Canvas to check out this exhibition of experiments. There are a lot of “I can’t believe it’s not Flash” projects collected here:

  • Tails

    So.. um… what’s the standard unit of measurement for “user experience”?
    I forgot…

  • Your first image is illegible.

  • Steve

    “User experience”? Good to see you’ve used something nice and quantifiable!

  • Weller, above, writes:

    “We should all be delighted at the innovation that is coming form Google (and other places), but maintain a vigilance about creating a complete dependency on a constant connection to the internet for any applications that are critical to the execution of our business or day to day lives.”

    Tim, that is approaching “stuff that matters” and I would take Weller’s comment further:

    We should become vigilant about creating apps that needlessly subject users to surveillance and rob users of the software freedom to study, share, and improve the apps they use.

    Maps are a fine example. The software is nifty but hardly rocket science – the data is the main choke point. Technologically, there is no reason for the underlying map data not to be widely distributed and decentralized. Legally, of course, there are obstacles. What we have in Google Maps is a play that leverages access to the data to gain lots of power over users: power to spy on them, power to control the software users use, and power to monopolize the curating of the data e.g., decisions about what areas to “black out” or when to serve up bogus data to targeted users. (I’ve witnessed, but don’t ask me to prove it, an example of a targeted hack prank that either served up bogus data directly from Google or was a man-in-the-middle attack with the same user-experience effect. It was frightening.)

    All too often I think that the good idea for a mantra, “work on stuff that matters”, gets actually implemented as “work on stuff that is convenient that by analogy sketches a picture of something that matters.”

    The innovations of HTML 5 that you describe are incremental and unsurprising and if they don’t come to us in the form of HTML 5 they’ll come in some other form. Perhaps Google has the market power to dominate the de facto standardization process or perhaps not.

    An interesting line of analysis might be to puzzle out exactly what the structure and function of the underlying software is offering and then to contemplate questions such as: “Is a given proposed Recommendation arbitrary and biased in some way?” or “What is the best-for-users way to offer up that functionality?”

    Dog and pony shows come and go but form and function of technological artifacts is objective and timeless.

    It’s remarkable how much time, effort, money, and hype goes into the problem of stretching browsers to do more than anyone expected they could do a few years back. And most of it is motivated by the notion that the best way to get ahead in business is to rob users of their software freedoms in exchange for a few “cool apps”.


  • David –

    I mustn’t have been clear. Vic is very explicit in saying that he and his peers at Microsoft saw Keyhole as proof that the web would never be able to build such applications. It was precisely a proof point that Windows apps would rule the day.

    It was only later, after Google bought Keyhole and built pieces of its functionality into Google Maps that he says he got the web religion.

    Re dependence on the internet – I hear you, but I don’t buy it. Apply that same thinking to your utilities – water, gas, sewer, electricity – and you realize that most of our daily apps are “connected” apps. Even your ability to put gas on your car and food on your table is the result of a delivery network.

    As Tom Lord notes in a later comment, this dependency raises real issues. But that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the reality of the trend.

  • Scott W

    OK, HTML 5 is probably awesome. But IE is gonna screw it all up by being 5 years late to adopt or going their own direction. Standards are great for development, but only if they are enforced!!

    Death to IE!!!

  • Tim, it looks to me that David isn’t saying apps must be completely disconnected, but that they all have to retain functionality when net access is not available. I agree that the Internet is a utility, but you can’t rely on having unlimited gas, water and (ew!) sewage with you at all times, either. Ubicomp applications have to be robust enough not to crap out once you enter a tunnel.

  • The Video & Canvas elements appear strategically to indicate a future where YouTube no longer uses Flash. My sense is Adobe will lose hobbyist html video but will defend RTMP and protected Flash for commercial content.

    It’s especially interesting in light of other accusations of the GoogleZilla that Google VP of Eng Vic Gundotra stood on stage next to Jay Sullivan, VP of Mozilla Mobile, while Jay stated “We need to get out of plugin prison”. This is the same line the Moz Foundation has been using for a few years to swipe at Flash and that Google seems to be underwriting with its R&D.

  • Markus

    Nice graphs.

  • bbot

    I like the red underlining on the words that powerpoint thinks are mispelled. Professional.

  • HTML 5 is an appluadable initiative, however it is doomed to fail. One only needs to look at the features in Silverlight (particularly silverlight 3) to see that the level of features offered by HTML 5 is not enought to meet the needs of future RICH applications.

    We build RIA apps for big companies, and if HTML 5 + were ever to compete then it would need to move to proprietary (but transparent) and move to be more agile. It needs a feature set ten times richer than what is currently speced. It needs to treat Flash and Silverlight as competitors and evolveas such, otherwise it will forever be in the shadows of these two competing technologies.

    Note: that i didnt mention the other RIA technologies as they are still very imature (such as JavaFX)

  • mike

    poor internet exploder… er.. explorer.

  • JKF

    Edward Tufte would have a heart attack if he saw that first graph. What are the axis values? How is this measured? Why does the “experience” go down sometimes? Why are there kinks between points on the blue line?

    The second chart contains almost zero information except: All these browsers support all of HTML 5.

    Sorry to not comment on the content, and only the presentation, but I’d expect better from the VP of Engineering from Google. Sloppy charts lead to sloppy thinking and analysis.

  • Matt May –

    Yes, but it’s precisely the function of AppCache and Database to support the kind of disconnected operation that you’re talking about here. So HTML 5 is moving in that direction.

    jose –

    I think you miss (or disagree with) the Clay Christensen reference if you think that HTML 5 won’t be enough for future rich applications.

    That’s a lot like the insight that RCA had, that transistors would never have the sound quality of vacuum tubes. They were right, but that didn’t change the outcome.

    JKF –

    I understand that there are no meaningful Y axis units possible on Vic’s graph. The graph is notional – and it conveys the point: that each new browser release is adding features that bring the capabilities closer to those of native apps. But you’re right – it is a bit of a silly graph. The real reason I included it is that unlike the second graph it includes the version number of the specific browsers with the HTML 5 support. But like a lot of graphs, it is an attempt at storytelling rather than an attempt at analysis.

  • > No plugins, no mismatched codecs

    Sadly that’s not actually true. There are no plugins perhaps, but because several major vendors have refused to support Ogg Theora, there is currently no standard codec that does not have patent problems.

    Also your link for “simple video editor running in Safari” is empty.

  • Definitely a great read. Thanks for the update, I was unable to attend today. Keyhole was definitely an internet life-changer. HTML 5 I bet is also going to be an internet life-changer, as well. Glad to hear that Google’s backing it.

  • Tim, i believe HTML 5 definetely won’t be enough for future RICH applications purely because it can not compete with Flex/Silverlight.

    At the end of the day people will compare the types of applications that Flash-Flex/Silverlight deliver versus the pure html 5 applications and the former will win in the RICH user experience category.

    The future Email/Mapping/Document editing RIA applications that will arive soon from Silverlight and the ones already comming out on Flash-Flex/Air are infinetely more engaging than anything the html web has to offer.

    Eventually people will get use to the experience of using Flash/Silverlight and wonder why the HTML 5 apps arnt as engaging or rich.

    It will happen and I honestly believe those that think HTML 5 can compete with the richness these dedicated RIA technologies can deliver are kidding themselves..

    Goodluck with HTML 5, my bets on Flash-Flex-Air / Silverlight-WPF

  • Rick

    Jose hit the nail on the head. HTML 5 will take web apps to that next level, but Silverlight 3 will be lightyears ahead of it with regards to graphical ability and developer experience.

  • As Alan Trick mentioned, there’s no standard for video codecs, meaning each browser vendor will decide on what codecs to support if any. Which means in order for the video tag to work, the web developer will have to supply multiple versions of the video in a variety of codecs. This has the potential to get even messier, depending on what codecs (if any) various mobile devices support.

    Also since there’s no codex detection for browsers, assumptions will have to be made with what codex the user might have based on browser or operating system. Any users who edit or mask their browser’s user agent will likely run into problems viewing HTML5 video.

    Meanwhile, from a user’s perspective, you unfortunately will have to switch browsers to view video in a different codex, which certain users may want to, as there’s a big difference in quality and performance in video codecs.

    HTML5 will be cool to experiment with, but I can’t see it used much in real projects with most companies, unless their audience is very tech-savy group that upgrades their browsers. Otherwise, most companies want to reach the widest audience possible and will likely continue to ask for IE6 support for another 2 to 3 years. So we are looking at another 5 to 7 years before IE7 can be ignored and working with whatever basic HTML5 support is available in IE8.

    The following link has a good breakdown of different HTML5 tags and when developers will be able be able to realistically use them in mainstream projects:

  • fm

    @Thomas Lord
    I don’t understand what you mean about robbing software freedoms can you or anyone elaborate on that?

    An application that works inside a browser, whilst offline, then updates with data from the cloud when online sounds similar to me of how any piece of software could work.

  • John Davis

    Wow, seeing as Google will one day rule the world, I’d say they are probably right!


  • I liked the graph in particular. Good work.

  • @Hughes Well, In the graph the vertical axis is nerdgasmicity. The horizontal axis is goldfish-time. I got this from reddit.

  • Hi Tim,
    You wrote: “Microsoft has announced that it will support HTML 5.” I’ve also read they have suggested breaking out different working groups to work on different parts of HTML 5. Do you have a link or reference to something where they’ve actually said they will support all the major features, in one form or another, of the current HTML 5 draft? I went looking for some sort of statement but couldn’t find it. Microsoft is always the elephant in the room when it comes to cross-browser support for HTML 5. It would be really exciting if they were behind all the major features proposed for it.

    On the plugin vs. HTML 5 comments I don’t understand why anyone assumes it is a winner-take-all contest or that we will escape from “plugin hell” any time soon. The work Google and Mozilla are doing is wonderful but I also think many people take a more realistic attitude toward the value of plugins. I really like the bit in Google’s Chrome cartoon (pg. 29) where the author writes that Web pages are more than just HTML and JavaScript.

  • mark

    Silverlight is already being rejected in the same way that Flash apps are. You may have success in pushing it out on some intranet sites where the users have no choice, but in the larger world it’s a non-starter.

  • I’m not sure, I think Flash and Flex will dominate the RIA world.

  • FM, you asked me:

    “I don’t understand what you mean about robbing software freedoms can you or anyone elaborate on that?

    “An application that works inside a browser, whilst offline, then updates with data from the cloud when online sounds similar to me of how any piece of software could work.”

    Short answer: who controls the server-side and how is it implemented and do users enjoy their software freedoms with respect to both client and server code.


  • A couple of others have already made the “what do you mean, no plugins, no mismatched codecs?” comments that I was going to add. On the other hand, Mozilla Firefox and Opera will both have native support for legally-free Ogg Theora (and Ogg Vorbis audio – I’ll come back to this), and adding support to Safari should require no more than installing XiphQT. I’ve yet to hear what kind of support Google plans for video and audio in Windows Chrome, however (and as usual, Microsoft will be left behind, digging in their heels in hopes of stalling things long enough to make people give up and use Microsoft-controlled approaches instead – but I think this time there’s enough momentum outside Redmond, Washington to overcome this).

    Sadly, I see the demo html5 page at youtube seems to present only proprietary .mp4 video, requiring a proprietary plugin for those of us not using Safari (I’m honestly not sure it would work even then – I’m browsing with a beta of Firefox 3.5, and I’m not sure what it takes to add proprietary codec support to the native Xiph codecs or if it’s even possible currently). Does Google plan to support participation-promoting (see below) legally-free codecs, or will we still be stuck with competing “consumption-oriented” proprietary-codec plugins?

    On a related note, I really wish people would quit getting all breathless about turning computers into televisions with <video> while forgetting about the <audio> tag. Producing reasonable audio content is a lot simpler than producing video, so in terms of potential to promote participation – rather than mere “consumption” – of “rich media” on the web, <audio> may be a lot more useful than <video>. Furthermore, whereas Ogg Theora video is arguably merely “good enough” as a codec, Ogg Vorbis audio is definitely a step up in quality compared to the de-facto .mp3 standard.

  • anonymous

    Could you make that graph worse?

  • Oh, and if you’ll forgive a (shorter, I promise) followup post:

    As a “neogeography” enthusiast who eagerly bought “Mapping Hacks” and “Google Maps Hacks”* (and “Web Mapping Illustrated”) within a month of their respective releases, and who has wanted to attend “Where 2.0” since the first one (and been bitter about never having time and money to do so thus far), I’m looking forward to playing with the geolocation features as well. I am hoping Google Maps/Earth will support having <audio> tags embedded with other HTML in .kml placemarks alongside <img> tags…

    * – Incidentally…where the heck are the 2nd editions of these!? Please tell me you were just waiting for browsers with geolocation features to be released so that you could include a chapter on the subject in them…

  • Exactly.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve been arguing for some time that there is massive change underway in the browser landscape that is getting ignored.

    To this day, I hear people argue that items need to be built as native applications to support offline usage. Yet, at the same time developers were able to store data offline using native applications, they were able to store data offline in Mobile Safari.

    And you’re right Tim that a lot of this is being driven by mobile browsers. This is another way to break out of the stranglehold that the carriers have. It is the only way to start building applications that will work across the many operating systems.

    If we assume for a second that mobile browsers are a primary–if not THE primary driver of this innovation, then the barriers to adopting this technology are not IE as has been suggested by commentators, but RIM and Nokia.

    Google has already provided Google Gears as a way to work around some of the inefficiencies of IE and Mobile IE.

    Nokia uses Webkit, but is slow to adopt newer version of Webkit. RIM has it own proprietary browser that is not keeping pace with the innovation. Those two browsers represent a significant worldwide (Nokia) and U.S. (RIM) marketshare.

    These are very exciting times.

    One final thought to ponder:

    Is Google more committed to the success of Android or the success of web application technology particularly the technology that makes mobile web applications possible?

    I’d argue if you look at Google’s DNA and their long-term vision, they’d rather see Android fail, but the web win across all platforms than see Android (and native app development generally) succeed as the paradigm for mobile.

  • The Google mantra about the web vs desktop is b******t. Do an objective comparison between (canvas or svg) vs ((flash or silverlight) or desktop) and you’ll quickly note the differences. We don’t need an academic paper or more buzz.

    Yes, you can play with google spreadsheet and share your expenses there, but can’t be compared with a desktop spreadsheet. Is NVIDIA planning a javascript gpu?

  • As someone who has spent a big chunk of his life coding an artificial intelligence in JavaScript for Internet Explorer at and therefore relies on both JavaScript and HTML not to obsolete his life’s work, I feel slightly scared and threatened by all these accelerating Web changes. (But I also accept the challenges :-)

  • David Weller

    Thanks for the clarification and feedback, Tim. Just one more thing about a comment you made:
    “Re dependence on the internet – I hear you, but I don’t buy it. Apply that same thinking to your utilities – water, gas, sewer, electricity – and you realize that most of our daily apps are “connected” apps. Even your ability to put gas on your car and food on your table is the result of a delivery network.”

    True, but I don’t think you’re effectively applying economies of scale. Water and Sewer, for instance, are localized utilities. Gas and Electricity are regionalized. The internet is international, and is driven by software that has been proven to be vulnerable to coordinated attacks, affecting people on a large scale.

    Of course, there are two valid counterpoints: 1) Electrical grids are just as vulnerable and 2) The internet was originally built to be resilient to these kind of outages (you and I are both old enough to remember the ARPANET days :-).

    My point is that I fear we may be putting too many of our eggs in one basket. I want my stuff to be able to work, at least at some level, even if the backhoe operator cuts off my internet feed to my neighborhood (has happened twice to me, in fact, so my paranoia comes naturally :-)

  • Always interesting to see the browser environment evolve to take on more of the space that was reserved for local applications. Very much in the “innovator’s dilemma” meme.

    However, I also see some of these developments as creating barriers for the lightweight mobile space. For mobile, the CPU intensive functionality needs to be pushed back into the cloud, rather than handled in the client. A good example is the referenced web workers. For mobile, those “workers” need to be running on servers, and Google’s AppEngine seems the ideal place to run them. (The performance demo on my website has an example).

    If these more capable browser technologies are to migrate to mobile devices, then I would really like to see the hardware architectures that will support their needs, while just sipping power from the ambient light.

  • Otto

    Really? Microsoft failed to recognize the potential of new technologies? Golly, can’t remember that happening before! ;D;D;D

  • Rod Stone

    its just INSANE that people try to evolve on things like HTML, CSS and Javascript.

    CSS and HTML are not consistent and not all that robust.

    Javascript is a scripting language with a featureset that is hopelessly dated.

    Native Rich Desktop applications are supported by frameworks that rely on component models with well defined event mechanics. A web 2.0 developer often has to reinvent the component model or use abstractions for it built using earlier mentioned technologies. Event propagation can work for simpler component hierachies but not near the real thing. HTML and Javascript as a foundation cannot be viewed as anything else than rotten.

    Flex, Silverlight and JavaFX is the direction we should focus on.

  • The push for ALL EVERY THING onto the internet reminds me of the anouncements and hype that have surrounded all inventions and vaporware before.
    I have been in the engineering field since the early 80’s to know that new technologies has hardly replaced the old stuff overnight.
    The replacement has happened gradually. I will give some examples here: Minicomputers vs. Mainframes, PC vs. Minicomputers, Windows vs Linux, style sheets, DHTML 3.0, New economy vs. Old economy, Silverlight vs Flexfalsh and the list goes, … (by the way does any one remember RS232 vs. USB vs. Firewire?).
    All new inventions do not instantly replace old stuff, but complement them while the old technologies gradually go through their natural
    life cycles. Also the mathematics of economics determine what happens with inventions, Period. I am not on the Microsoft pay role, but you
    can’t think by ignoring the company, it will just disappear. Does it now mean anything from Google is automatically a standard?

    In order to entrust mission critical applications to Cloud Computing enterprises some important factors will have to be addressed first.
    Just a small list of issues that need to be addressed:
    1. End User Linsences and Liabilities for Software.
    2. Ownership Software and Data
    3 Security and Privacy
    4. Who owns the data in the cloud in case of disputes (infrastructure belongs to the Service Provider, but the data to the client)

    Definately a lot of applications will end up on the internet (better still, in the connected environement), however, it is going to take
    some time just like any other technologies before, and it won’t and must not become a one company show.

  • Tim, great recap of the keynote. While I was sitting there pondering the impact of HTML 5 on the cloud computing space the guy sitting next to me leaned over and said “This means that the Operating System is dead.”

    I don’t agree, while it might mean the end of the Windows desktop OS monopoly, I think that HTML 5 will ultimately be known as the technology that launched a thousand operating systems. The ability for device manufacturers to provide a standardized application development platform independent of (and above) the Operating System means that the manufacturer of a computing platform can choose to license or build for themselves any OS that best meets the needs of their hardware profile.

    This means that PCs, Game Consoles, Mobile Devices, Set Top Boxes and even TVs will all be on equal footing with regard to being an application platform. Each device will run its own specialized operating system, but they will also sport an HTML 5 compatible web browser and be first class citizens in the computing cloud.

  • Jose, above, writes:

    “Tim, i believe HTML 5 definetely won’t be enough for future RICH applications purely because it can not compete with Flex/Silverlight. At the end of the day people will compare the types of applications that Flash-Flex/Silverlight deliver versus the pure html 5 applications and the former will win in the RICH user experience category. The future Email/Mapping/Document editing RIA applications that will arive soon from Silverlight and the ones already comming out on Flash-Flex/Air are infinetely more engaging than anything the html web has to offer.”

    So? “html web” couldn’t compete with the “types
    of applications that Flash”
    delivered yesterday either.

    As far as the article, I don’t get the graph (its
    all HTML, comparing old apples to new apples). RIAs vs html web vs natives (and comparing Keyhole to Google Maps is silly) will all improve greatly but where’s the disruption?

    Speaking of apples: on both sides of the argument there seems
    to be an implied “native apps are dead” but its native apps from where a real disruption in the mobile world is now occurring. HelloWorld.m

  • Hip

    @Eddie Clay: I don’t get it… What do you actually mean with “disruption”?!

  • I am referring to the graph and statement:
    “This looks like one of Clayton Christensen’s classic “disruptive innovation vs sustaining innovation” graphs.”

    My point is both RIAs and HTML/Javascript will greatly improve, and its exciting, but there is no “disruptive innovation” here. A disruptive innovation is a surprise, one no one could have predicted, which totally changes the market itself. I think the natives apps of iPhone was/is a disruption. Mobile Phones may be driving HTML and RIAs, but this is not a surprise, its an evolution as wireless dominates. Javafx vs native iPhone apps? which is the surprise?

  • Eddie –

    The WEB is the disruptive innovation. We’re just getting into the endgame here. That’s the point of the lines crossing.

    Back when the web was first introduced, everyone said, “It’s not as good as CD ROM hypertext, or word processing documents…” Then they said “It can never do applications as well as native applications.

    But it’s getting to the crossover point.

    Disruptive innovations don’t happen all at once. They start by under-delivering on the original state of the art, usually serving a new market, but over time, they exceed the capabilities of the old technology.

    That’s exactly what’s happening here.

    This isn’t the start of a new disruptive innovation, it’s the crossover point for a process that started back in 1991.

  • I agree this disruption began a long time ago. I understand the point of an emerging web application platform and web apps can do what many native apps did 10 years ago. I still don’t get the graph…unless its the very silly idea that the superiority of the native app reign (or OS) is about to end…it looks here like the point in this graph is today’s web apps (RIAs or HTML5) are as good as today’s native apps? Google Earth compared to Google Maps, seriously, one is like flying, the other is simply useful, that’s all.

    Anyway, my point is brought because of the excellent observation that mobile browsing is driving a lot of the web platform now.

    There is a reason why the native apps (and the mobile browser on an iPhone for example, is a native app) will always be superior. Native apps blow away the web apps on the iPhone or any other mobile. The real disruption to talk about began over a year ago, not in 1991.

    Its not the web application platform that is displacing native apps, its that web connected mobile platforms that are displacing personal computers.

  • Martin Baxter

    As a developer, I naturally see virtue in standards.
    The current hodge-podge of multimedia options for web browsers, is a creaking relic of an earlier age.
    HTML 5 may be the way to finally sort this muddle out. But equally it may result in a technology fork that could launch us into a new era of brain-achingly conditional code.
    However, wearing my web user hat, my reaction is different, it’s this: “but will I still be able to turn all that goop off, and surf in the zen-like serenity to which I am accustomed?”.
    Today I can manage this, sort of, by not installing flash, acrobat etc and using noscript and adblock.
    Once all this wizzy stuff is native (and used to excess, naturally) will I still be allowed to opt out? If not, will I still want to use the web?

    Martin Baxter

  • I think the actual Shakespeare quote (Merchant of Venice) is: “The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o’er a cold decree.”

  • As a voice from web-based application camp, I support improvements in HTML. I think, its evolution should be stable and in standard body. I say “Never underestimate the standards that brought the web to today’s wide adoption”. Support by four major browsers is not enough for “rough consensus”, beacuse their total usage percentage is not higher than Internet Explorer. You can’t ignore Internet Explorer’s users. Developers are already struggling with different browser behaviours. Altough standard development is slow, we’d better wait. Coming fetaures are already solved with different techniques or hacks.

    Canvas: We are using server-side image libraries. There are js libraries but we didn’t prefer them.
    Video: We didn’t need. If we need we may outsource it to video streaming providers.
    Geolocation: I think a special requirement.
    App Cache and Database: We haven’t even used up the 4 KB cookie size, we don’t need.
    Web workers: It would be good for JS performance but new Browser versions are very fast in js processing job.

  • I think support for devices like cameras, scanners etc should be part of HTML 5. Interfacing with devices currently requires client applications running on the desktop. One of the goals of next generation browsers should be incorporating drivers for these devices and also the ability to receive events from them.

  • Richard

    Hilarious to see the Flash/Silverlight guys so sure of their chosen RIA platform. Despite this “obvious” superiorit, Google Apps does what it does using plain old HTML and Javascript. Flash is nice for search engine invisibility, bloat, and epic wait times, but I don’t see it replacing HTML any time soon.

  • Skippy

    Flash and Silverlight are just fancy application sandboxes. They don’t leverage the essence of the web: its RESTful style. They will get attention because they have powerful commercial machines behind them but they are doomed to play a niche role in the overall web story, simply because they are not true web technologies.
    They are desperate attempts to perpetuate a programming style that has hit its limits because it was designed for the desktop, not the web. AJAX and HTML 5 will prevail!

    Not convinced: just use the web! HTML sites have rich contents, they are regularly updated, their navigation is standard (back button works). Flash sites are just cute but frustrating apps: poor and out-of-date contents, awkward navigation.

    Microsoft has not yet fully drawn the lessons of its recent history. Like Vista, Silverlight is a dive into oceans of sophistication and thus a technology for the elites: Vista needs elite hardware, Silverlight needs elite programmers and designers. Netbooks and HTML 5 are technologies for the masses.

  • skierpage

    O’Reilly, please drop the nonsensical “06.03.09” date format for comments, which seems to mix Euro-style dots with America-only month-day-year ordering. Once we’re past 2009 they’ll be gibberish to most of the world. ISO8601 works.

  • The effort is going to make end user’s and web developer’s life comfortable. Technology itself is driving and pushing for new milestones and features to be incorporated in user agents.
    It will eventually lead to user agents – particularly browsers growing into ‘launch-boxes’ where users can use data and processing logic available on local devices and/or from internet/intranet and/or other connected devices to produce final results. Not only HTML and JavaScript will be key players but also O.S./platform/device specific native apps will chip in to yield better user experience.

    I see that argument in comments is about who is replacing who. Let it be HTML 5 ,JavaScript or Flash or Silverlight. Faster, cheaper and better will survive.

  • L K

    While some parts of HTML are very promising, it is truly disheartening that HTML 5 makes no effort at being *extensible* and forward/backward compatible.

    As an example, this HTML 5 page,, breaks in IE8 and Firefox 3. Too bad they didn’t just use something like (hint: this doesn’t break in older browsers, so we could start using it commercially today.) instead of breaking old HTML with totally new elements like . You know, non-extensible one-off elements that do one thing.

    “Michael emphasized the importance of standardization, but also suggested that we need new extensions to HTML 5, for example, to support events from the accelerometer in the phone. Palm has had to run out ahead of the standards in this area. “

    Are you serious? Every little gimmick that helps Palm, Apple, MS and Google for their own priorities has to get stuffed into HTML to further gunk up the ‘standard’? This is exactly why HTML 5 is profoundly misguided — too much a kitchen sink of the big media players.

  • So no news on Curl ( for 6 months in O’Reilly InsideRIA, but HTML 5 gets 3 features that were in the Curl programming books in 2001 and that is big news. Canvas is Canvas. AppCache and DataBase is Applet cache and Repository and WebWorker is AsyncWorker. Need GeoLocation? Curl has had Web Services since before 2001. That leaves video. Hmmm.

    Still no interest in a Curl book, Tim? Well heck no. What would be new? JSON support, JavaScript interop, IPC for SubApplets, BlazeDS and AMF.

    As with PROLOG and Smalltalk, corporations use some languages quietly. Competitive advantage. Walk quietly and carry your own large class library.

  • D M

    I believe that no matter what the opinions are of major supporters of Flex and Silverlight, etc. — ultimately the “people” decide what goes. There is strength in numbers, and if it’s what people want to succeed, it will. Many are waking up to realize the monopolies that exist in this world.

  • Dwight Vietzke

    So Google is working towards HTML5! Great. Have you ever tried validating Google Checkout, Maps or Adsense code. It typically won’t validate against anything but HTML4 Transitional. Wow…now thats progress.

    With the web becoming more diverse (mobile devices, etc.), standards should be more important, and adhered to. But adoption is soooooo slow. I won’t hold my breath.

    I’m all about standards compliance, but that’s because I’m not already rich and I’m not trying to protect my income streams from pesky open source programmers.

  • Rafa

    In the Cloud Computing age Web Applications become more important than ever and require more Powerful. HTML 5 is taking to much time to go out and as a Standard it could be very important in this age.

    I think that today client computers (pda, game consoles, netbooks ) have more and more computing power (graphics, multiple cores,fast networks) and Web applications have not taken advantage of that, that is one reason because Flash, Silverlight, and JavaFX are an alternative today. But html 5 could change it and become and good option for web application development in the future. So HTML 5 Hurry

  • encoder

    html is not application. you can’t create, modify, sort data with it.

    it’s just a markup language, nothing more. it evolved from a corporate standard and it is used today.

    another thing. a html/css/js page unless completely basic, looks and feels 20 different way on 20 browsers, because the browser is doing the processing the way he likes. they all say their browser uses the html standard but all of them fail big time.

    what html will do:
    it will have you to install/switch between browsers just because a page dose not run on a certain browser. it will make you suffer unimaginably.

    hate and use refusal against flash has a base of around 100 people on the web with 20 payed by Jobs, because he dose not want to loose big portion of it’s revenue from the app-store’s games (flash player would open up access to millions of them for free), and also applications.

    i cannot tell my IE6 users to upgrade to a better browser, or pop up something that your phone is crap, and i have to have PIXEL PERFECT on all of them. a 22 year old week technology like html and it’s implementation fails to provide that.

    when flash player 10.1 rolls out i will begin coding flash sites for phones. i disregard the fact that some of the people use iPhone. it is just too small of a percentage, others will have flash player. but in the end i will provide alternative content to them, simple text or HTML5.

    for unregulated highly capable smart phones i will have flash, and for other, HTML5.

    this will be my use for HTML5, and nothing more for the next 5 years.

    why flash?

    because of the double-float precision across all that can run it (there is a percentage that can’t but adobe knows where to invest).

    because i can have complex physics simulation with special effects and still have room for people to interact with every part of it.

    because i can have a complex search engine displaying realtime data (that is under 5ms) from 10MB up to 10 criteria at the same time (on average system).

    because it’s evolving every year in big leaps.

    because it will get a fully open sourced player.

    but i still need html5 maybe it will have 1-2 things i can use and those 20 browsers too.

  • konteyner

    güzel paylaşım tskler iyi işler başarılar

  • HTML5 adds a lot of new syntax features. This includes especially audio, video, canvas elements and integration of SVG content. HTML5 is going to improve the browser usability of multimedia and graphic content on the web enormously as many plugins won´t be necessary anymore. Especially for mobile browsers this is a fascinating development.

  • Interesting to see whether Silverlight takes it to them next year when H5 finally pops up.

  • I seldom see any websites using HTML5 except apple.

  • 2 years out… still no sign of sites really using html5. maybe in another 2 years ;)

  • rick

    Yep, it’s now been well over 2 1/2 years now, and still no HTML5 web sites.

    Larry Page should have had youtube on html5 already ? Every single major Browser fully supports HTML5 now.
    turncoat, or even douche bag, do come to mind though.

    Adobe can’t even let a native Fla$h-plugin exist for FreeBSD/Unix yet ?! – how hard is that ?

    Adobe Fla$h is just a buggy, expensive, proprietray controlling caca to work with,.
    You want content that HTML5’s syntax will help point to?,
    then use x264,…, in an mkv,…, container.-its ALL freely available with source code. And, these are even more powerful and adaptable than Adobe’s Fla$h could ever dream of being.
    HTML5 is just an HTML mark-up with extra syntax for the audio, video, …, cool stuff. And, of course, HTML5 is free.

    ‘nuf said.

  • HTML5 is the next thing and it’s wise to embrace it.

  • I am slowly but surely converting to chrome after a good few years of using firefox I just like the speed and its looks snazzier too I think.

  • I like The Bespin editor. And Canvas has come such a long way and allowed us web guys to be able to do so much more than was ever possible before. We are lucky to be here and witness to this exciting age.

    Daniel Wozniak

  • hmmm… HTML 5 — do you still think it is the future? We are using SmartyPHP on mymzone and (we are still learning to use it) but it seems to partially replace using HTML/CSS. =/

  • Mindster

    HTML 5 linked with the modern technologies may bring about powerful results.

  • Even though HTML 5 is not yet popular, HTML 5 linked with the modern technologies may bring about powerful results.

  • How much time more will it require for HTML5 to be popular before we move onto the next!