HTML 5 – It’s not the end of internet plug-ins

4 06 2010

I have posted a number of times now about HTML5 and my concerns that people see it as a complete replacement for internet plug-in such as Silverlight and Flash, allowing RIAs to be delivered in pure HTML 5. One of the main people who keep going on about HTML 5 is Steve Jobs (though I think a lot of this is trying to convince the users of iPhones and iPads that Flash has a short life ahead). However, it seems that more and more people are sharing my opinion that HTML 5 will not kill of Flash and Silverlight, and that its adoption is a hell of a long way off in general…A recent report and article from Forrester illustrates this…

HTML 5 traction and buzz….

There is for sure a lot of buzz around HTML 5 in the past couple of months, least not because of Jobs, but also because Google has recently open-sourced its VP8 video codex. To date, abilities and licensing issues surrounding such video converters have been one of the sticking points for beta HTML 5, however this is not the only issue. Though there is a lot of internet buzz, it seems that adoption of HTML 5 is a long long way off, with browsers only supporting small fragments of HTML 5 currently. It seems that for wide spread adoption, as users we will be waiting until 2020 or sometime around then…That’s not exactly close is it…Its again another reason why I am not at all “hyped up” about HTML 5, it’s just so far off….

So while HTML 5 is a long way off, just think how much traction Flash and Silverlight will gain in this period. Silverlight is the new boy on the block, but has already around 60% adoption across all machines. That’s rather impressive, all this while HTML 5 is in beta releases and going through a lot of, development pains and issues shall we say…

There is also the issue of cross browser issues. Just like HTML 4, HTML 5 will suffer at the hands of different browsers. The author of the Forest report (Hammond) stated “Until you get consistent behaviour the question will be why you would use HTML 5 when it actually creates more challenges than it solves from a testing and deployment perspective.” I have to say, this has always been an issue with HTML in general, especially when delivering internet applications, and it is one that won’t go away for HTML 5…Though HTML 5 is supposed to be intended as an enterprise-class product, the reality is that the architecture of HTML 5 with the browser has a number of issues and draw backs, even when talking to web services. Though the aim is for HTML 5 to allow easier building of “applications” the fact is that HTML and that side of the web architecture was never designed with this in mind….

Test once…You are all done…

Ahh, well this is not the case is it with HTML. Unfortunately you will need to perform tests on all the browsers out there, and no doubt, place “HTML fixes, CSS fixes and JavaScript fixes” into your application depending on what browser is running it. This does make life a lot harder for testing and development, oh, and of course ongoing support. However, this problem is just not there for Flash and Silverlight, because their architecture is completely different and in many ways separate from the browser and the web in general, indeed you can run Silverlight out of the browser fine…

Hammonds recent report – titled “Does HTML 5 Herald the end of RIA Plug-Ins? Not Really” – found that application delivery through RIA amongst businesses rose to 34% in 2009, up from 26% in 2008. This illustrates the increase use of RIAs amongst businesses, especially with technologies such as Silverlight develop further, all this while HTML 5 is still in its draft phase…

For traditional website material, you could still use HTML and HTML 5 if you wish, however for complex functions and applications, I would always recommend the use of Silverlight, there are just so many hurdles you negate while being able to use a technology that isn’t restricted by the browser web architecture.

Open aspect of HTML 5

So many people claim they love the idea that HTML 5 is “open”. And there are some good arguments made for this, however I have yet to see one example where these arguments are valid. Especially arguments that users may have to pay for Flash or Silverlight use, that you can become restricted to what browsers you can use, or that you are dependent on them for your support…I don’t see an issue or potential issue with any of these arguments, they are just created so people try to feel more safe with an “open” technology controlled by many rather than a single company…

However, this open aspect of HTML 5 may also work against its progress and adoption, especially as open standards are very slow to develop. HTML 5 has been in development for a decade now, and though early candidate releases are recommended for 2012/13, it is a while yet before we see HTML 5 as the standard version of HTML being used. On top of that, cross browser issues and W3C adoption is even further off…

Architecture…

RIAs require processing on the client, or at least they should do. Users expect “thick client” performance and usability in an RIA and on top of that, access to hardware components, such as storage, web cams, other applications running on the client etc etc. The architecture behind the web and HTML jsut doesn’t allow this. Though HTML 5 will bring us a richer web, with easier video playback, website animations and improved usability (a little like Ajax has done), it will always be behind Silverlight for example, that can take advantage of hardware on the client, keyboard interactivity, integration with other applications and the ability to work in a “disconnected state” from the internet….

My own view on the use of HTML 5 in the future…

It simple, for typical web content, HTML 5 will provide a greater level of interactivity, animation and improved user experience. It will no doubt be used for “simpler” RIAs, however its adoption as a serious RIA for businesses is plain fantasy. RIAs need to deliver more, and therefore organisations will continue to look to plug-ins, especially Silverlight more and more. I also believe that websites available to the general public will also have more aspects delivered in Silverlight, even once HTML 5 has gained traction, simply because Silverlight can deliver a better end user experience without many of the hassles associated with web development and HTML, CSS and JavaScript across multiple browsers…..

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7 responses

4 06 2010
Rob Hofker

Interesting take on things regarding HTML5. I agree with you in the spirit of the article: HTML5 will not replace Flash / Silverlight or any other plugin.
The arguments you bring forward to support that statement I have some doubts as to their validity.

True, HTML5 is not yet the standard, but it is already in use and you can build your web app using the HTML5 doctype already. It will work in most browsers. As long as you do not use any of the new tags. I know it sounds pathetic, but still you can serve HTML5 already without destroying your webapp.
Users will not have to wait until 2020 and they will most likely not even notice.

HTML5 is rapidly evolving and browsers are rapidly implementing parts of it. Google Chrome made a good start and also Apple not implementing Flash helped in that resepct. Even Microsoft is implementing more and more in IE9.
Yes, it is coming and yes progress seems slow, but still looking at the past of adoption of new standards it is going quite speedy.

The difference between browsers will be haunting us web developers for a number of years to come and you will have to keep an eye on what you can use across the browsers before you start using it. You will find that your toolbox will be filling up with more and more standard tools. On the side you will have Javascript libraries that help non-conforming browsers to keep up the pace.
These differences will change over time, but most probable will never cease to exist. You will have more problems implementing the more advanced and newer topics than if you just lag a step behind the very early adopters.

This puts a slightly different perspective on your argumentation, however we fully meet again in the conclusion. HTML5 will undoubtedly have its RIA implementations (that maybe would eb silly to in Falsh or Silverlight) but there will absolutely be use cases where the plugins step in to take center stage and to their things in the best possible way.

15 06 2010
gary whiting

Very good information enjoyed the reading.

7 09 2010
jaumemussons

Just try to develop with Object oriented architecture in this html5 rubbish…. ah you cant!

7 09 2010
Rob Hofker

@jaumemussons that would mean that you can’t develop websites in any object oriented architecture ..

Does not really feel realistic. I have been buidling websites using OO architectures in the past 5 years. The html markup that is used doesn’t have any impact on the architecture.

To me (and more importantly to the architexture) it doesn’t which type of markup is used. It even doesn’t matter if a webpage (html), a Silverlight app (xaml) or a Windows app is created.

Maybe you can explain what I am not understanding here?

7 09 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

@Rob, you are right, the actual markup doesnt matter technically. However the way you can code and manage your “behind the scenes code” in an OO fashion can greatly depend on the markup. Controls here play a big part…Perhaps @jaumemussons is trying to touch on this…

This is where Silverlight has an almighty edge over HTML 5 and Flash. The OO approach to controls, binding and things such as MVVM mean that as a developer (and as designers) our “workflow” is more streamlined. We are constantly in an OO type world, constantly have managed code and more importantly, common coding areas and practices between the presentation, business, configuration and data layers…You just dont get this with plain old HTML nor PHP, ASP.NET and other technologies (to the same extent)

7 09 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

@jaumemussons, Do you mean you cant use HTML 5 on its own in a pure sense without the need for other technologies to enable you to write an OO website? If so, then yes, you are right, HTML 5 is no different to other versions of HTML in this case.

HTML is just a markup for the presentation, nothing more, nothing less. This is one of the reasons why developing real business applications for example and true RIAs developers will work with Silverlight or in some cases Flash. However, more basic yet rich websites, will and should utilise HTML 5…

4 11 2010
Cotton Comforter Sets ·

there are many free software video converters on the internet that we can download but the best ones are always paid version*

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