Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Choosing HTML5 Over Watching American Idol

Sure I wanted to see the last four contestants engage in their duet duels on national TV. But we’re talking HTML5, the next generation in hypertext markup language that the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) international standards organization has been hard in work in developing. Plus, it was a total geek-out held at Microsoft’s San Francisco offices on the heels of the Web 2.0 conference at Moscone Center  and sponsored by three local user groups: PHP, Java, and HTML5. 

I stood my place in line waiting to grab a slice of pizza, and a cup of broccoli salad. (Mixed with currents and red onions, the stuff was tasty!) Many around me consorted with their cell phones while I grabbed a seat and gazed up at dual screens on either side of the room with the speaker podium placed <align=”center”>. Sponsors introduced themselves (Google, Guidewire, JetBrains, Kaazing, Marakana, Medallia, Oracle, O’Reilly, and Teksystems), and then it was on with the show.

So what is HTML5? Very roughly it’s a markup language for the Web that originally made its debut around 1990 and has been progressively upgraded since then to allow for the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and the implementation of AJAX with Javascripting to create in the eyes of the beholder, a more information-rich Web.

The lessons learned using HTML these past 20 years are being incorporated into tags and objects that may have previously existed as JavaScript work-arounds to satisfy growing user expectations, an approach one speaker called “paving the cow paths.” Browser support isn’t totally there, but Chrome, Opera, and Microsoft’s Internet 9.0, are all mapping the divide.  

The first speaker was Brad Neuberg from Google’s documentation team. Neuberg painted a wide HTML5 swath, demonstrating how the new standards matter to consumers and developers. This includes a new specification called “workers,” which allows developers to run code that won’t block the browser, meaning that it will remain responsive while it’s parsing lots of information. With the growing use of maps, there’s a geolocation object that will pass browser latitude and longitude coordinates to a browser for map display, handy for social networking sites. There are semantic tags to break content into more discrete sections, including the printed page’s “sidebars,” all allowing for better search engine indexing.There also are new link relations to define icons (think mood icons) and pingbacks. SVG (scalable vector graphics) will be available via new CSS selectors to offer the automatic definition of column number, text stroke, opacity, rounded corners, gradients, and controls to play audio and video (think YouTube on steroids and beyond). 

Microsoft’s Giorgio Sardo, took the stage, explaining how Explorer 9.0 is using the memory stored in GPUs (Graphic Processing Units), and in the double-core of “double-core” computer processors to allow for the display and resolution of HTML5 elements, pushing browser technology to a new level.

The last speaker was <a href=””>Peter Lubbers </a>from Kaazing and co-author of Pro HTML5 Programming (Apress 2010). He dove into a subject that was near and dear to the hearts of many developers who have been using household web development techniques such as “AJAX” and “Comet” to simulate real-time information on the Web. The truth of the matter is that information can only flow in “half-duplex,” or in one direction, which is the reason, Lubbers explained, that the recent “Times Square bomber” (Faisal Shahzad) was not immediately intercepted on his way out of the country because the “no-fly” list cannot be updated in real time. HTML5 brings a full-duplex solution to the table and it’s called “web sockets.”   

As all this settles, browser support will be spotty, but certain HTML5 elements are available in Chrome, Opera, and Explorer 8. You can inject a certain amount of browser HTML5 muscle into Internet Explorer by adding a meta tag, Google’s Chrome Frame.

Got to go.  Need to turn on the results show for American Idol.  

Lenore Weiss


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