The promise of HyperText Mark Up Language 5 (HTML5) is great. Once it is deployed, it will enable many cool things, such as enabling video to be played natively from within the browser. Add-ons such as Flash no longer will be necessary.
It is a significant upgrade, however, and the existing world of early HTML variants form a massive legacy that, even in the best of circumstances, will take years to replace. In May, I spoke to Daniel Ruby, the Research Director for Online Insights for Chitika, an analytics firm for online advertising. Ruby told me that an survey the firm conducted suggested that the transition to HTML5 is well under way:
I found a higher-than-expected percentage of Internet traffic that is ready for HTML5 video, which is one of its real core rich-media elements. Forty-six percent of people are currently ready for at least some degree of HTML5. HTML5 has so many different elements to it there is a site-www.diveintohtml5.org-that looks at it. The site breaks down the selection of browsers and says which browsers are ready specifically for HTML5 video. There is a lot of other code in HTML5 that is not widely supported. Video seems to be the springboard to where HTML5 is going to be more standard and widely used.
But significant challenges remain in the transition to HTML5. InfoWorld reports that Phillippe Le Hegaret, the interaction domain leader for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), suggests that the new framework simply isn't ready. He is quoted as saying that interoperability-making HTML5 work consistently between browsers-is not established. Though many elements of HTML5 already are in use, Le Hegaret suggests that it is not yet ready for "production," or full commercial release.
What remains to be done is significant. The InfoWorld piece, which generated considerable online commentary, mentioned that there is no agreed-upon video codec and that HTML lacks digital rights management. This example at Electronista is a good example of the current state of affairs:
As an example, while a tag for audio playback is part of the specification, not all browsers support the same formats. Safari and Chrome support native MP3 playback using this tag; Firefox and Opera do not. In another instance, the HTML5 specification won't feature a native video codec due to patent issues.
It seems that Hegaret, and the WC3 for which he presumably is speaking, is in full expectations-control mode. After the InfoWorld article was posted, he issued two Twitter posts on the topic, according to The Inquirer. The first pointed to the interoperability issues and suggested that reliance on "hacks"-informal tricks to circumvent a problem or prohibition-is not the way to go. He later tweeted that HTML5 is best used at this point in experimental mode, and that stability shouldn't be expected.