With the final HTML 5 specification due to ratify this summer, it seems like the language has already become part of the landscape. Where could it take us and what obstacles lie ahead?
HTML 5 Clears House
With the news last week that Microsoft is shifting its focus from Silverlight to HTML 5, and that Adobe is making Flash HTML 5- (and iOS-) friendly), the last pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place for the dominance of HTML 5 as the future of web technology and web development.
Just about every release we see these days touts CMSes as supporting HTML 5, every mobile site is packing HTML 5 features and the hype will only continue to grow. All this for a highly immature technology that has beaten industry giants and their alternatives -- it has to be doing something right.
All the Right Moves
The next generation of web sites will certainly look better than their current counterparts (if coded properly). Media will play smoothly across any device, be it iPad, PlayBook or Android phone. Business users could move to an all-cloud environment via in-browser document editing. They can also use drag and drop just like on the desktop, making the browser more like the comforting UIs of old.
With some neat extensions, font use could go wild on the web, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. Templates and design tools could become dramatically easier to use and, with templates like Boilerplate, all of your HTML 5 features can run happily in browsers all the way back to IE6, for those who, for whatever legacy reason, can't upgrade.
Sticking Points Ahead
There are, of course, a few potholes on this road. The three leading browsers aren't quite compatible, nor do they offer a universally identical experience yet, and there are many ways for one or other of the players to muck things up. At least Microsoft is promising big things for its Internet Explorer 10 browser, the site for which promises and demonstrates all kinds of HTML 5 goodness.
There are also areas where HTML 5 is lacking, such as in adding objects over video, working with webcams and so on. These can be fixed, over time, but leave holes in the portfolio that third parties can exploit -- which may be good in the short term, but make for fragmentation later on.
Thank the Mobile Future
Whatever sites end up looking like, the good news is that, whatever device you happen to browse them on -- be it an iPhone, iPad or Android -- HTML 5 should help produce an equal, egalitarian experience. The success of these devices seems to be what has really pushed HTML 5 to the fore -- if we were still creaking along in an all-desktop world, things would be years behind where we are now.
For developers, life gets made a little simpler, without a million platform tweaks to worry about, and they can concentrate on the important things such as user experience and progressing with cleaner code. That does ignore the massive amount of sites rewrites and refreshes that the industry faces, but for coders, as long as they're getting paid, it should all be good.