The announcement that Slideshare will drop Adobe Flash for HTML5 increases the momentum behind the still-evolving web standard. Slideshare is in good company; Apple embraced HTML5 essentially because it’s an Adobe Flash killer.
Apple has never been happy with the prospect of supporting Flash on its operating systems, never mind allowing it onto the iPhone/iPad-oriented iOS. Flash represents a way for developers to create cross-platform applications rather than creating native iOS applications and locking a user into the platform. With Apple’s taking 30% of every App Store sale, including any in-application sales, the economics of killing Flash were sound.
Ironically the rich features available to developers delivering HTML5 appears to now offer a way for web applications to be delivered to the iOS platform without having to go through the Apple App Store. The Financial Times, one of the earliest paywall successes, has essentially re-created its iOS application in HTML5, thus by-passing the App Store, whilst the App Store gaming hit, Angry Birds, is available in HTML5 (if only on Google Chrome at the moment).
So, what does HTML5 offer?
Exactly what’s included in HTML5 is still being determined but being a standard it means that HTML5 works on iOS, Android and any modern browser. HTML5 documents can be easily crawled and indexed by search engines. But it’s the technical meat that’s exciting developers and marketers.
- In HTML5, embedded media is truly controllable, meaning that sound and video can be synchronised correctly for rich media experiences.
- Offline storage allows web applications to continue working when no connection is available, still an essential for mobile applications.
- Geolocation, if the platform supports it, is a straightforward addition to a web application.
- WebSockets allows real-time, event-driven applications without using the various polling techniques that previously made up the real-time web.
- Canvas is a drawable region on the browser that allows the client to build graphs and graphics.
- Microdata allows sections of data to be tagged to denote their semantics, such as an address or an event.
When is HTML5 not appropriate
There are certain native features in iOS and Android that the frameworks used to produce HTML5 can’t yet replicate, such as intricate control gestures and high performance features.
HTML5 will increasingly be the way that web applications are delivered. If your organisation relies upon web applications and your installed browsers are old, then it may be worth investigating a migration route to HTML5 capable browsers.