HTML 5: Should we be excited yet?
Update 7/2/2009: I incorrectly credited Jeffrey Zeldman as the creator of HTML5 Doctor. Instead, the actual creators of the HTML5 Doctor website are Bruce Lawson, Rich Clark, Jack Osborne, Mike Robinson, Remy Sharp, and Tom Leadbetter as described at http://html5doctor.com/about/. This change has been made below.
It's an exciting time to be a web developer. The browser wars are in full swing, reminiscent of the mid-90s. Firefox 3.5 was released only yesterday with plenty of cool, new features including HTML5 support for
video, offline and local storage, and
canvas text. Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari are blazing fast, already sporting cutting edge HTML5 features. The HTML5 draft specification, although years from completion, is already influencing web browser development and will revolutionize the way we develop for the World Wide Web. The future is here! But should we be excited yet?
Microsoft's Internet Explorer still boasts a 65% majority share of the web browser market as of May 2009, according to Net Applications Market Share1. Older versions of Internet Explorer are still very much in use: version 7 with 41%, version 6 with 17%, and version 8 with 7%. Only in Internet Explorer 8 did Microsoft provide near-complete CSS 2.1 support. But Internet Explorer 8 still falls far short of its competitors in terms of features and speed. Yes, Internet Explorer 8 makes our web development lives easier assuming we are content with CSS 2.1, and assuming Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7 users choose to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. But what about HTML5? What about CSS3? Forget about XHTML: it is a lost cause that can be directly credited to lack of development and Microsoft's refusal to support the standard in its Internet Explorer web browser. Even Dave Shea from Mezzoblue says HTML5-ready HTML 4.01 is the way forward2. Unfortunately, I fear the future of the World Wide Web is at Microsoft's discretion.
What Do We Do?
This is not a rhetorical question. I want to know what you think. Some suggest web developers begin charging for Internet Explorer 6 support. Andy Clarke proposes a bare-bones IE6-only style sheet that provides adequate support for the aging browser3. Others express a more blunt technique best described by John Gruber of Daring Fireball:
Firefox 3.5 is out, and, among a slew of major improvements, it now supports the HTML 5 <audio> and <video> tags. I don't post many video clips to Daring Fireball, but henceforth, when I do, it'll be with the <video> tag. IE users can suck it.
John Gruber - http://daringfireball.net/linked/2009/06/30/ff5
Still, my question remains unanswered: when should we get excited about HTML5 and CSS3? When will it be truly realistic to develop cross-browser compatible websites using these modern technologies? Even Microsoft has released online advertisements4 encouraging users to upgrade from "
browsers several generations old"... Microsoft, er, might you be referring to your Internet Explorer 6 web browser? Here is the Microsoft advertisement called "GRIPES" featuring Dean Cain of Lois and Clark fame.
This humorous and well-intended video is proof that even Microsoft wants users to ditch its Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7 products in favor of its much-improved Internet Explorer 8 web browser.
We must usher in the future of web development. If your business model permits, drop support for Internet Explorer 6. Start learning HTML5.
Jeffrey Zeldman have launched HTML5 Doctor, a website dedicated to teaching HTML55. O'Reilly says Google is backing HTML56. And Chris Wilson, platform architect of the Internet Explorer platform, says that Internet Explorer 8 will steadily increase its support for HTML5; Internet Explorer 8 already supports a few HTML5 features such as cross-document messaging, the window location hash, and network connection awareness7. As I see it, the problem we developers face is IE-users' slow adoption of Internet Explorer 8. As much as I dislike Internet Explorer, it is imperative that we encourage, coerce, or even force Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7 users to upgrade to Internet Explorer 8. Only then can we really get excited about the future of the World Wide Web.
Learn More About HTML5
- HTML5 Doctor
- A List Apart's Preview of HTML5
- Differences between HTML4 and HTML5
- W3C HTML5 Draft Specification