Jeroen Wijering and Zachary Ozer over at Longtail video posted a very interesting article this morning about Apple’s recent soapbox, HTML5. Let me preface by saying, I love my iPhone, iPod, iPad and iMac. I’ve been a registered iPhone developer for 2 years, I have developed a few apps distributed through the app store, and I plan on pre-ordering the iPhone 4. I think Apple has done great things for mobile and web innovation — but Jeroen and Zach make some great points.
Safari and Quicktime are not standards, not yet anyways, and it is dangerous to present them as such. Microsoft actually had a similar approach with IE around version 6.0 which resulted in multiple browser-specific CSS hacks and countless headaches for the web developing community after standards were finalized. I think these guys sum it up perfectly with the following:
What Apple seems to have forgotten, is that Flash solved a big problem when it started supporting video a couple of years ago. Suddenly it was possible to easily display videos on a page, regardless of browser or operating system. Only one chunk of code and only one video file were needed; plugin daisychains and forced installations were a thing of the past. Due to its ubiquity, Flash effectively enabled the online video surge of the last few years.
HTML5 and video are not buzz words to the developing community. Bringing standards to this space means allowing rich web experiences without the need for plugins or browser specific implementations. Apple’s recent HTML5 showcase is actually a Safari/Quicktime showcase and does not work in any other browser. Speaking as an iPhone developer, there is value in this showcase, but as a demonstration of creating rich web applications on the iPhone and iPad and not as a demonstration of HTML5 standards. Jeroen and Zach go into greater details about Apple’s lack of standards here and I encourage you to read what they’ve written.
HTML5 and the accompanying technologies are truly powerful and I believe the future of the modern web. But without standards, HTML5 will fail to go mainstream in the long tail (average Joe developer). Cross-browser compatibility will win out over multiple browser-specific implementations of the same solution. Apple is on the right track, but instead of pitching Safari and Quicktime as HTML5 solutions, I wish they would focus on cross-browser support and embrace emerging standards like WebM, Vorbis, and Ogg.