10 myths holding HTML5 back

While the momentum is certainly with HTML5, for some of us progress can’t happen fast enough. Yet, annoyingly, all too often we find ourselves facing the same old questions and challenges – ones that really have no basis in reality. So in this post, I want to focus on the 10 myths that I have to put down most often.

Myth 1: HTML5 is a Flash-killer

It’s not. There are some things that are simply better done in Flash or Silverlight (see my earlier post for details). And it’s not just this, for the foreseeable future there will also be issues simply in finding people with the right skills (at the right price) to develop in HTML5. So while HTML5 will certainly dent the use of Flash, we shouldn’t be digging its grave just yet. The myth holds back HTML5 because it causes unnecessary tension between flash developers and HTML5 developers. The HTML5 movement would benefit from the skills, expertise and creative flair that exists in the Flash community.

Myth 2: Using HTML5 as an Umbrella term is bad.

When most people say HTML5 they mean: HTML5, JavaScript, CSS3 and related specifications. Using the wrong language is almost guaranteed to polarize any group of developers. But you know what? Outside of developers, no one cares. So while I agree that if it’s a developer-to-developer conversation, we should try to be specific, we should cut everyone else a break. Because it’s more important that the world has confidence in moving to these new standards rather than getting distracted by developer infighting over semantics.

Myth 3: HTML5 is the next revolution

Hand on heart, there’s virtually nothing that can be done in HTML5 that couldn’t be done before. Sure, HTML5 can do it better and IMHO more elegantly but it is better to see it in terms of the latest evolution in the overall web revolution. For one thing, this is more accurate and for another, it’s less scary.

Myth 4: HTML5 doesn’t work in IE

Now, you’d expect me to take issue with this one. The truth is that IE9 supports the HTML5 features that can be used today and supports them well. IE10 supports practically the whole specification and there is more to come before final release.  In fact IE8 supports a number of features too such as localStorage. With a little bit of care you can create elegant fall backs for older versions of IE. While of course I have a vested interest here, the point is a wider one. Because IE still has so much of the world browser market, this myth gets used as an excuse not to develop in HTML5. The reality is really quite different.

Myth 5: HTML5 won’t be ready until 2022

Well, no, 2022 was a date mentioned in an article back in 2008 but the date for HTML5 to reach W3C Recommendation level is 2014.  So does that mean you can’t use HTML5 till 2014? No… This is just the date where there should be 2 browsers with 100% interoperable implementations of the specification. Remy sharp put’s this into perspective nicely in this article when he states that CSS 2.1 didn’t become a candidate recommendation until 2009… since Remy's article it went back to working draft in 2010 and then became a W3C Recommendation on 7 June 2011. Did Facebook, Google, YouTube [enter you favourite Site here] wait till 2011 before they started using CSS 2.1? No. Likewise with HTML5 you don’t need to wait until W3C Recommendation. With the current widespread browser support, why wait?

What’s really important is the user. Can they get a better experience with HTML5? If the answer’s yes, that’s good enough for me.

Myth 6: HTML5 will make websites more/less accessible

Fundamentally, it’s developers who make sites accessible. It’s their empathy with users that delivers an accessible site. And that’s not dependent on HTML5. Yet, perversely, this can be used as an excuse to wait.

Myth 7: It’s not possible to develop decent games

May I refer you to my post about Cut the Rope. Seriously, the issue here is that if a game is designed and built in HTML5, it is altogether possible to deliver a really great experience. The issues come when a game is simply ported from somewhere else. Are there better gaming platforms? Sure… Does that make HTML5 a bad gaming platform? No.

Myth 8: HTML5 is the answer to write once, run everywhere

Well, it certainly gets us closer. But a better description would be that HTML5 enables us to ‘write once, customise everywhere’. It provides a solid platform to develop from but not a universal panacea that makes all the differences between browsers and devices magically disappear. Touting HTML5 as a panacea creates division between developers and the resultant arguments hold us back from implementing HTML5 today.

Myth 9: There are no tools for HTML5

Certainly there’s a lack of major WYSIWYG editors (though they are coming). But this needn’t be a deal breaker. There are masses of code editors available and, at the end of the day, that’s really all you need. My editor of choice is Visual Studio, a tool I’ve been using for the past 8 years. If you have an editor that works well with JavaScript and HTML, you’re good to go.

Myth 10: HTML5 isn't ready for prime time

Right now, most HTML development is simply basic old JavaScript and HTML (i.e. the web stuff that’s worked in browsers for years). If you’re smart you can start mixing in some new HTML5 features for browsers that support it and create web applications that rival native applications. Take a look at the new lanyard mobile application as a great example of this. Seriously prime time.

Ultimately, the issue with all these myths is that they can act as an unnecessary brake on development and acceptance. And while some issues certainly do exist, let’s focus on the real challenges rather than phantom ones.

Comments (5)

  1. Niclas Lindgren says:

    The truth of the matter is that the development Tools for HML5 at the moment are truly sub par with what you find for both flash and even Silverlight.

    As a matter of fact, try using Windows 8 IE10 and type into this textbox once(at least if you are a somewhat fast typer, see how many letters are missing, now do the same in Chrome and see why many developers that once left HTML/Javascript behind hoped it would stay there.

    HTML5 is not a step forward, sadly, if you compare to good UI apps today, try to find any HTML app that beats a normal app.

  2. thebeebs says:

    @niclas I refer you back to Myth 9: There are no tools for HTML5. I don't really understand what you mean about Windows 8 and IE10 missing letters?

  3. Niclas Lindgren says:

    By Tools I actually mean a full chain of Tools from design, debugging, refactoring, testing frameworks, CI builds all working together. HTML is mostly done today either with something like GWT or by hand in a text editor of choice. Readily unproductive, but I guess you have to have been productive once to discern the difference.

    Try using IE10 and type into the textbox, the more characters you end up with the more lag you get.

  4. thebeebs says:

    @niclas so in regard to the tool chain. I use Expression design or Adobe Fireworks for comps, more recently I have been dabbiling with inbrowser design (using IE9/IE10 dev tools).

    For refactoring I use ReSharper in VS2010 (it has some great JavaScript support).

    For debugging VS2010 allows you to add watches, break points, step in and out of JavaScript. You can also debug in the browser using IE dev tools.

    For testing I have a build process very similar to my C# work I run regular regression tests. I use qUnit for unit testing and JSlint for code quality (there is a great VS2010 plugin).

    I'm working towards a TDD workflow but haven't quite got there yet with my JavaScript work in the same way I have for my C# work.

    As for IE10... I'll report the bug back to the team, What device are you running on?

  5. Mark Struck says:

    You might want to re-title your post as "10 myths holding HTML5 back with Microsoft developers". As they seem to be the ones that complain the most regarding HTML 5.

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