HTML5 — the good, the bad and the ugly

As Niels Bohr famously said: prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

At the beginning of this year, I took my life in my hands by predicting that 2012 would be “the year of HTML5.” Luckily, my forecast seems to be holding up so far: HTML5 is gaining ground in all areas, Windows 8 is practically built on it, and almost all the banks I talk to now declare it to be their preferred technology for future online trading projects.

But HTML5 is far from perfect, and its immense promise is balanced by some tricky issues, as expertly summarised in The Pain of HTML5, a recent post by my colleague Adam Iley.

Standards War?

There has also recently been alarm over the announcement of an apparent split between WHATWG and the W3C , with talk of an “HTML5 standards war.” But a careful look at the actual announcement by WHATWG head Ian Hickson suggests something a bit less bellicose. It appears that the divergence is more about processes than outcomes, and simply acknowledges the existing difference in approaches between the two organisations.

As I’ve previously pointed out, the HTML5 standard is something that is being rapidly decided by the marketplace. The standards bodies may like to think that they are “defining” standards, but actually what they are mainly doing is documenting them after the event. HTML5 is now way too big for them to control it: it is the browser manufacturers who are setting the pace, with plenty of feedback from millions of vocal JavaScript, HTML, CSS and Canvas coders around the world.

Better tools

If you’re trying to create something as complex as a single-dealer platform in HTML5, what you really need is a better set of tools and processes for developing and testing enterprise-scale apps. Done right, these will allow you to focus on the Good, while protecting you from the Bad and, hopefully, concealing most of the Ugly.

There are still some serious gaps that need filling in this area, however. At Caplin, we’ll have a lot more to say about that in the near future.

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