Followup on last post

Yesterday I pulled out a section from the Adobe analyst call, where Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen was asked “What do you think of ‘HTML5’?” The key points were (a) “to the extent that an improved HTML standard accelerates innovation and consistent reach for web content, we’re very supportive”; (b) “the challenge for HTML 5 will continue to be consistent display across browsers”; and (c) “the fragmentation of browsers makes Flash even more important”.

That’s what Adobe says, and I agree with it.

But I also added some points of my own which may have confused others, judging from the comments at the original post, at Digg, articles, elsewhere. Let me re-run some passages:

“It’s hard for Adobe to have an official opinion on whatever this consortium of minority browser vendors chooses to do… seeing what the final agreement turns out to be, and how it is eventually manifested in the world, both are prerequisites for practical tool-making.”

Another way of speaking this idea: The WhatWG “HTML5” proposals are underwritten by browser vendors, and will apply to browser vendors. As a toolmaker, Adobe would naturally be slower to speak on it than the browser vendors themselves. Tool vendors follow later, looking at what customers need to do, are able to do. It’s no surprise that most of the early “HTML5” conversation has been dominated by browser vendors rather than tool vendors.

(That “minority” phrase confused some. Microsoft Internet Explorer is the majority browser… IE6 declining, IE8 advancing, IE7 used by the greatest portion of web surfers… all the other browsers added together support less than half the audience of what IE supports. I haven’t seen any realistic plan to make “HTML5” practical for content developers or site owners, who cannot afford to turn the majority of people away. This “minority browser” problem needs to be addressed for “HTML5” to succeed.)

Another section some found confusing:

“I’m increasingly uncomfortable with calling the WhatWG proposals ‘HTML 5’ though, and particularly when it’s used in opposition to successful realworld capabilities of today. When ECMAScript 4 was in discussion there weren’t magazine headlines about how untyped variables were now evil. What counts is not a press release, but a realworld deliverable. De jure is nice, and potential de jure is also interesting, but de facto capability determines what you can actually do for real audiences.”

Much of the early evangelism about “The HTML5 Standard” attempts to persuade by implying that it is already “a standard”, a foregone conclusion, a done deal. If you’ve been following things closely, though, you know there are multiple friction points. The future is far from clear.

I use quotes around the term because it is a name-of-convenience we are applying to a particular process which has not yet run its course. It is not “HTML 5.0, a W3C Recommendation” … it is something we are calling “HTML5” as a verbal shortcut. As the W3C Blog itself says, “HTML5 isn’t a W3C standard. We certainly look forward to the day when it is, but it isn’t yet.”

Comparing a future potential to a current reality may not make much logical sense, but it does make journalistic sense and evangelical sense. Particularly in light of consortia work such as XHTML and ECMAScript 4, it’s more sensible to observe what the world actually is, rather than assume the world will match our plans.

That’s why I’m putting “HTML5” in quotes. It’s more realistic.

A sidenote: Most of the critical questions focused on minutiae off the main topic. I thought the “minority consortium” section didn’t warrant the commentary it received… there was a whole segment about iPhone helping Flash Lite… one person was sure I hadn’t been tracking this subject for years… some asked “Why are you so defensive when people talk of Killing Flash?” These glossed past what Shantanu emphasized about “consistent reach for web content”. Instead of focusing on how “HTML5” will actually work for the world, commenters’ attention was fragmented into extraneous issues. Noteworthy.

One other oddity about the previous post and spinoffs: the number of anonymous critics. If you don’t think your words are valuable enough to own, then they’re probably not valuable enough for us to spend our time reading. Bet your rep — show us the totality of the person behind the words, and the other words you’ve written elsewhere — or your comment will not be published here on this entry. Open up.

Update Tue June 23: I’m closing off comments on this entry, for two reasons: (a) latter comments are repetitious and off-topic, with people seeking any reason to reject the neutral info presented above; and (b) one Mac-oriented blogger who attracts an abusive crowd has pointed this link out, and I’m not keen on hosting drive-by ranters.

12 Responses to Followup on last post

  1. Ian Hickson says:

    Adobe is invited to take part in the WHATWG efforts and the HTMLWG efforts on HTML5. Please, don’t take a backseat to the development of HTML5 — as tool makers, your input is desired today. Help make HTML5 better for tool developers! Join us and contribute!

  2. Flash, Dead Dead Dead says:

    Ian, you’re talking to an idiot company who bet on the wrong closed, proprietary vendor lock-in obsolete junk they inherited from Macromedia. And you’re wasting time talking to a troll, just like what Maciej said….
    [jd sez: Eight paragraphs of similar anonymous talk deleted. As noted above, if you stand behind your words, that makes it more worthy of others’ reading time. Open up.]

  3. Asa Dotzler says:

    I have a question for you, jd/adobe. I’ve always attached my name to my comments at your blog, but I could have just as well put “John Smith” in or “David Phillips” or some other pseudonym. What’s the difference between “anonymous” and “unverified identity” here? I mean, if you’re going to delete comments made by “Flash is Dead” then why not delete comments from me who you can’t be certain is actually me? Or people like “John Smith” who may or may not actually be John Smith?
    [jd sez: It’s true that a door lock will not keep someone out. But we still use them. What we can see in online conversations is that the nastiest and most counterproductive stuff comes from people who don’t “bet their rep” and show readers additional background writings. Let ’em get their own blog. 😉 ]
    Your arbitrary deletions seems more designed to give you a comfortable excuse to remove comments you’d rather not read yourself or you’d prefer others here not read. Pretending that there’s a difference between “Asa Dotzler” unconfirmed and “Flash, Dead” is just silly and will only encourage impersonators and more real sounding fake names.
    – A

  4. Asa Dotzler says:

    “That ‘minority’ phrase confused some. Microsoft Internet Explorer is the majority browser… IE6 declining, IE8 advancing, IE7 used by the greatest portion of web surfers…”
    Microsoft Internet Explorer is a brand, it is not a browser. Internet Explorer 8 and Internet explorer 6 are browsers and they are quite different beasts. Their capabilities are wildly different and in some cases even mutually incompatible.
    Pretending that “Internet Explorer” is all one thing for measuring browser usage share is disingenuous or ignorant — take your pick.
    When you look at actual browsers, IE 7 is used by a larger percentage of Web users but it is not a “majority” at 35% of the Web and falling. Firefox 3.0 is in second place with about 23%. IE 8 is in third place with about 15%. Below that, browsers and versions are so fragmented that it’s almost not worth calling out.
    My point is that there is not majority browser any more. There is a majority vendor, but that’s a very different thing and has very different consequences.
    “I’m increasingly uncomfortable with calling the WhatWG proposals ‘HTML 5′”
    I’m guessing that your discomfort with that lable isn’t going to have any material impact on anything.
    Oh, and feel free to delete this comment if you don’t like it or don’t want others to see it. You don’t need an excuse, it’s your blog.
    But if you’d like an excuse, here’s one. I might be an anonymous troll impostor just pretending to be Asa Dotzler.
    Clamping down on people who use pseudonyms wile failing to verify identities at your blog is weak sauce.
    Seriously. You don’t need that kind of phony excuse to delete comments. Just be honest with your readers. Come out and say “Hey, this is my blog and I’ll delete stuff when ever I feel like it.” (that is, unless you don’t believe your readers are smart enough to see through your “stand by your words” excuse for deleting what bothers you.)
    – A

  5. Asa Dotzler says:

    “jd sez: It’s true that a door lock will not keep someone out. But we still use them.”
    But it’s not even a door lock. You’re telling the “home invaders” that instead of kicking the door open with their foot, they should push it open with their hand. Without identity verification, your tirade against anonymous content is completely meaningless.
    Either delete stuff you don’t like or don’t. But don’t pretend it has anything to do with anonymity. Your readers are smarter than that and it just makes you look silly.
    [jd sez: Moi? ]

  6. Oh the anonymity argument.
    aka “I don’t have any real points, so I’ll fuss about anonymity”. Le Sigh. [jd sez: It’s simpler. If you don’t own your words, I’m not interested in publishing them for you.]
    What I’m fascinated by is your insistence that only Flash allows you to view the “real web”.
    I’ll concede that without flash, you do miss some stuff. But what you CAN see, you can see *much* faster, and with fewer browser crashes.
    Flash or stability, our choice I suppose.

  7. Ben Ward says:

    Throughout both of these posts, you deliberately frame HTML5 as a ‘WhatWG proposal’, ignoring the fact that the HTML 5 (no air quotes required) development effort has taken place officially within the W3C since October 2006.
    I find that appallingly disingenuous.

  8. Blain Hamon says:

    Full disclosure: I work for an indirect competitor to Flash, but the words are my own and shouldn’t reflect my company. My misgivings for Flash is not because of the company; rather, I joined the company because of my misgivings for Flash.
    [jd sez: No worries, hope it’s fine to post a link to Appcelerator Inc., which has a number of projects including the packaging of out-of-browser Ajax/SWF applications — same space to Adobe Integrated Runtime, but distributed as standalones, without a common cross-app runtime. Mac coder.]
    Flash, in my opinion, is strongest as an game platform, but I would like to see it wane in other fields because Flash is suboptimal for them. HTML 5 and improving AJAX holds the promise of this.
    For video/animation, using h.264 or other codecs is better because one can use hardware acceleration (indeed, that’s why the iPhone can play video smoothly, but Flash would be painful) and that’s part of where HTML5’s video tags hopefully will diminish Flash’s influence.
    For general purpose RIA applications, Flash’s animation heritage shows its problems. Flash’s universal concept of framerate, that the application is running at a set refresh speed instead of only when needed, wastes CPU and other resources. Here, I’d like to see AJAX take over.
    One too many realtime-antialiased, dancing lowered-morgage-rate-advertising banner ads drove me to install ClickToFlash, a flash blocker. This is a bad thing, and part of why I’d like to see HTML 5 endanger Flash. When people actively go out of their way to not use your service or technology, something is seriously wrong.
    I must accept that Microsoft historically has dragged their feet in adopting technologies. Indeed, the more conspiracy-minded would even note that they might have business reasons to not standardize. This saddens me, but such is life. Personally, I’m hoping that IE fades away, replaced by faster and more standards-compliant browsers.
    But I get the feeling that Adobe is using IE as a shield. What I read into the article is that HTML5 won’t harm Flash not because Flash is inherently better, but because Flash profits from the bad situation of IE preventing good standards. And this leaves a sour taste in my mouth. [jd sez: No “shield”, sour taste begone. The analyst asked how we see it. Right now cross-browser accessibility is unresolved, unaddressed.]

  9. Asa Dotzler says:

    “If you don’t own your words, I’m not interested in publishing them for you.”
    except, jd/adobe, typing in a more real sounding name than “flash hater” doesn’t mean someone is owning his own words.
    Until you implement a real identity system on this blog, your arbitrary “I’ll delete posts that bother me” under the guise of punishing anonymity is just plain silly.
    Seriously, what’s the difference between two otherwise identical posts, one signed by “flash sucks” and one signed by “john smith”? You’re saying you’ll delete the first but not the second? That’s just silly, jd/adobe. It really is.

  10. Blain Hamon says:

    (That reminds me. I need to update that profile; it was updated before the Titanium Mobile was announced. I’m actually the iPhone coder for Titanium. Again, my views don’t reflect Appcelerator, etc.)
    In regards to my misinterpretation (the shield), fair enough. And I do see that in later versions of Flash, disability accessibility has been improved. I disagree, however, that Flash is a proper lingua franca or even a lowest common denominator. I don’t know how Flash Lite and Flash interact, if Flash can play all of Flash Lite and Flash Lite is only a subset of instructions, or if they make separate beasts. In the case of the latter, you end up with fragmentation of Flash, Flash Lite, or neither. In the case of the former, there’s a fragmentation of feature support akin to HTML 3,4,5. In either case, I’d argue that the Pre, iPhone, and Android do not support Flash, and even if they did, the event model is different enough from QWERTY+Mouse that having a single flash app to support all the different input schemes is nontrivial.
    Furthermore, I see reasons why Apple, Google et al would not actively want, or even try to dissuade Flash on their devices, and instead will push for HTML 5. With efforts like SquirrelFish Extreme/Nitro, V8, and Tracemonkey, they are in control of their destinies and performance. As a result, we are seeing speed increases in orders of magnitude. Were it instead a reliance on Flash, the device speed and features would be driven by Adobe’s business decisions. It’s in Adobe’s best interest to look out for Adobe, which is understandable and the correct action. But this does not guarantee that Adobe would spend extra resources to optimize Flash for the iPhone or Android. And without an opening of Adobe’s flash protocol and file standard (which, again, may not be the best action for Adobe), neither Apple nor Google could compete to make a better engine.
    In the short term, yes, HTML 5 will be inconsistently supported, much like CSS was. During the time of CSS, static images and flash was used as a stopgap measure. Similarly, I see that more and more AJAX supplanting plug-in needs in the long term.

  11. Dave Dombrowski says:

    John,
    A few thoughts….
    (1) First time visitor to your blog. Came here by way of John Gruber (DaringFireball) linking to John C. Welch (bynkii,com). Not sure if you care, just wanted to mention that you are making first impressions with these two posts.
    (2) Speaking of that, you do understand that however *personal* your posts are, they are being hosted on Adobe – which can easily be mistaken for something more than personal. That’s where I have a problem.
    (3) “The current WhatWG proposals called “HTML 5″ have been stirring up a lot of polarizing speech lately… articles with Flash-killer headlines lead to street-level fracases.
    It’s hard for Adobe to have an official opinion on whatever this consortium of minority browser vendors chooses to do… seeing what the final agreement turns out to be, and how it is eventually manifested in the world, both are prerequisites for practical tool-making.”
    Those are your words. Not even two paragraphs in – hell, in the second sentence you chose to qualify non-Microsoft browsers as “minority”. [jd sez: See above — definite minority share. I’m surprised there’s distress at acknowledging this. I raised it in opposition to the press saying “The HTML5 Standard”, implying done deal.]
    Let’s try two things.
    First, let’s simply remove that (hopefully poor) choice of a word from the first post. Would it have made any different meaning? Nope. But it sure would have helped with the tone.
    Or let’s say this really is just your personal thoughts on things. Let’s remove “Adobe” from the equation. Ah – but you can’t your blog is being hosted by them and you are very clear that you work for them.
    Hopefully I’m making sense about why your unfortunate use of the word “minority” made a great deal of difference to a lot of readers. In the second sentence no less.
    (3) Speaking of Adobe and tone – why can’t your employer figure out how to somehow make their Flash product perform better on my Macs? I mean, they now run on Intel – I believe they have for a couple of years now – so I know it ain’t the hardware.
    Sure, that was at least an OT blow. But you already drifted into questions about tone and meaning – and Adobe comes across as a bit… well, arrogant. They mentioned a couple of months ago (their CEO?) that Flash was coming to the iPhone when many people know full well that it wasn’t happening.
    (4) I’m really sorry to see the comments to this post focusing on anonymity. But then again, it’s to be expected. Again, though, it’s how you worded things that pretty much stirred up that pot.
    (5) All of this obscures the fact that you are indeed correct about HTML5. It isn’t a standard and is far from it right now. Once it becomes a standard it’ll have at least as big a battle to be adopted by the masses – making it a very slight possibility to supplant Flash.
    (6) But now we get to questions of cooperation and/or openness. There are several variants of both. Apple? Very close – but when it comes to cooperation (at least in the form of adopting standards) they do pretty good. Microsoft? Very open as a developer or early adopter but very proprietary in other ways.
    What about Adobe? I honestly don’t know. But I’m getting the feeling that they much prefer their proprietary Flash over helping out over making HTML5 a standard.

  12. Matthew Fabb says:

    Blain, you bring up Tracemonkey as an example of how Mozilla is not reliant on Adobe for performance, yet the reason it’s so fast is because Adobe donated the code from their ActionScript Virtual Machine 2 (AMV2) to Mozilla. Just Google Adobe and Tracemonkey for all sorts of articles.
    Also you state that Google wouldn’t be interested in working with Adobe, but they are actually working together to optimize the Flash Player for Android. Go check out Techmeme for all sorts of different articles that were posted today about how it was recently announced that a beta will be available October. Look into Adobe’s Open Screen Project and you will see that Adobe is willing to work with any device company to optimize the full version of Flash Player 10. Adobe is patterned up with a whole lot of companies and organizations, including working with Palm to get Flash on the Pre. Apple or RIM with iPhone or the Blackberry are unfortunately not involved, but all the other major smartphone companies are. We will just have to see if pressure from other smartphones having Flash will cause Apple or RIM to cave (or if Apple is working to get Flash on the iPhone, but wants to keep it a secret until it’s ready).
    This is what JD was talking about in iPhone helping Flash adoption. Perhaps, all these companies would have eventually joined the Open Source project without the iPhone, but it seems trying to one up the iPhone feature by feature is one of the reasons that all these smartphone companies are working with Adobe.