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.