Folks on Techmeme are talking about browser-specific sites. The trigger here is a Microsoft showcase page, but it applies just a well to “HTML5 VIDEO” sites which use H.264 codecs, stiffing the most popular “HTML5″-branded browser.
Worse, the increasing complexity and patent costs of the WhatWG’s “HTML5″ spec raises a barrier-to-entry for new software… a One-Laptop-Per-Child or $35 Tablet project can no longer afford to create grassroots HTML readers themselves, and will have to go with one of the big, established, and deep-pocketed browser vendors.
Browser-specific features truly Fork the Web.
It’s smarter to add advanced functionality through a common extension to any browser. Even if Adobe cannot quickly create Players for every possible environment, this would still let more people enjoy more functionality more quickly, while still retaining the basic markup which every browser should be able to read.
As a bedrock technology, HTML should be accessible to all. This requires resisting the pressure to make wordly webpages which discriminate against existing and satisfactory browsers.
Want to understand Adobe? Look to its past. Adobe bridges different silos… whether that’s connecting any computer program to any printer, or making it nearly as easy to design for one screen as dozens. Adobe has a history of advancing new platforms atop which it hopes to out-innovate in services. Adobe can be clumsy and slow — very consensus-driven internally — but also tends to do the right thing.
I’ve been re-reading this Sept08 Knowledge-on-Wharton interview with Adobe founder Charles Geschke, conducted and transcribed by Kendall Whitehouse… worth reading in full, or you can skim through my prior excerpts on how the business has evolved. A lot of Adobe’s success has been when it has developed new technology platforms to help reconcile the needs of different groups of people.
If you have the time, I’d really recommend reading through that interview on how Adobe was formed… both warts and beautymarks, shows you a lot of how Adobe is put together.
Just one quote to give a flavor:
Knowledge@Wharton: What do you think is the biggest challenge Adobe is facing going forward?
Geschke: Inventing the future. We’ll never succeed unless we continue to open up new vistas.
Uniting silos, making it easier for creative people to reach their audiences… that’s pretty much the long & short of how the business works.
For what it’s worth, I deeply agree with Microsoft’s insistence on “same markup“, and appreciate their work in conformance testing. Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch has an overview of how this applies to a particular “HTML5″ showcase example.
Why is this important? Because every instance of willful fragmentation increases content development costs, increases content support costs, and increases content maintenance costs.
This is also why it’s so counterproductive to natter on about “HTML5″. It’s really HTML. We know how to work it, with fifteen years of experience. The dynamic hasn’t changed. You figure out what rendering engines your audience has, and design a good experience for all of them. Consider the emotion the past two years about designing for IE6. Every extra bit of fragmentation hurts.
From a browser vendor’s point of view they can conduct campaigns around “HTML5″ because their concern is only their own browser, sometimes even their own device. But that’s distinct from what creative professionals need to think about.
Talking about “HTML” unifies. Talking about “HTML5″ divides. Think it through. It’s true.
Adobe’s about bridging the different silos. But even if you don’t use the Adobe work, you shouldn’t have to pay a “developers tax” to reach different devices.
Microsoft is to be commended for their “same markup” initiative.
(btw, I think TechCrunch comment sections would greatly benefit from weeding out the anonymous stuff more heavily… if they won’t own their words, why should we?)