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April 09, 2014

The Evolution of HTML5

In a world that revolves around the Internet, mobile devices and applications, HTML5 seems to be king…depending on who you talk to. The other player is Flash, which was and still remains to be a prolific component of the Web. HTML5 is just the next generation of Web standards, fueling things like native applications and real-time communications, as with WebRTC technology

Up until recently, almost all browsers used Adobe Flash Player to stream video, audio, games or interactive multimedia content on websites. The HTML5 specification is developed by an open standards development consortium, the W3C, which means developers can shape the growth and future of HTML. One of the main draws of HTML5 is that it enables more interoperable implementations, such as across browsers and mobile devices.

A recent study from IDC, “The Evolving State of HTML5,” highlights the past, present and future of HTML5, including the strengths and challenges it presents for developers. Some downsides of HTML5 the study highlights include keeping up with the growing types of devices and features, device and platform fragmentation, weak mobile browser implementations, inadequate tooling and developer skill immaturity. It was big news when Facebook dropped HTML5 in 2012 in the interest of improved app speed and performance.

"HTML5 has a strong premise and many strengths. However, no technology can meet the unifying expectations placed on HTML5 in this age of rapidly proliferating device capabilities," said Al Hilwa, program director, Application Development Software at IDC, in a statement. "HTML5 is expected to make its biggest mark in specific categories of applications such as employee-based mobile apps that access enterprise resources. HTML5 and native mobile platforms will coexist, neither displacing the other. Native application platforms will remain the primary way mobile applications will be delivered and run."

Today, one of the biggest trends surrounding HTML5 is WebRTC, which is an open-source technology fueling the growth of browser-based real-time communications, whether that is audio and video calling or data sharing. A big debate in the development of WebRTC has been standardization of video codecs – the battle is between Google’s push for VP8 and vision of VP9, and Cisco’s decision to open-source H.264 and promote the growth of H.265. IDC expects this debate to settle down in 2014, though not necessarily settle on an official standard.

The report highlights three main issues with WebRTC:

  • Apple and Microsoft’s lack of WebRTC involvement or implementation
  • Managing and controlling media streams through signaling
  • Integration with Web video

Current browsers that support WebRTC are Chrome, Firefox and Opera. The technology enables developers, companies and websites to offer real-time communications applications without the need for downloads, native apps or plugins. It implements three APIs: getUserMedia (MediaStream), RTCPeerConnection and RTCDataChannel.

As we approach 2017, IDC expects debates on native, Web and hybrid applications to continue, and for HTML5 to play a big role in applications like content-based publishing for magazines and e-books.

You can download and read the full report here

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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