Why HTML5 is the new Java

[By Craig Raw]

Wora is an acronym coined by Sun Microsystems more than a decade ago to describe the benefits of a new programming language it created called Java. At the time, every compiled programming language needed to be recompiled on every platform you wanted to run it on, often with particular fixes to handle the idiosyncrasies of different operating systems. Java was different in that it had the benefits of a compiled language, but thanks to the cross-platform “virtual machine” it ran on, it could run anywhere without recompilation or tweaking.

Wora stands for “write once, read anywhere” and was intended succinctly to capture this benefit. The Java libraries dealt with such things as working with the file system, using the networking features on the device and even creating new threads in an abstract, cross-platform way. As an engineer, having these complexities taken away from you was a welcome relief, allowing you to focus on your application and not the plumbing.

With the rise of interpreted languages such as PHP, Python, Ruby and JavaScript, Wora has become so commonplace it is almost assumed — unless, of course, you need to code in an older language such as C++. So, does the term still have relevance? I think so, but applied to a different environment – the Web. By this I refer specifically the client-side technologies that a browser uses to display content.

If we look at the Web, it’s easy to see the profusion of client-side Web technologies that characterises a youthful industry. Non-standardised proprietary technologies (Flash, Silverlight) mingle with conflicting standards (HTML, XHTML) to create a multitude of different ways to achieve the same things. While each presents particular innovations, for the developer and user, there is a diminishing benefit as the number of options grows and the complexity of developing and browsing the Web increases. Ultimately, for the user, content is king and the technology is incidental.

In terms of mobile, much has been written about the choice between native mobile apps (as delivered by app stores) and the mobile Web apps. While native apps must be written (and then rewritten) in a platform-specific manner, their ability to access all a phone’s features has been touted as outweighing this disadvantage. However, in truth these benefits are few and growing fewer as modern mobile browsers improve at a rapid pace.

As the feature set of competing technologies approaches parity, it is natural for one to win out as the default. I believe we are at such a juncture, and the battle has been fought (and won) by HTML5. In short, it is the Web’s new Wora — a platform that allows developers to focus on the applications they are writing without worrying about how the content will be displayed across a variety of different browsers and devices.

Why do I claim it has won? Let’s look at the big vendors:

– Google supports HTML5 most directly by developing Chrome, but has evangelised the standard for years with a number of tools and platforms, including YouTube’s support for HTML5 video since early 2010.

– Microsoft recently stated that Silverlight has been “repositioned” and HTML5 is its preferred Web technology. Added to this, Windows 8 supports HTML5 apps as first-class native apps, a move that takes HTML5 beyond the browser.

– Apple famously does not support Flash in its mobile browser, making HTML5 the only possibility for rich media. Also, its new iAds platform relies on HTML5 for presentation.

– Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor’s focus for 2011 is mobile and HTML5, or mobile on HTML5.

There are many more vendors and examples, but the case for HTML5 is becoming clear. It is the platform on which, for the foreseeable future at least, content can be written once and read anywhere, from sites to ads to apps. Much like Java’s impact on server-side programming, the start of the HTML5 era is a significant milestone for the Web and it’s time to get on-board.

  • Craig Raw is chief technology officer at Quirk
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Share this article

  • http://twitter.com/TheeAndre Andre

    With HTML5, having to create different stylesheets for different browsers will be a thing for the past with developers. Its a good thing that all the corporates are adopting this as a standard unlike years ago when they all wanted to create their own specialised platform. Adapt or die!

  • http://www.sadev.co.za Robert MacLean

    “Wora is an acronym coined by Sun Microsystems” – Slightly wrong, Sun coined it as a slogan for there work not a technical acronym.

    “interpreted languages such as PHP, Python, Ruby and JavaScript, Wora has become so commonplace it is almost assumed” – Of those four, only one really has met the idea of write once, run everywhere… JavaScript. PHP, Python & Ruby all have serious limitations based on system and more systems can’t run those than systems that can.

    ” Microsoft recently stated that Silverlight has been “repositioned” and HTML5 is its preferred Web technology. Added to this, Windows 8 supports HTML5 apps as first-class native apps, a move that takes HTML5 beyond the browser.” – VERY VERY WRONG.

    Microsoft has NOT said that at all. Silverlight & HTML5 both are still positioned as important technologies and lots of work are being done on them internally by many teams. The Win8 feature you mention has been around in Windows FOR YEARS, it is called HTA (HTML for Applications) and is a core technology. What they showed recently regarding Win8, at the D9 event, is the new menu system that is based on HTML5 and that is different from the HTA technology.

  • http://www.sadev.co.za Robert MacLean

    I wish you were right but HTML 5 is like Web 2.0, it is a mix of different technologies (HTML 5 the language, CSS 3, JavaScript engine improvements) & new thinking.

    You example of different stylesheets implies CSS 3 – however there is MASSIVE gaps in what each of the 3 major browsers are supporting in CSS 3.

    It will hopefully be better, and our learnings over the last twenty years will help but it will be something we need to think of for the forseeable future.

  • Paul

    Interesting article, but a little short sighted.  Firstly, the whole Silverlight thing is wrong (as Robert MacLean pointed out), but there is a strong push for native apps on mobile – even Facebook is readying a native iPad application, as is Google for Google+.

    HTML5/CSS3 is just becoming another acceptable application development tool, not the only one.

  • http://twitter.com/thewomble_za Greg Mahlknecht

    >HTML5/CSS3 is just becoming another acceptable application development tool, not the only one

    Yup, the platforms for these are maturing nicely; the benchmark races of recent years seemed fruitless, but powered the rise of jscript from a language used to write fancy menus, to one that one can write serious apps in.

    The big problem now is the same problem Java had.  Contrary to popular belief, and having spent too long in the Java trenches (I escaped, don’t worry), I know all to well Java’s not very WORA, and when you get to J2ME things get even worse.  Right now, we have an IE6 situation happening in slow motion because the W3C is so slow to finalize the HTML5-related specs.  Chrome and FF are thundering ahead with either inventing their own or implementing non-finalized features under the assumption they’d become standard (the precise crime IE6 was guilty of).  IE9 is criticized for being slow and non-complaint, but is taking the correct approach of only implementing stuff in the spec.  Once bitten, twice shy!

    Let’s hope we learned from the IE6 saga, and either W3C hauls ass or Google/Mozilla learn a little patience.

  • Craig

    @robertmaclean:disqus We live in an imperfect world, and I’d don’t think any language has truly acheived WORA. The point I was trying to make is that it positioned Java with a unique benefit over the popular programming languages of the day, something that I think HTML5 is also placed to do in it’s environment.
    Regarding Silverlight, look up the comments by Bob Muglia – “our strategy has shifted” and “HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything”. I realise there is a lot of debate over this point, but the truth is Silverlight has never become as popular as Flash, and therefore you could argue it has even less of chance of becoming the web’s dominant rich media delivery technology. Microsoft are not fools. Highlighting the HTML5 integration in Windows 8 was an important statement IMO, especially coming as it did with one of the first previews.

  • Craig

    @robertmaclean:disqus We live in an imperfect world, and I’d don’t think any language has truly acheived WORA. The point I was trying to make is that it positioned Java with a unique benefit over the popular programming languages of the day, something that I think HTML5 is also placed to do in it’s environment.
    Regarding Silverlight, look up the comments by Bob Muglia – “our strategy has shifted” and “HTML is the only true cross platform solution for everything”. I realise there is a lot of debate over this point, but the truth is Silverlight has never become as popular as Flash, and therefore you could argue it has even less of chance of becoming the web’s dominant rich media delivery technology. Microsoft are not fools. Highlighting the HTML5 integration in Windows 8 was an important statement IMO, especially coming as it did with one of the first previews.

  • Craig

    @twitter-123926436:disqus 
    Good comment – Java did struggle on mobile.

    I’m not sure that the IE6 comparison is fair though. In general the leading browsers are converging, not diverging on implementations of the standards. We can thank Firefox for creating a browser environment where anti-competitive behaviour is much less frequent.

  • Craig

    @twitter-123926436:disqus 
    Good comment – Java did struggle on mobile.

    I’m not sure that the IE6 comparison is fair though. In general the leading browsers are converging, not diverging on implementations of the standards. We can thank Firefox for creating a browser environment where anti-competitive behaviour is much less frequent.

  • http://www.sadev.co.za Robert MacLean

    “I’d don’t think any language has truly acheived WORA.” – I agree with you.

    “comments by Bob Muglia” – Bob Muglia made those at a Microsoft conference called PDC and it was a very bad comment and NOT official. After that event did post a blog where he clarified that (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/silverlight/archive/2010/11/01/pdc-and-silverlight.aspx).

    In the post went to great lengths to say that there is NO shift in Microsoft from the original ideas and that the goal for Silverlight has NEVER been to replace the web (HTML) but to augment it and also goes into highlight it’s strengths.

    He also left Microsoft shortly after that as well – it was never said it was related but that is the general thinking – so you can imagine how wrong he was. 

    Finally you also need to understand that Silverlight is produced by a group in Microsoft called DevDiv while Bob Muglia worked in the Server and Tools group – so he had no or limited insight and no/limited influence on what the Silverlight team does. Microsoft is more like a lot of small companies working under one banner than a single company, so there is and always will be technology coming out of different groups that overlaps and competes. This is an intentional part of there culture so not suprising to sometimes see and get confusing messaging.

    ” you could argue it has even less of chance of becoming the web’s dominant rich media delivery technology” – I am not stating that or commenting on that or trying to say one technology is better than another. I am merely commenting that you are using a loudly proclaimed badly handled one person comment and NOT actually taken the time to dig into the truth about the Microsoft stance.

    “Microsoft are not fools. Highlighting the HTML5 integration in Windows 8 was an important statement IMO” – Very much agree.

  • http://twitter.com/thewomble_za Greg Mahlknecht

    >>In general the leading browsers are converging, not diverging on implementations of the standards.

    Yes, I’m blaming W3C for the screw-up.  The browsers have little choice in the matter, they can do it their way or not do it at all.  They are far more cautious this time round, but the problem still stands. 

    FF certainly helped up to about v3.6 in its life cycle, when I really liked it as a browser, but these days I find myself doing more and more workarounds for its oddities.  Out of all the current gen browsers out there, I’d mourn FF the least right now, if it died.  I still prefer IE9 as my primary dev browser, because the MS web dev tools are, as always, amazing, but have grown quite fond of Chrome.  Chrome is very easy to please.  It seems to have a very forgiving quirks mode that makes it run both FF- and IE-developed sites cleanly and reliably.  Just as well, because its dev tools are relatively weak.

  • http://twitter.com/craigraw Craig Raw

    @af818a0d043aa92bd9c494e198919d1f:disqus 
    Read should be run – thanks James, that was a typo. (I don’t think it changes the argument much though.)

    Regarding the rest, I don’t see a critique here listing ‘all the wrong reasons’ – rather a discussion of the Muglia Silverlight comment, and the manner in which browsers are adopting HTML5. Anyway, glad you agree with the conclusion.

  • http://twitter.com/craigraw Craig Raw

    Thanks for the detailed info and thoughts. To be clear I am not bashing Silverlight – just trying to highlight the relationship in web technologies.

    As I mentioned I am aware of the debate surrounding that comment, but you’ll notice that Bob re-iterates his ‘strategy has shifted’ position in that MSDN post – this presumably after a dressing down by the top brass, so I assume he was allowed to say that. As flawed as Bob’s original comment may have been, we can at least thank him for clarifying Microsoft’s stance.

  • http://twitter.com/rmaclean Robert MacLean

    “To be clear I am not bashing Silverlight” – Never said you were, sorry if it sounded like that.

    “Bob re-iterates his ‘strategy has shifted’ position” –  Agree but it is important to keep reading where he highlights areas that HTML5 isn’t “up to scratch”. 

    More importantly he goes on to say what you said “We think HTML will provide the broadest, cross-platform reach” and mentions “Silverlight enables great client app and media experiences”.  

    I read that as broad base consumer platform is HTML5, but application development (in corporate for example) and specialized media rich platforms like those that need DRM (thinking Hulu, Olympics, ESPN) that those are in the Silverlight camp. As I said earlier ”Silverlight has NEVER been to replace the web (HTML) but to augment it ”

    “ thank him for clarifying Microsoft’s stance.” – I think he did more to muddy the waters as someone in one group talking about other groups plans, and I personally think that is why he no longer works there.

  • http://twitter.com/craigraw Craig Raw

    Cool, you make good points and I think we agree. 

    Thanks for the interesting convo!

  • http://twitter.com/thewomble_za Greg Mahlknecht

    We must remember that Silverlight is powering Windows Phone 7, a key KEY part of MS’ business going forward.  JScript, for all its strengths, makes very inefficient use of hardware resources, and kills battery life, etc.  Silverlight being based on .net will JIT compile to efficient native code and run that. 

    All the major Jscript engines do some level of JIT compiling, but they’re still a ways from it being efficient enough to run as a primary platform.  But we’ll get there.

    We really need a proper forum to discuss stuff in.  MyBB forums are fun to troll and laugh at the children using them, but not really so good for serious discussion.  Duncan: Look into it :)

  • Anonymous

    “Author Once Play Anywhere” was a goal of Macromedia, predating Java.
    http://blogs.adobe.com/jd1/archives/2007/01/layin-track.html

    It may be less confusing to speak of HTML… a digit on the end doesn’t change the underlying dynamics.

    jd/adobe

  • http://twitter.com/craigraw Craig Raw

    My point around HTML5 is more about deployment than development. I never said Flash and Silverlight were slow, and I agree they have better development tool support today.

    The point is HTML5 will let me deploy across a wider number of platforms, and that is critical in reaching the widest audience at the least cost. As I said above, for the user, content is king and the technology is incidental.

  • http://twitter.com/thewomble_za Greg Mahlknecht

    As Craig said, it’s about the deployment.  The reach of the web apps is massive and allows you to develop once, deploy many times (obviously with small changes/special cases, but these are inconsequential compared to the native alternative)

    >> anyone who claims these things boost developer productivity and are as advanced as what students are taught in computer science is a lying, conniving a..hole.

    They boost productivity in the sense the code has a far wider reach.  As for the “advanced-ness” of the language – there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with JScript, it’s a nice language; students tend to get taught strongly typed, structured languages, with good reason – it forms good habits, and JScript is the opposite of that.  It doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it different. 

    >>You think Flash and Silverlight are slow?

    Flash? Yes.  Silverlight?  No.  The .net platform delivers awesome performance across many platforms.

    >>Come back to me in the near future when computing power is X times better.

    The trend is to scale down;

    >>A: an open-source stack where software development is fun and not as time-consuming as it is today.
    Elaborate on this?  What has open source got to do with fun?  Are they meant to be related in any way?

Why TechCentral?

We know that as a prospective advertiser, you are spoilt for choice. Our job is to demonstrate why TechCentral delivers the best return for your advertising spend.

TechCentral is South Africa’s online technology news leader. We don’t say that lightly. We believe we produce the country’s best and most insightful online tech news aimed at industry professionals and those interested in the fast-changing world of technology.

We provide news, reviews and comment, without fear or favour, that is of direct relevance to our fast-expanding audience. Proportionately, we provide the largest local audience of all technology-focused online publishers.

We do not constantly regurgitate press releases to draw in search engine traffic — we believe websites that do so are doing their readers and advertisers a disservice. Nor do we sell “editorial features”, offer advertising “press offices” or rely on online bulletin-board forums of questionable value to advertisers to bolster our traffic.

TechCentral, which is edited and written by award-winning South African journalists, cares about delivering top-quality content to draw in the business and consumer readers that are of most interest to technology advertisers.

We’d like the opportunity to demonstrate the value of directing a portion of your advertising budget to TechCentral, whether your company is in the technology field or not. Numerous opportunities exist for companies interested in reaching our audience of key decision-makers in South Africa’s dynamic information and communications technology sector. We offer packages that will deliver among the best returns on investment available in the online technology news space.

For more information about advertising opportunities, and how your organisation can benefit by publicising itself on TechCentral, please call us on 011-792-0449 during office hours. Or send us an e-mail and ask for our latest rate card and brochure.