WHEN MANDY BROWN, Jason Santa Maria and I formed A Book Apart, one topic burned uppermost in our minds, and there was only one author for the job.
Nothing else, not even “real fonts” or CSS3, has stirred the standards-based design community like the imminent arrival of HTML5. Born out of dissatisfaction with the pacing and politics of the W3C, and conceived for a web of applications (not just documents), this new edition of the web’s lingua franca has in equal measure excited, angered, and confused the web design community.
Win free copies of HTML5 For Web Designers on Gowalla!
Watch Jeremy Keith discuss HTML5 with Dan Benjamin and me live on The Big Web Show this Thursday at 1:00 PM Eastern.
There are other books about HTML5, and there will be many more. There will be 500 page technical books for application developers, whose needs drove much of HTML5’s development. There will be even longer secret books for browser makers, addressing technical challenges that you and I are blessed never to need to think about.
But this is a book for you—you who create web content, who mark up web pages for sense and semantics, and who design accessible interfaces and experiences. Call it your user guide to HTML5. Its goal—one it will share with every title in the forthcoming A Book Apart catalog—is to shed clear light on a tricky subject, and do it fast, so you can get back to work.
Mark Pilgrim has turned the WHAT Working Group’s blog into a tool of genuine outreach and tremendously helpful (even entertaining) information. His “Road to HTML5” column “explain[s] … new elements, attributes, and other features in the upcoming HTML 5 specification” with frank clarity and developer-focused practicality.
The April 17th installment all about link relations. And while that may sound confusing, boring, or pedantic, it is actually clear, fascinating, and quite useful. If you’ve dabbled in Microformats or used rel= in your header, you’ll recognize the material and appreciate the way HTML5 is attempting to bring order to it.
And speaking of HTML5, don’t just eat the sausage, help make it. Although not a democracy, the WHAT WG is the most open standards-making activity seen on the web. To participate (even just by following along), join the mailing list.
Web charts with HTML5 + Flash
ZingChart hopes to end the war between HTML5 and Flash in web-based charting:
Today we launched the first charting library that renders charts and graphs in both HTML5 <canvas> and Flash. Rather than join the Flash vs. <canvas> debate, we built a version that renders charts in both frameworks. With the recent launch of the iPad, we hope ZingChart Flash + HTML5 <canvas> helps the growing data visualization community focus on building great visualizations rather than worrying about compatibility.
For you visual learners and tinkerers, here’s the demo:
Above: Part of my deck for “Put Your Worst Foot Forward,” a talk on learning from mistakes at An Event Apart Seattle 2010.
Greetings, web design fans. I’m in Seattle doing the final prep for three days of kick-ass design, code, and content. Starting Monday, April 5 and running through Wednesday, April 8, An Event Apart Seattle 2010 features 13 great speakers and 13 sessions, and has been sold out for over a month. A Day Apart, a special one-day learning experience on HTML5 and CSS3, follows the regular conference and is led by Jeremy Keith and Dan Cederholm.
In Issue No. 302 of A List Apart for people who make websites, Joe Clark explains what E-book designers can learn from 10 years of standards-based web design, and Daniel Mall tells designers what they can do besides bicker over formats.
E-books aren’t going to replace books. E-books are books, merely with a different form. More and more often, that form is ePub, a format powered by standard XHTML. As such, ePub can benefit from our nearly ten years’ experience building standards-compliant websites. That’s great news for publishers and standards-aware web designers. Great news for readers, too. Our favorite genius, Joe Clark, explains the simple why and how.
You’ve probably heard that Apple recently released the iPad. The absence of Flash Player on the device seems to have awakened the HTML5 vs. Flash debate. Apparently, it’s the final nail in the coffin for Flash. Either that, or the HTML5 community is overhyping its still nascent markup language update. The arguments run wide, strong, and legitimate on both sides. Yet both sides might also be wrong. Designer/developer Dan Mall is equally adept at web standards and Flash; what matters, he says, isn’t technology, but people.
Illustration by Kevin Cornell for A List Apart.
Betting on the web
Must-read analysis at Daring Fireball anatomizes the “war” between Flash and web standards as a matter of business strategy for companies, like Apple and Google, that build best-of-breed experiences atop lowest-common-denominator platforms such as the web:
It boils down to control. I’ve written several times that I believe Apple controls the entire source code to iPhone OS. (No one has disputed that.) There’s no bug Apple can’t try to fix on their own. No performance problem they can’t try to tackle. No one they need to wait for. That’s just not true for Mac OS X, where a component like Flash Player is controlled by Adobe.
I say what Apple cares about controlling is the implementation. That’s why they started the WebKit project. That’s why Apple employees from the WebKit team are leaders and major contributors of the HTML5 standards drive. The bottom line for Apple, at the executive level, is selling devices. … If Apple controls its own implementation, then no matter how popular the web gets as a platform, Apple will prosper so long as its implementation is superior.
Likewise with Google’s interest in the open web and HTML5. … So long as the web is open, Google’s success rests within its own control. And in the same way Apple is confident in its ability to deliver devices with best-of-breed browsing experiences, Google is confident in its ability to provide best-of-breed search results and relevant ads. In short, Google and Apple have found different ways to bet with the web, rather than against the web.
As the percentage of web users on non-Flash-capable platforms grows, developers who currently create Flash experiences with no fallbacks will have to rethink their strategy and start with the basics before adding a Flash layer. They will need to ensure that content and experience are delivered with or without Flash.
Developers always should have done this, but some don’t. For those who don’t, the growing percentage of users on non-Flash-capable platforms is a wake-up call to get the basics right first.
Flash won’t die tomorrow, but plug-in technology is on its way out.
Plug-in technology made sense when web browsing was the province of geeks. It was a brilliant solution to the question of how to extend the user experience beyond what HTML allowed. People who were used to extending their PC via third-party hardware, and jacking the capabilities of their operating system via third-party spell checkers, font managers, and more, intuitively grasped how to boost their browser’s prowess by downloading and updating plug-ins.
But tomorrow’s computing systems, heralded by the iPhone, are not for DIYers. You don’t add Default Folder or FontExplorer X Pro to your iPhone, you don’t choose your iPhone’s browser, and you don’t install plug-ins in your iPhone’s browser. This lack of extensibility may not please the Slashdot crowd but it’s the future of computing and browsing. The bulk of humanity doesn’t want a computing experience it can tinker with; it wants a computing experience that works.
HTML5, with its built-in support for video and audio, plays perfectly into this new model of computing and browsing; small wonder that Google and Apple’s browsers support these HTML5 features.
The power shifts
Google not only makes a browser, a phone, an OS, and Google Docs, it also owns a tremendous amount of video content that can be converted to play in HTML5, sans plug-in. Apple not only makes Macs, iPhones, and iPads, it is also among the largest retail distributors of video and audio content.
Over the weekend, a lot of people were doing the math, and there was panic at Adobe and schadenfreude elsewhere. Apple and Adobe invented modern publishing together in the 1980s, and they’ve been fighting like an old unmarried couple ever since, but Apple’s decision to omit Flash from the iPad isn’t about revenge, it’s about delivering a stable platform. And with HTML5 here, the tea leaves are easy to read. Developers who supplement Flash with HTML5 may soon tire of Flash—but Adobe has a brief but golden opportunity to create the tools with which rich HTML5 content is created. Let’s see if they figure that out.
Three, count ’em, three days of design, code, and content. That’s what we’ve got lined up for you in beautiful Seattle, Washington. Including a special one-day workshop on HTML5 and CSS3, led by Jeremy Keith and Dan Cederholm (pictured above, extolling the virtues of caffeine and CSS).
The complete schedule for An Event Apart Seattle 2010—including A Day Apart with Jeremy Keith and Dan Cederholm—is now available online for your listening and dancing pleasure.
You’ll always draw ire for having stumbled into being the Chief of the cargo-cult side of Web Standards, with so-called ‘XHTML’ as the false idol. You did a lot of good, but not without ambiguating the nomenclature with a lot of feel-good bullshit.
You often find yourself as a mediator between designery folks (who you have a strong grasp over) and technical implementors (who will always hold a grudge against you for muddying the discourse). Asking people to wear blue toques does not particularly affect this balance.
“Cargo cult.” I love that phrase. But I’m not sure I agree with your assessment.
XHTML, with its clearer and stricter rules, came out just as many of us were rediscovering semantic markup and learning of its rich value in promoting content. It wasn’t a coincidence that we took this W3C specification seriously and helped promote it to our readers, colleagues, etc. The stricter, clearer rules of XHTML 1.0 helped enforce a new mindset among web designers and developers, who had previously viewed HTML as an “anything goes” medium (because browsers treated it that way, still do, and quite probably always will; indeed HTML5 codifies this, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
Future versions of XHTML became a dead-end not because there was no value in strict, semantic, structural markup, but because the people charged with moving XHTML forward lost touch with reality and with developers. This is why HTML5 was born.
That’s history and it’s human behavior. But those subsequent twists and turns in the story don’t mean that standardistas who supported XHTML 1.0 (or still do) and who used it as a teaching tool when explaining semantic markup to their colleagues were wrong or misguided to do so.
That some technical people in the standards community think we were wrong is known, but their belief does not make it so.
That a handful of those technical people express their belief loudly, rudely, and with belligerent and unconcealed schadenfreude does not make their point of view true or persuasive to the rest of us. It just makes them look like the close-minded, socially maladroit, too-early-toilet-trained, tiny-all-male-world-inhabiting pinheads they are.
Join Ethan Marcotte and me tonight at 8:00 PM EDT on the CreativeXpert Live Show, an interview and podcast with live listener call-in via Skype and Twitter.
We’ll discuss the newly released third edition of Designing with Web Standards and such topics from its pages as selling standards to reluctant clients and bosses, changing what support for IE6 means, understanding and transitioning to HTML5, neato CSS3-based design techniques you can use right now, and more.