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Google Bets Big on HTML 5 May 27, 2009

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities.
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“Never underestimate the web,” says Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra in his keynote at Google I/O this morning.[…]

Vic pointed out that the rate of browser innovation is accelerating, with new browser releases nearly every other month. The slide below, from early in Vic’s talk, shows the progress towards the level of UI functionality found in desktop apps through adoption of HTML 5 features in browsers. This looks like one of Clayton Christensen’s classic “disruptive innovation vs sustaining innovation” graphs. It’s also fascinating to see how mobile browsers are in the forefront of the innovation.

browser_innovation.png

While the entire HTML 5 standard is years or more from adoption, there are many powerful features available in browsers today. In fact, five key next-generation features are already available in the latest (sometimes experimental) browser builds from Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Google Chrome. (Microsoft has announced that it will support HTML 5, and as Vic noted, “We eagerly await evidence of that.”) Here’s Vic’s HTML 5 scorecard:

  1. The canvas element provides a straightforward and powerful way to draw arbitrary graphics on a web page using Javascript. Sample applications demoed at the show include a simple drawing area and a simple game. But to see the real power of the Canvas element, take a look at Mozilla’s BeSpin. Bespin is an extensible code editor with an interface so rich that it’s hard to believe it was written entirely in Javascript and HTML.
  2. The video element aims to make it as easy to embed video on a web page as it is to embed images today. No plugins, no mismatched codecs. See for example, this simple video editor running in Safari. And check out the page source for this YouTube demo. (As a special bonus, the video is demonstrating the power of O3D, an open source 3D rendering API for the browser.)
  3. The geolocation APIs make location, whether generated via GPS, cell-tower triangulation or wi-fi databases (what Skyhook calls hybrid positioning) available to any HTML 5-compatible browser-based app. At the conference, Google shows off your current location to any Google map, and announces the availability of Google Latitude for the iPhone. (It will be available shortly after Apple releases OS 3.) What’s really impressive about Latitude on the phone is that it’s a web app, with all the platform independence that implies, not a platform-dependent phone application.
  4. AppCache and Database make it easy to build offline apps. The killer demo is one that Vic first showed at Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco a few months ago: offline gmail on an Android phone. But Vic also shows off a simple “stickies” app running in Safari.
  5. Web workers is a mechanism for spinning off background threads to do processing that would otherwise slow the browser to a crawl. For a convincing demo, take a look at a web page calculating primes without web workers. As the demo says, “Click ‘Go!’ to hose your browser.” Then check out the version with web workers. Primes start appearing, with no hit to browser performance. Even more impressive is a demo of video motion tracking, using Javascript in the browser.

As Vic said to me in an interview yesterday morning, “The web has not seen this level of transformation, this level of acceleration, in the past ten years.”

Vic ends the HTML 5 portion of his keynote with hints of an announcement tomorrow: “Don’t be late for the keynote tomorrow morning.”

via Google Bets Big on HTML 5: News from Google I/O – O’Reilly Radar.

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