HTML5 Will Revolutionize the Web

HTML5 will simplify scraping with cyborg data
Anyone who's scraped data from Web pages knows that the structure offered by HTML does little except tell the browser where to place the information. There's no insight into the data itself, something that would help a programmer make sense of the information. The so-called microformats in HTML5 provide a mechanism to introduce more sophisticated markup into the HTML that makes it easier to analyze the data.

No one can predict just how much change the microformats will bring to the Web, but it's easy to see how they will empower programmers to whip together solutions. If there's one nice, standard way to represent dates and times, for example, then programmers can knit together the time-related information from Websites without bothering to write sophisticated parsers that guess at the format one person chose. Calendars, timelines, and schedules drawn from multiple sources become much simpler to craft.

HTML5 will add location to the mix
To the Web server, we were once just IP addresses, relatively anonymous numbers that had only a rough correspondence to the real world. The HTML5 standard now lets JavaScript ask the browser for the latitude and longitude of the user. It typically doesn't work with a desktop system (GPS or Wi-Fi required), but it works quite well with handheld smartphones.

No one knows what clever programmers will create with this location information, but it's bound to integrate cyberspace with meatspace in unpredictable and amazing ways.

HTML5 will smooth the way to Web video
The HTML5 video tag makes it easier for Web developers to integrate video with the information on the rest of the page, opening up the bag of tricks to jQuery and PHP developers, not just Flash, Silverlight, or JavaFX magicians.

Despite this vision, there's little coherence, as everyone wants to be the ones distributing the codecs for unpacking the moving images and the corresponding sound. The HTML5 standard is codec-neutral, which means that we're replacing the old world where the add-on software was called a plug-in with a new world where the add-on is called a codec. So there's a standard video tag, but the browser may or may not know how to interpret the data.

Erich Ocean, a HTML5 application development lecturer who teaches in Los Angeles, believes the codec wars are already won. "Computer programmers (and Mozilla) are fooling themselves if they think they can dictate video standards to video professionals," he said. "Google's new format will see some usage, for example in YouTube, but will never reach anywhere close to the ubiquity of H.264."

Despite the confusion and the lack of complete agreement, the new video tag will unlock more of the power of video and make HTML less and less of a textual jungle and more and more of a video playground. It's too soon to stop teaching our kids to read, but maybe the handwriting -- er, the Webcam video is projected on the wall.

HTML5 will produce chattier widgets
The widgets that run in IFrames have enabled sites to embed information from other sites for years, but they've always been limited by the security boundaries that keep each widget in a separate sandbox.

HTML5 offers a standard mechanism for these widgets to talk with each other. They still won't be able to reach into each other's sandbox, but they'll be able to send messages back and forth, coordinating their work and maybe even gossiping about the person typing at the keyboard.

Advertisers will drool at the chance to coordinate the behavior of disparate rectangles scattered across the page, and developers will surely find other practical uses. For instance, a tennis tournament might synchronize players on the left and the right of the page, an effect that may be so maddening that some will go running back to HTML 1.0.

However, this mechanism for sending messages is just a start. There's still a need to set standards for the information that's passed, so widgets stand a chance of speaking to each other even when they haven't been developed with a specific conversation in mind. In other words, they need more of a standard vocabulary.

HTML5 will improve security (maybe)
Each browser plug-in is a separate program built by a different team of programmers with different standards, different release schedules, and different models for security. Naturally, some plug-ins are more secure than others. And as plug-ins proliferate they increase the complexity of keeping track of the security faults. Was it the plug-in or the browser that had that nasty hole at the end of last year? Was it fixed by updating the browser but not the plug-in or vice versa? Who can remember?

Replacing many plug-ins with features baked into HTML5 removes the dangers that any of these groups will make a mistake, or worse, that someone will use a plug-in API to deliberately install malicious code. If the security team auditing Firefox, Chrome, or IE does the job -- granted, that's a big if -- then the dangers will be fewer.

This claim of better security, though, is a bit of a wild guess. The devious minds may use their malice aforethought to take advantage of the nice integration, perhaps drawing PayPal logos with the Canvas object from scratch to impersonate the PayPal site. No one can predict what the dangerous minds will discover in the new capabilities of HTML5.

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