Choices

After Google I/O a few weeks ago I got to playing with some of the HTML5 demos that were used during the keynote presentation. I was impressed by performance and browser support: the latest releases of Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari all embrace HTML5. True-to-form, IE is a long way behind. As Ian Hickson correctly identifies, browser vendors have the ultimate veto on a specification: if they don’t implement it then it might as well not exist. In this way a consensus between vendors can lead the development of a specification as opposed to the other way round. I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly a collusion to drive people away from IE but even if it was, few developers would mourn its passing.

I attended a talk given by Tristan Nitot at Internet World last year where he extolled the virtues of openness and the dangers of lock-in. The ownership of a standard implies control. Systems without control lead to cooperation, transparency, participation, equality and freedom. In a system with control, you get to decide who can see what and what to charge them. I’m not saying that this is the goal of Adobe. They may very well keep content available for everyone without charge but the danger that people could be pushed towards content from which Adobe receive a payment is palpable.

Microsoft’s Silverlight was actually a welcome competitor but it is still a proprietary technology and it’s safe to say that adoption rates have been less then stellar. Major League Baseball dropped Silverlight recently and even Bing – Microsoft’s newly branded search engine – favours Flash.

The majority of the time that I encounter Flash on the Internet it’s used simply to present video. The native <video> tag as used by YouTube and Dailymotion could put a serious dent in the importance of Flash despite the near ubiquitous install base.

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