HTML5 continues to gather steam, but developers should tread carefully

Although its been the subject of usability and effectiveness debates since its inception, it appears that HTML5 is finally gaining the mainstream traction it needs to become a priority choice for app development. The markup language seamlessly integrates the features of HTML4 with many of the add-ons and workarounds that have appeared in the years following its release, which have helped programmers continue to innovate within app design but also create a complex framework of elements that can suffer from incompatibility or relatively modest growth.

However, HTML5 is finally beginning to supplant its HTML4 predecessor in some big ways, which bodes well for its future as a central piece of the programming puzzle. Although it's not directly connected to enterprise app development, Netflix recently made headway in making HTML5 more ubiquitous. It announced on its blog that it would use HTML5, instead of Silverlight, for viewers with Mac computers. Users that watch videos on OS X Yosemite with the Safari browser will be able to access content without having to install the plug-in. Silverlight is one main example of the various add-ons developed to increase multimedia capability on pre-HTML5 browsers, but the switch of such a visible Silverlight user could be a sign of things to come.

"The Premium Video Extensions do away with the need for proprietary plugin technologies for streaming video," Netflix stated on its blog. "In addition to Safari on OS X Yosemite, plugin-free playback is also available in IE 11 on Windows 8.1, and we look forward to a time when these APIs are available on all browsers."

HTML5 could be in line for W3C 'Recommendation' status
Further cementing the increased popularity and fulfilled potential of HTML5 is the revelation that it is currently on track to meet the World Wide Web Consortium's "Recommendation" status by the end of 2014, Redmond Magazine contributor Kurt Mackie reported. In a recent blog post, W3C researchers stated that only 3.3 percent of 97,000 HTML tests ended in failures. Even these errors were unlikely to have much of a negative impact on the interoperability of run-time browsers.

Mackie wrote that HTML5 is currently in the '"Last Call" stage of the W3C testing process, and if its progress continues will move on to the "Recommendation" phase. As HTML5 provides cross-platform Web application support on an unprecedented level, both researchers and users are eager to see HTML5 pass W3C's evaluations and make a stronger appearance in the enterprise.

What HTML5's rise means for app development
The increased presence of HTML5 is likely to have an impact on the cross-platform vs native app development debate. While discussions have raged on, many companies have yet to come to a substantial conclusion. More support and presence of HTML5 could help sway popular opinion in favor of HTML5. The advantages of HTML5 include greater adaptability for a variety of user devices and approaches, streamlined media and visualization display features and a more intuitive user interface, among others.

However, CSO Online contributor Antone Gonsalves cautioned that HTML5 has not yet fully proven itself in terms of its security. While the language may provide peak interoperability, the same is not necessarily true of APIs. Developers will have to ensure that they select the right API, especially when new features enable code and data to be mixed together. Processing data with the incorrect API could cause the mix of data and code to be automatically exec​uted. That means malicious code could easily find its way in. While this could be controlled in an enterprise environment, the reality is that today's end users are just as likely to use an application at home, on an unconnected network or unapproved device, as they are on their work PC or company smartphone.

The continued rise of HTML5 is encouraging. As it becomes more prominent, developers will be able to address lingering security and usability issues with more intelligence and effectiveness.


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