Apple has launched a new section of its Website dedicated to showcasing the capabilities of the next generation of Web standards that fall under the HTML5 umbrella.
The HTML5 Showcase includes seven different demos, each aimed at illustrating a specific capability of modern Web browsers, including video and audio playback, typography, image manipulation, “VR” panoramas, and 360º-view presentations.
The new content is squarely, if not openly, aimed at silencing critics of Apple's decision to exclude Flash support from its mobile devices. In addition to a link to CEO Steve Jobs’s “Thoughts on Flash” open letter, the text that accompanies the Showcase states that “[s]tandards aren’t add-ons to the web. They are the web.”
The demos only work on the most recent versions of Safari that can be found on Mac, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices. Users of other browsers—including those based on WebKit, the same underlying HTML rendering engine used by Apple's browsers—are directed to download Apple's browser.
The Website acknowledges this fact, stating that “soon other modern browsers will take advantage of these same web standards.” That’s to be expected of Apple, which has a history of dropping legacy technologies in favor of driving adoption of upcoming ones. Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously quoted Wayne Gretzky's line “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” on the occasion of the launch of the original iPhone; earlier this week at the D8 conference, he said “Flash looks like it had its day but it’s waning, and HTML5 looks like it’s coming up.”
Still, the fact remains that, while HTML5 may be the future of the Web, it is at present an incomplete standard that is unlikely to become “officially sanctioned” until as late as 2022, although many browsers will support it in a meaningful way much earlier than that, and Apple’s insistence on supporting it exclusively may well accelerate the pace with which other browsers adopt it. Consistency across browsers does not afflict Flash-based Websites as much, for the obvious reason that Adobe controls its development and evolution exclusively—which, however, is also the nature of the main criticisms levied against its closed and proprietary nature.
In addition, there are still many open questions about some of the technologies that will make up the standard: for example, the Mozilla Foundation, which maintains the Firefox Web browser, has so far refused to support the H.264/MPEG-4 video format because of its proprietary nature and the licensing issues that surround it. Should this decision become final, supporting HTML5 would mean effectively having to serve video in multiple, incompatible formats.
Nonetheless, Apple's new HTML5 Showcase illustrates that the company is betting big on the capabilities of its flagship Web browser. Judging from the demos, the future of HTML5 applications looks bright indeed.