Like most geeks, I'm excited by the potential of HTML5, and I'd be happy to see a truly universal standard that means web-based apps could work effectively on any device. But experience to date suggests HTML5 hasn't yet quite solved the problem of needing to tune web services and apps to work in different browsers, or of delivering apps that work when you don't have a connection.
Picture by slavik_V
Three recent experiences have led me to this conclusion. Firstly, I went to a press lunch for cloud ERP vendor NetSuite. One of the key announcements was that NetSuite had customised its products so that they "natively support Google Chromebook". This makes me sad. Not because I don't want Chromebook users to have full access to a range of apps, but because of this: the fact that making a web-based app compatible with a browser-based device is deemed newsworthy demonstrates how far we have to go in terms of real interoperability. If HTML5 had delivered on its full potential, we'd be able to take compatibility for granted.
Secondly, in Microsoft's announcement of how Bing was dropping the beta tag, it also mentioned that a new video wall feature will be appearing this week, and that customers could "download IE9" to experience it. Again, if it's HTML5, this should work anywhere. So even if it's mostly Microsoft shilling its own gear, it's indicative of a depressing trend.
And finally, once I started musing over this, I remembered how Google Docs had effectively lost its capability to work offline because of the shift to HTML5. Google dumped its own Gears technology on the grounds that HTML5 would be a better solution, but the current version is no solution at all: you can view documents but not edit them, and you have to be running Chrome to even do that. That does not a useful word processor make, and it underlines again that HTML5 hasn't yet been effectively deployed in a cross-platform way.
I'm not saying this might not get better in the future as the standards become more widely adopted. But I'm not holding my breath. After all, there are still millions of people using the crippled non-browser that is IE6. Sure, they might all be stuck behind corporate firewalls, but it reminds us that the pace of widespread change is often glacial. We need a few icebergs to shift before HTML5 really delivers.
Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.