What worries me about HTML5

I haven’t done web development since starting grad school 2 years ago, however I am very excited about HTML5. I hate Flash, and I think that Falshblock is the best browser plugin ever. Flash used to be very crappy on non-Windows environments. It has gotten better in the past few years, but it is still troublesome: It often bogs down my system, and it consumes more than its fair share of CPU resources.

With that said, I think that the move to HTML5 can have its downsides. The ‘ML’ in HTML stands for Markup Language. This means that an HTML document just tells the browser what is supposed to be in a page, and the browser does the rest. There is no standard shared “runtime” between different browsers, and this is how the different rendering engines (Firefox’s Gecko, Chrome and Safari’s WebKit, IE’s Trident …etc) differentiate themselves (plus their JavaScript interpreters, but that is somewhat a different matter).

Even with all the issues of Flash, it at least provided a shared runtime that more than 90% of web users had. Without Flash, browsers would take it upon themselves to decide how would videos be played, how would canvases react, and how would various messages/events be handled. So what really worries me is the possibility of the re-emergence of “This site is better viewed with browser X” buttons everywhere; these were damn horrible in the 90s and should never come back. What gives me hope however is that web developers are now more mature than a decade ago, and browser builders are working together to standardize most of what falls under the HTML5 umbrella term. I guess we just have to wait and see how this turns out.

Anyway, on a related note, YouTube has posted some arguments for why they think that Flash would continue to be the dominant Video distribution platform in the near future. I think their first two arguments are probably the only real issue at play here, while the rest are more or less superficial.