Analyst: HTML5 far from killing off Web plug-ins

A Forrester report sees continued relevance for proprietary rich Internet technologies like Flash and Silverlight

HTML5, the budding specification for multimedia in Web applications, will not displace proprietary rich Internet technologies, such as Adobe Flash/Flex or Microsoft Silverlight, anytime soon, an analyst report released this week said.

Based on data gathered from three IT surveys in 2009, Forrester Research does not see obsolescence for the single-vendor-driven plug-in platforms.

[ See InfoWorld's June 2009 report: Could HTML5 kill Flash and Silverlight? ]

"For at least five years, the answer is a definite 'no'; inconsistent implementations of the draft HTML5 specification and immature tooling make building HTML5 apps that work with consistently across browsers and operating systems a real challenge," said the April 21 report entitled, "Does HTML5 Herald the End of RIA Plug-ins? Not really."

Offering standards-based multimedia capabilities, HTML5 is being touted by Apple, in particular, which is hailing its use on such devices as the iPad while shutting out Flash in what has become an increasingly bitter feud with Adobe. HTML5 also enjoys support from vendors like Google and even Silverlight builder Microsoft.

Forrester sees the "either/or" scenario of HTML5 vs. proprietary rivals as driven by vendor politics, not developer realities.

"Ultimately, HTML5 and RIA platforms will be complementary technologies and enterprise development shops will need to invest in both approaches to deliver expressive applications that combine reach and richness," Forrester said.

Holding back HTML5 are such issues as lack of a standard video codec and a susceptibility to inconsistent implementations in the draft standard, Forrester said.

"The folks I talk to all say [the codec issue] is going to be a challenge to get around," said Jeffrey Hammond, Forrester principal analyst and the main author of the report, in an interview on Thursday. There is not a good open source codec for HTML5 that everyone could agree on, he said.

Apple officials' dismissal of Flash, Hammond said, "certainly serves their own interest but it basically is forcing developers to make a choice they're not ready to make." HMTL5 is not mature enough yet, he said.

HTML5 is a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) effort.  It will need years to become a ratified, stable standard, Forrester's report said. Browser vendors only offer partial support, said Forrester. It also remains to be seen if the HTML5 programming model will be more productive, Forrester said. Developers wishing to leverage HTML5 also need to know CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for styling applications, JavaScript for behavior, and SVG for vector operations, according to Forrester.

Forrester projects Candidate Recommendation stage for HTML5 in 2012 and a fully approved recommendation in 2022. In the meantime, AJAX and plug-ins enable developers to get work done today, Forrester said.

In other findings, Forrester found a strong correlation between server platform usage and RIA strategy. .Net platform developers use ASP.Net AJAX and Silverlight, while Adobe Flex is more likely to be used by Java developers.

Forrester also found open source AJAX crowding out commercial AJAX technologies such as Icesoft Icefaces.

This article, "Analyst: HTML5 far from killing off Web plug-ins," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at infoworldmobile.com.

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Paul Krill

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