HTML5 and RIAs: Friends with Benefits!

Earlier this week, I was asked to make a short video that would be shown during a round table discussion on a hot topic: HTML5 vs. proprietary rich internet app technologies, such as Flash and Silverlight. My video was supposed to take the “RIAs complement HTML” side of the debate, while someone else would produce a video taking the “HTML5 trumps RIAs” side.

My own personal belief is that HTML5 – actually the stack of HTML5, CSS3 and Java/ECMAScript – has closed the interactivity gap between the web and desktop apps and will continue to close it. However, for the time being, there are still cases where HTML5 just can’t cut it – for various reasons, such as performance, browser compatibility or designer-friendliness – and that’s where RIAs shine. Hence I found it rather easy to put together an amusing little video titled HTML5 and RIAs: Friends with Benefits (5:47, YouTube).

I did the production work on Tuesday afternoon and evening using the following tools:

Enjoy the video!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


VP8 Support in Internet Explorer 9

ie h.264 vp8You’ve probably read the news already, so I’ll cut right to the chase: earlier today, Internet Explorer’s big kahuna Dean Hachamovitch made an announcement about Internet Explorer 9 support for HTML5 video in Blogging Windows:

In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec on Windows.

(And in case you were wondering, the WebM formatalso announced earlier today — uses the VP8 codec.)

If you want to take an early version of IE9 for a spin, visit the Internet Explorer 9 Test Drive site and download the latest preview (as of this writing, it’s Platform Preview 2).

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


IE9 Platform Preview 2

It wasn’t that long ago that an early version of Internet Explorer 9 – we called it Platform Preview 1 – was announced at MIX10 Conference back in mid-March. If you missed it, here’s MIX10’s Day 2 keynote session, in which the Internet Explorer team’s supreme Kahuna, Dean Hachamovitch, made the announcement (it’s the first part of the keynote, so you don’t have to watch or scan through the entire two hours):

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or watch the video in WMV, high-def WMV or MP4 format.

As I wrote back then, IE9 showed a lot of improvements. In addition to the improvements, IE9 came with a commitment made to updating the preview about every eight weeks.

The time has come to announce the release of IE9 Platform Preview 2! The whole story’s over at the latest post to IEBlog, but I thought I’d cover a couple of things I felt were worth noting.

Improved JavaScript Performance

Chart showing JavaScript performance of various browsers

The chart above shows the results of various browsers, including IE9 Platform Preview 2, under WebKit’s Sunspider JavaScript benchmark, version 0.9.1 on a 3.0GHz Dell Optiplex with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB RAM and Intel Integrated Video running Windows 7. As you can see, JavaScript performance on Platform Preview 2 is a mere eye-blink away from that of the Esteemed Competition.

If you’d like to run the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in your default browser right now, click here.

Getting HTML5ier

Acid3 test for Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 2 - 68/100

The goal for the final release of IE9 is full HTML5 compliance and “Same Markup” – that is, rendering the same HTML, CSS and JavaScript the same way. The idea is that you, the web developer, shouldn’t have to come up with workaround or hacks to get the same page to display the same way across browsers.

If you’d like to run the Acid3 test in your default browser right now, click here.

Part of that approach is technical: a standards-compliant IE9, and the first platform preview was a step in that direction. Platform Preview 2 add more fixes to HTML, SVG, CSS3 and JavaScript implementations as well as features like CSS3 media queries, DOMContentLoaded, DOM traversal and range, getElementsByClassName, createDOcument and so on.

While the Acid3 test isn’t the holy grail – some of its tests don’t mesh with the HTML5 standard as it is right now, others are still “under construction” – more compliance with HTML5 typically means a higher Acid3 score. IE9 Platform Preview 2 currently scores 68 out of a possible 100, which is an improvement over Platform Preview 1’s score of 55, and leaps and bounds ahead of IE8’s scores for 20.

People Issue : Standards

Another part of the “Same Markup” approach is working within the various standards groups defining the web experience. Among other things, we’ve been doing things like:

People Issue : Developers

Let me show you a couple of photos from Toronto Code Camp, which took place last Saturday. Here’s Colin Bowern’s session, titled JQuery is Your Friend:

Colin Bowern presenting at Toronto Code Camp to a packed room

That was a fairly packed room, but that ain’t nuthin’ compared to Todd Anglin’s afternoon session, The Rich Standard: Getting Familiar with HTML5, which went beyond “standing room only” and into the “any place I can park myself” zone:

Todd Anglin presenting at Toronto Code Camp to a very packed room

From looking at the crowd – and yes, talking with them, too – it’s quite clear that there’s a lot of hunger for information, tutorials, guidance and general knowledge of HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript and how to build modern web applications using them.

That’s where I can help, and in all sorts of ways. For starters, there will be a number of HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript articles, tutorials and pointers on this blog. I’ll also be participating in a number of presentations, workshops and TechDays events to cover HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. Keep watching this space for more.

Take IE9 Platform Preview 2 for a Spin!

Windows Internet Explorer 9

You can download Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview 2 right now. As with Platform Preview 1, it coexists with Internet Explorer 8, and it’s a very thin wrapper around the engine, meaning that it’s really for developer and designer testing rather than general browsing. The UI elements you’d expect in a browser, such as the address bar (you open sites using File –> Open…), nor are the security features such as Protected Mode, SmartScreen filter and XSS scripting filter.

Platform Preview 2 installs right over Platform Preview 1; you don’t have to uninstall Platform Preview 1 before installing Platform Preview 2.

Take it for a spin and send us feedback!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Yes, I Think Outlook Needs to be Fixed

Microsoft logo with Evil Monkey from "Family Guy"This would be a very good time to remind you, the Gentle Reader, that Global Nerdy is my personal tech blog and that the opinions expressed within are mine and mine alone. They are not necessarily those of my employer, Microsoft Canada, nor its parent company, Microsoft Corporation, nor or any other Sith Lords, Stormtroopers, Family Guy monkeys or any other agents of evil in the employ of said organization.

You’ve probably heard the buzz in TechCrunch: Here’s how a properly-coded HTML email, where HTML is used for content and CSS is used for presentation, appears in the version of Outlook that came with Office 2000:

HTML email as rendered in the 2000 version of Microsoft Outlook. Nice.

And here’s the same HTML email, with the same properly-formatted HTML, as rendered by the current version, Outlook 2007. It uses Word as the rendering engine, and Word will be the rendering engine for the upcoming Outlook 2010:

HTML email as rendered in the 2007 (and eventually 2010) version of Microsoft Outlook. Broken.

I understand why the empire wants Word-Outlook interoperability, which is why Word was chosen to be the HTML rendering engine for Outlook. But Word’s HTML renderer isn’t standards-compliant, which is why Outlook renders HTML in such a janky way. Outlook relies on old tricks such as using HTML tables for layout and other non-recommended ways of building web pages. IE8 plays by the rules, why doesn’t Outlook?

In my opinion, this is wrong. It runs counter to the spirit of interoperability, the embrace of open source and the following of standards that has accompanied the “sea change” within Microsoft (and it’s this sea change that help solidify my decision to join the company). I believe that it is in both Microsoft’s and the industry’s best interests for The Empire to be more standards-compliant.

(Besides, I just came back from presenting at a “Building Accessible Web Sites” conference where I told the audience to write compliant HTML. Damn right I’m going to push for everyone – Microsoft included – to do just that!)

That’s why I’m encouraging you to sign the Twitter petition to fix Outlook’s HTML rendering at Outlook 2010, along with the other parts of Office 2010, is in beta right now, and Microsoft is soliciting opinions. This is the time – tell them to fix Outlook!

Home page of the "Fix Outlook" site