Talking HTML5: The Evolution of the Web
For my blog post this month, I conducted an interview with Brandon Satrom, Developer Evangelist, Microsoft. Brandon and I discussed all the ways HTML5 is changing the field of web development, from the evolution of HTML to the growth of the mobile web and native applications. You can read our discussion below.
HTML5 Center: Welcome to my blog on The HTML5 Center, Brandon. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do? What is your blog, User InExperience? And what is your relationship with HTML5?
Brandon Satrom [BDS]: I am Web Evangelist with Microsoft, based in Austin, TX. I've been with Microsoft a little less than two years, and during that time, I have focused on evangelizing the exciting work Microsoft has been doing with web technologies. This includes things like ASP.NET MVC, jQuery and WebMatrix, and, most recently, HTML5. For the last year, I've spent the majority of my time on HTML5, which has been exciting -- the open web is a subject I'm quite passionate about.
As for my blog, I've been blogging at UserInExperience.com since December of 2004, and during that time, I've played a lot of roles as a technologist, from a software engineer and UX wonk to software, enterprise, and chief architect, and now an evangelist. Each job or role I've had has always been infused with my passion for learning and experiencing new things, and sharing those things with others as I navigate the sometimes uncomfortable world of trying to keep up with the pace of change in technology.
HTML5 Center: You just hosted a conference on HTML5 in Austin, Texas. What happened at the conference? And what did you learn?
BDS: On October 8th, we hosted the inaugural HTML5.tx conference, and it was an amazing experience. The conference was a vendor-neutral (Microsoft was a sponsor, as was Mozilla, Opera, and many other great companies). The cross-community event was designed to bring local developers and designers together to talk about the web, where we are and where we are going. I was very pleased with the result. We had 250 people from all over the state, and a great lineup of speakers, including the likes of Estelle Weyll, Mike Taylor, Alex Sexton, Kyle Simpson, Garann Means, and others.
The biggest thing I learned as a result of the event is that there are scads of passionate developers and designers out there, and they all care very deeply about the open web. It was a very refreshing thing to be around such passionate and excited technologists.
HTML5 Center: You and I spoke the other day about security and HTML5. What do developers need to keep in mind when it comes to security as they build new Web apps?
BDS: The biggest thing would be to research and be aware of the potential security issues or implications around a given web technology. Sites like html5sec.org are useful to educate yourself on known attack vectors for HTML5 features, and they also give you strategies for mitigating those vectors in your own sites. It's important to understand that HTML5 is not inherently secure or insecure. Certain specs may have known security concerns, and the W3C attempts to surface and address these during the specification process. But they can't catch everything, especially attack vectors that are discovered down the road, so it's important as a developer that you make understanding and addressing web security part of your everyday job.
HTML5 Center: We hear a lot about HTML5 and mobile applications these days. Do you think HTML5 will spell the end of native mobile applications?
BDS: Not at all. HTML5 means that we can build cross-platform mobile websites without always having to "go native" in order to target a given mobile OS. Geolocation is a great example of an HTML5 feature we're seeing in browsers that historically was mobile-OS-specific. That's a good thing because many companies and developers don't necessarily have the resources to completely redevelop an application for each platform they wish to serve.
That said, mobile devices will continue to push the envelope in terms of the software and hardware capabilities they offer on their platforms, and those may not always be immediately available in the browser. Some OSes offer sensor and even OS service access through their platforms, and these features don't have an equivalent in HTML5. Not all developers would need to leverage those services, but when they do, a native experience still makes sense. But the bottom line is that HTML5 is opening the doors up for a bevy of exciting mobile applications that don't automatically have to be built as native apps.
HTML5 Center: What kinds of new functionality should developers looking at HTML5 consider when designing for mobile browsers? What advice would you give them?
BDS: I recommend three technologies everyone reading this blog post should look at:
- Geolocation - In-browser location services.
- HTML5 Forms - New form types and attributes, leveraged by many mobile browsers to tailor user experience for form input.
- CSS3 Media Queries - A CSS module that allows developers to conditionally style pages based on media features (like screen height and width) reported by the browser. Key for adaptive mobile development.
With each of these, I recommend reading the W3C specs, or at least grabbing a great book like "Introducing HTML5," by Bruce Lawson and Remy Sharp or "The Book of CSS3," by Peter Gasston. I'd also recommend taking a look at "Mobile First," by Luke Wroblewski, for a great approach to mobile development strategy. It's broader than HTML5, but hey, so is mobile web development.
Brandon Satrom is Developer Evangelist, Microsoft. You can reach him on Twitter @BrandonSatrom or by email here firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read his thoughts on all things web development on his blog, UserInExperience.