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On HTML5 and the Group That Rules the Web

New Yorker HTML5 and the Group That Rules the Web


yes: it is worth understanding both what HTML5 is and who controls the W3C. And it is worth knowing a little bit about the mysterious, conflict-driven cultural process whereby HTML5 became a “recommendation.” Billions of humans will use the Web over the next decade, yet not many of those people are in a position to define what is “the Web” and what isn’t. The W3C is in that position. So who is in this cabal? What is it up to? Who writes the checks?

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I love the dancing monkey metaphor:

“The by-design purpose of JavaScript,” one well-informed commenter wrote, “was to make the monkey dance when you moused over it.” These dancing monkeys eventually begat more dancing monkeys, first evidenced in things like pop-up windows, then later—with a​ major​ assist from Microsoft, which added a technology to ​Internet Explorer that made it possible to load in new data without refreshing the browser​—in the form of “web apps” like Google Maps, Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook​.* Now the whole Web is dancing monkeys. We still call Web pages “pages,” but many of them are actually software applications—“apps”—as complex to engineer as any word processor or video game. (Often, they are word processors, such as Google Docs, or video games, such as HexGL.)

And yes, many mobile apps are web apps. Which is part of why HTML5 is so important. 

HTML at its essence: just a bunch of tags. 

But, with HTML5, the markup language has become a connective tissue that holds together a host of other technologies. Audio, video, pictures, words, headlines, citations, open-ended canvases, 3-D graphics, e-mail addresses–it lets you say that these things exist and gives the means to pull them into one solitary page. You can even “validate” a page. At this writing, for example, has one HTML5 error. That’s pretty good: the New York Times has a hundred and forty-one.


HTML5, that pulled together and standardized the incremental improvements that were appearing in Web browsers. These combined technologies would allow the Web browser to behave like a fast, general-purpose computer, with smarter forms, better video and audio playback, an improved model for turning documents into code, and a general rationalization and documentation of the enormous, tangled Web. The browser would henceforth be a place for applications—an engine that could run software. An operating system unto itself.


In 2010, Steve Jobs wrote an open letter to the universe, titled “Thoughts on Flash,” in which he proclaimed that HTML5-style Web technologies were the way forward, not Adobe’s proprietary Flash platform (which performs many of the same complex application-style tasks as HTML5, but which did not, and does not, run on an iPhone). The letter was a big deal, because it meant that HTML5 had the unequivocal blessing of one of the technology industry’s largest companies, not as a document-delivery format but as an application-development framework.

Steve Jobs helped save the Web.

The Web is an operating system:

The massive, exhaustive HTML5 spec describes barely a fraction of what truly defines the Web. For example, it doesn’t say how one might go about making a JPG or a GIF, or how those files are arranged in binary streams of data. It simply tells you how to point to the images in a Web page. For all the other stuff, there are other standards, written in other rooms, by other people. And those standards are based on even more standards, all the way down, going back decades.

The Web started out as a way to publish and share documents. It is now an operating system: a big, digital sensory apparatus that can tell you about your phone’s battery life, record and transmit your voice, manage your e-mail and your chats, and give you games to play. It can do this all at once, and with far less grand of a design than you might assume. That’s the software industry: it promises you an Ellsworth Kelly, but it delivers a Jackson Pollock.

The Web, which used to be a place you went to get things, is now also a place to do things. 

That took a decade.

Relishing about what will bring another decade...

Yeah, the next decade should be very exciting.

Ten years ago there were no smartphones.

Ten years from now, who knows what comes next?

Let's observe ... 

I think JavaScript Libraries made the Web so powerful, so thanks to inventors of jQuery, YUI etc.

And the inventors of Node.js, etc. have helped make JavaScript robust enough to be used on the back end, too.


We live in exciting times, Giorgi.

Yes Adam, and in times that brought most big changes. And we are lucky to witness all that

And we will witness many more, for sure. The first thing that comes to my mind while saying this, is Rosetta mission. What an exciting, 10 year long journey for spacecraft

It's very exciting to hear the progress from Rosetta as we expand our knowledge of the universe!

Yeah, at least we are doing our best :)

Our best is what makes progress.

Yes, Absolutely !

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