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HTML 5, a groundbreaking upgrade to the prominent Web presentation specification, could become a game-changer in Web application development, one that might even make obsolete such plug-in-based rich Internet application (RIA) technologies as Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Sun JavaFX.

The World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) HTML 5 proposal is geared toward Web applications, something not adequately addressed in previous incarnations of HTML, the W3C acknowledges. In other words, HTML 5 tackles the gap that Flash, Silverlight, and JavaFX are trying to fill.

[ The InfoWorld Test Center investigates how well the new Microsoft Silverlight 3 and Adobe Flex 4, Flash 4, and Catalyst rich Internet technologies measure up. ]

The rich promise of HTML 5
"HTML 5 is really the second coming of this Web stuff -- of the Web," says Dion Almaer, co-founder of the Ajaxian Web site and co-director of developer tools at Mozilla. The specification boasts capabilities covering video and graphics on the Web, as well as a slew of APIs, Almaer notes.

HTML 5 technologies such as Canvas, for 2-D drawing on a Web page, are being promoted by heavyweights in the Internet space such as Apple, Google, and Mozilla. (Although Microsoft itself has given a thumbs-up to certain aspects of HTML 5, it has not backed Canvas.)

"HTML 5 features like Canvas, local storage, and Web Workers let us do more in the browser than ever before," says Ben Galbraith, also co-founder of the Ajaxian Web site and co-director of developer tools at Mozilla. Local storage enables users to work in a browser when a connection drops and Web Workers makes "next generation" applications incredibly responsive by pushing long-running tasks to the background, he says.

Web applications will become more fun, says Ian Fette, project manager at Google for the Chrome browser: "They're going to be faster and they're just going to provide overall a better user experience and make the distinction between online apps and desktop apps blurred."



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