Google’s been busy recently adding HTML5-powered features to Gmail, such as the ability to drag files onto emails to attach them and to drag and drop images into messages to insert them into the message body, but they’ve only been offered to users running the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome. Those features are becoming more widely available, with the news that Google has now extended support to Safari 5.
Why is Google actively pursuing a strategy of rolling out HTML5 features in its web apps, even though some browsers — notably Internet Explorer — don’t support them yet, and the HTML5 spec itself is not expected to be fully complete until 2022? Google wants to tempt more users away from the desktop to its web app products, and as I discuss in my latest Long View on GigaOM Pro, “HTML5’s a Game-Changer for Web Apps,” (sub req’d) HTML5 will allow Google to build more complex applications that behave much more like desktop apps. Unlike competing rich web app technologies like Flash and Silverlight that require the use of a plugin, HTML5 is an open web standard that will be widely supported on mobile devices. This should enable Google to build richer apps that will run anywhere without having to build native apps for various mobile platforms.
Google’s also betting on HTML5 because it should also improve speed and responsiveness. At his keynote recently at Usenix WebApps ‘10 in Boston, Google engineer Adam de Boor said using HTML5 and CSS3 should slash Gmail’s load time by 12 percent, with the eventual aim to get load times to under one second.
More broadly, HTML5 presents a huge opportunity for web app developers to gain an advantage in a highly competitive market and we should expect to see more web app vendors following Google’s lead. So while many web app developers will be licking their lips over the opportunities that HTML5 provides, web workers should be rubbing their hands with glee, too. The explosion of useful collaborative web apps we’ve witnessed over the last few years — which, coupled with an increase in bandwidth and better hardware has helped power the web work revolution — is about to be followed by a new wave of rich, desktop-like HTML5-powered apps.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d): HTML5’s a Game-Changer for Web Apps