Blog Post

BBC: HTML5 ‘Starting to Sail Off-Course’

Many see HTML5 as the future for the delivery of web-based video, as well as a standards-based replacement for proprietary formats — like Adobe (s ADBE) Flash — that dominate video delivery today. But Erik Huggers, director of Future Media & Technology at the BBC, cautions that HTML5 is not yet ready for primetime, and that certain companies could end up undermining the open nature of the standard by pushing their own agenda.

Huggers wrote in a blog post today that “there’s still a lot of work to be done on HTML5” before the broadcaster can integrate the nascent web standard into its products. More importantly, Huggers warned that HTML5 standardization risks going off-course as proprietary implementations of the technology are developed.

While defending the BBC’s embrace of open standards for delivery of its media across multiple devices, he writes that Adobe Flash right now is the “most efficient way to deliver a high-quality experience to the broadest possible audience.” That’s due in part to Flash’s ubiquity, with some 98 percent of all Internet-connected PCs having the plugin installed. But when looking to the future, many see HTML5 as the obvious replacement for Flash, as it provides much of the same interactivity and tools for video delivery, while also remaining an open standard.

The problem is, HTML5 still lags Flash in the maturity of tools necessary for the delivery and monetization of video — including advertising, reporting and content security. This has caused many content providers to back off using the technology as a way to reach devices, like the Apple (s AAPL) iPad, that don’t support Flash.

Huggers doesn’t name names, but it’s clear he’s referring to Apple’s efforts to codify certain aspects of its implementation of HTML5 as it pushes for wider adoption of the web standard for delivery of video and web applications to its iPad and iPhone mobile devices. “Not too long ago some browser vendors were showcasing proprietary HTML5 implementations; which in my view threaten to undermine the fundamental promise,” Huggers writes, which most likely refers to Apple’s showcase of HTML5 capabilities — which, not surprisingly, is only available through its Safari browser.

When certain players push proprietary implementations of a new standard, that’s when the standardization process goes awry, Huggers argues.

“The tension between individual motivation and collective consensus has brought an end to many noble causes in the past, and here, the pace of progress appears to be slowing on bringing HTML5 to a ratified state. History suggests that multiple competing proprietary standards lead to a winner-takes-all scenario, with one proprietary standard at the top of the stack, which is not where most of us want to be,” he writes.

In other words, while Apple has been instrumental in pushing HTML5 adoption by not supporting Flash in its mobile products, it could also undermine the standardization process by pushing a proprietary implementation of the web standard. Which isn’t good for anyone, or the future of HTML5.

Photo by Michael Halminski, courtesy of NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) Collection.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: HTML5’s a Game-Changer for Web Apps (subscription required)

23 Responses to “BBC: HTML5 ‘Starting to Sail Off-Course’”

  1. Flash is long passed its prime and was never intended for video. Adobe has been almost negligent in its development of the codecs and resistance to opening them up (some have been published). That said, at least I can use a Flash blocker to mute the content and its not fair to blame Adobe for some of the awful Flash-based web sites (that’s like blaming Dulux for a garishly painted building. HTML5 may or may not be better but whatever format emerges as dominant, I just hope it’s not under the control of any one company. That just hinders development.

  2. Righteous Dude

    This guy is an Adobe stooge. He obviously does not understand how OPEN STANDARDS works. Since the beginning standards committees have had corporate seats that push their agendas, it has always been this way. Nothing wrong with Apple taking the lead on this. After all everybody and their brother is just copying Apple whether its their OS (Microsoft basically copied a 2-year-old Tiger OS to create Windows 7), MP3 (enough said), iPad (dozens of companies are furiously working on clones), iPhone (ALL smartphones have adopted Apple’s touch model), mobile web browserrs (ALL mobile browsers are based on Apple-created WebKit), etc.
    Apple clearly knows what the industry needs and wants. Can you just imagine the horror if someone like a Microsoft was leading, OMG!
    With Apple as its steward HTML5 will do just fine and will get better over time.
    Just remember you will never ever get rid of corporate agendas being pushed on “open” standards. This clown needs to get a clue.
    Steve is in charge and HTML5 will eventually kick Flash to the curb where it belongs.

    • Fourthletter

      You accuse someone else of being a stooge ? You downloaded all your opinions from iTunes you iDiot.
      Tiger & 7 share no similarities anymore than any other OS, I know I have supported both.
      Apple did not invent the MP3 player and in fact had to pay a large some of money to Creative to licence the UI.
      The LG Prada (to name only one) beat the iPhone to market with a full finger based touch system, it had more to do with the cost of mobile SOCs and touchscreens coming down to consumer levels than any Apple innovation. (they bought all their patents from Fingerworks)
      Apple lifted WebKit from Konqueror and did not invent it.
      Steve is in charge of YOUR wallet not mine.

      • Doubters Beware

        You sound like just another Apple hater who fails to acknowledge their greatness. They are the World’s LARGEST technology company (passed Microsoft earlier this year) for a reason. And Yes, Steve has BANK !!
        Mr. Jobs controls everybody’s wallet, even the haters who won’t buy Apple are indirectly being “controlled” by the awesomeness known as Steven Paul Jobs.

        After reading most of these comments I can clearly see why Steve is smarter than everyone here. In fact Steve is almost always the smartest man in the room no doubt about it.

        Stop the hate and bow to the master of the tech universe. He has been voted by his peers as the greatest CEO of the century. Obviously he is doing many things right and deserves all the amazing credit and accolades he is showered with. I just hope his health holds ups so we can reap many more benefits from his wisdom.

      • @Forthletter,

        Apple OWNS fingerworks and had for many years PRIOR to LG’s phone. The founders of fingerworks have been Apple employees for some time now. And in fact Apple had been working on their iPad before even the iPhone and used the ideas behind that to release the iPhone which was in development for 2 years prior to releasing. Know your facts before you slam someone else.

        Apple indeed used the code from Konqueror and improved it into webkit, which is an open standard used by Apple and it’s competitors like Google and Blackberry. If Konqueror were superior as is, then google and others would have used it and not webkit.

        As to Microsoft, of course they copied OS X, some of their own people publically admitted as such. Have you seen their failed attempts in the phone space these days? Kin? Killed after minimal sales, Courier, never made it beyond DRAWINGS and mockups. Windows Phone 7? Another losing design.

    • Winston Smith

      Righteous Dude is correct.

      Notice that the Flash lovers (open standards haters) want to unilaterally impose everything that users don’t want: “reporting” (spying on you); content protection (you can’t own anything or copy it even after paying); and advertising (NOBODY wants advertising, especially after you’ve paid for the content).

    • @Ralph,

      Stop trolling. Show us what YOU have done to move HTML5 forward? Are you another Adobe Flash drone, held in thrall to their buggy, slow, closed, proprietary products?

  3. Take 100 tech geeks and tell them there is an HTML5 standardization effort and list the major contributors.
    Now ask which of them in your opinion hinders the openness of the standard.
    I bet at least 90% will guess correctly – Apple. Not surprising and if you ask me unless they are kicked out (I guess that is impossible) HTML5 is dead even before coming to life.

    • Based on what proof? HTML5 is already here. Webkit is here and used by Apple, Google and others. More work on HTML5 is coming every day. You must be a Flash developer with a grudge.

  4. Does Blog Author only talk about
    one sided information.
    DId he do any research regarding proprietary
    nature of WebKit that Apple is implementing.

    May be the Author should may be try the
    bloody thing before writing a gossip piece like
    National Enquirer. Just because it is BBC does not
    mean anything.

    • Righteous Dude

      Apple created Webkit and very generously decided to let others use their technology in their own browsers. It is no wonder virtually all mobile browsers today are based on Apple’s webkit technology ! Steve done good.

      • Huhster

        WebKit was originally derived by Apple Inc. from the Konqueror browser’s KHTML software library

        It was open source before Apple got their hands on it you iDiot, just like Safari Reader and most of OSX.

  5. Apple is implementing portions of the standard, some of them as “webkit” extensions. So is Firefox and so is Google and, I believe, so is Microsoft.

    If we waited for the standard to finally be completed before anyone implemented anything, HTML5 wouldn’t be available until five years from now, if that.

    Finally, the HTML5 specification is a theoretical set of features. When Apple and others implement them, they will undoubtedly find that some things work best as described, and that other things that seemed to be good ideas might have better solutions.

    From my perspective, Apple is only guilty of advancing the time when HTML5 is available to everyone.

    • To be fair, Apple’s HTML5 “Safari-only” examples weren’t built using some proprietary code – Chrome, for example was perfectly capable of running them. It’s just that Apple only made them visible to people running Safari, likely in an attempt to make their browser look good. That case wasn’t about open or closed anything – it was about browser market share.

      Regardless, Apple should be more responsible with protecting the open nature of HTML5, and they have incentive to do so. As an open standard, HTML5 has a better shot at mass adoption by developers, and mass adoption means more functionality for their iOS devices.

      • Huhster

        To be fair if Apple’s HTML5 showcase could run on other browsers and Apple deliberately blocked them that sounds even worse than what the article describes.
        Apple want to lock us all in and throw away the keys.