Is HTML 5 by Apple really HTML 5?

(Ta notka jest także dostępna po polsku)

Apple recently released a number of demos, which they call HTML 5 demos. In this post, I’d like to analyze whether these demos are really HTML 5 or not. I am not going into ideological stuff here (but, to be honest, I do agree with Chris Blizzard’s point of view) – I’m going to check only the technological side of these demo pages.

One thing before we begin. Please note that the “long story short” sentences at the end of each paragraph relate to what I think is really demoed on each page, not to the formal presence of HTML 5 tags. For example, if a page uses HTML 5 section tags (and most of them do), but the demo itself is actually about style transitions, I do not consider it an HTML 5 demo. With this in mind, let’s start.

Video – indeed uses HTML 5 <video> tag, embedding an h.264 video file. Perspective and masking effects are not part of HTML 5, they are possible thanks to Apple’s experimental extensions to the CSS standard. So, this is indeed an HTML 5 demo, but not all the cool stuff here is actually HTML 5.
Long story short, HTML 5: yes, CSS 3: not really, Apple’s proprietary CSS extensions: yes.

Typography – HTML 5 has nothing to do with font embedding. Font embedding is standard CSS 2 (though only recently widely implemented by browser vendors). Horizontal slider is made out of plain old HTML 4 elements (mainly divs), instead of standard HTML 5 <input type=range> element, which is actually supported by Safari. Transparency works thanks to the widely supported CSS 3 Color Module opacity property. Rotation is powered by Apple’s experimental -webkit-transform property, which is actually supported by other browser vendors with their own prefixes (-moz-transform in Firefox 3.6 and -o-transform in latest Operas). Text shadow is applied through the text-shadow property from CSS 3 Text Module. It is also supported by Mozilla and Opera. No HTML 5 here other than <nav> and <section> elements, used throughout the demo site (though, there are lots of HTML4 <div>s there, too). You could make a basically identical page with plain old HTML 4, all the good stuff is, in fact, CSS 3 or experimental additions to CSS 3.
Long story short, HTML 5: not really, CSS 3: a bit, CSS 2: yes, Apple’s proprietary CSS extensions: yes.

Gallery – the only HTML 5 elements here, apart from <nav> and <section>, are <figure> elements, containg the image and prev/next buttons. All the cool stuff is actually made of Apple’s experimental CSS transforms and transitions (other browsers do support some or most of the same transforms and transitions with different vendor prefixes, i.e. Opera has -o-transition instead of -webkit-transition). While cool, these things are not standard yet, and never will be part of any HTML version – as they are extensions to CSS.
Long story short, HTML 5: a bit, CSS 3: no, Apple’s proprietary CSS extensions: yes.

Transitions – are all about the same above-mentioned CSS transforms and transitions. HTML 5 is only used in the navigation part (the links starting off each transition are inside a <section> element, and the header is indeed an HTML 5 <header> element). The real part of the demo – the images that are transformed through CSS, are in plain old <div>s, though. All the coolness thanks to proprietary extensions to CSS.
Long story short, HTML 5: not really, CSS 3: no, Apple’s proprietary CSS extensions: yes.

Audio – a real HTML 5 demo, uses <audio> and <canvas> HTML 5 elements. The song is in the proprietary and patent-encumbered MP4 format, though.
Long story short, HTML 5: yes. Whoohoo!

360° – a JavaScript script cycles through many images of the iPod touches as you move your mouse. Nicely done, but the only thing here that was not possible a few years ago is touchscreen compatibility thanks to Apple’s proprietary events souch as ontouchstart. If you ignore the touchscreen-related events, you can make an identical demo even in piece-of-crap browsers like IE 6 with little effort. So, as the touch events are the only really new thing here, it seems that this is in fact a demonstration of these iPod/iPad/iPhone-related touch events, not of any HTML 5 features.
Long story short, HTML 5: no, CSS 3: no, Apple’s proprietary events: yes.

VR – lots of Apple’s proprietary experimental CSS transforms and transitions shown here plus some JavaScript, but not much of HTML 5.
Long story short, HTML 5: not really, CSS 3: no, Apple’s proprietary CSS extensions: yes.

Apple says:

The demos […] show how the latest version of Apple’s Safari web browser, new Macs, and new Apple mobile devices all support the capabilities of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

As you can see, with some exceptions (video/audio and canvas) and some marginal features outside of the core of each demo (navigation and sectioning), the real objective of these demos is to show Apple proprietary features, mostly CSS extensions. To be fair to the Cupertino company, some of them are pushed by Apple for standarization in the W3C, which is a good thing. Still, it does not make them standards at this moment, and once they become standards, they might look a bit or a lot diffrent.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in the demos themselves (and, as always with Apple, they are cool eye candy), but calling them “HTML 5” – while they do not show a lot of real HTML 5 features – and “standards” – while they’re mostly Apple’s proprietary non-standard extensions – seems to me slightly insincere. What is shown here is actually the great potential of the WebKit rendering engine. If they called it “Apple WebKit demos”, that would be correct and honest.

Post Scriptum for buzzword lovers: Of course, some people (like PPK) are trying to make a buzzword out of “HTML 5”, with meaning shifted from “HTML – the markup language and related APIs” to “all the cool new stuff without Flash”. If you’re one of those people, feel free to agree with Apple on this, and disagree with me.

PS #2. Am I an Apple hater? I wrote this on my MacBook… ;-)

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