Will HTML 5 Change the World?
For nearly 20 years, a conceptual battle has been fought over the future of online connectivity. On one side is the closed-garden model, on the other side is the wide open Web. Commentators have argued that which model wins out will have stark and sweeping implications not just for industry but for the future of creativity. Or perhaps neither side in this conflict will win a decisive victory. Instead we will all keep muddling along. The still-evolving HTML 5 standard may be the embodying technology of an online world that is not \"either/or\" but \"both/and.\" For IT professionals, especially at small and midsized businesses (SMBs), this outcome offers a richer but more demanding operating environment.
In the early 1990s, as people were just starting to go online in large numbers, most of them subscribed to proprietary services such as CompuServe and America Online (AOL). The environments these service providers provided came to be described as \"closed gardens.\" But in the mid-90s these services gave in to consumer pressure to provide access to the newly emerging open Web. And their customers proceeded to abandon them in droves.
In the last couple of years the spectacular success of Apple\'s mobile products and online stores (iTunes and the App Store) and Facebook, has suggested that the pendulum is swinging the other way. Both Apple and Facebook follow \"closed garden\" models, and both are easy and convenient to use.
Last year Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff argued in Wired that this is the wave of the future. The key reason, in their argument, is the growing importance of mobile access, which puts a premium on ease and convenience.
More Than Just a Tech Standard
The new McNamee interview at TechCrunch does not fully reject this line of argument, but suggests a more complicated picture. Notably, the interview suggests that the still-evolving HTML 5 standard promises to make Web-based apps as easy to use as today\'s smartphone apps.
Says McNamee, \"[HTML 5] is going to unleash creative power and give us companies of the scale of Google and Facebook, but doing things we can\'t even imagine today.\"
Perhaps the key underlying fact is that people want to do a variety of things online. Some of these actions are frequently repeated, making ease of use primary, and favoring closed-garden environments. Other actions are inherently more complex and varied and lead users out of the closed garden model. An app that helps a user choose a restaurant online needs to be simple, but in order to be valuable, it needs to give the user a full range of eateries to choose from.
If neither model dominates, a successful online presence will likely accommodate both. For IT professionals, the HTML 5 standard will become one way of providing access to the full range of possibilities for both the firm itself and its customers.
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