The latest course in our series on HTML5, HTML5: Local Storage and Offline Applications in Depth, is all about local storage: using the new features being implemented in modern web browsers that enable saving and managing data on a local client, whether it’s a desktop computer or mobile device. Author Bill Weinman has created many courses for lynda.com on web, database, and mobile application development subjects. Here are his thoughts on HTML5.
Q: What got you interested in HTML5?
A: I’ve been interested in HTML since the early ’90s. HTML is what makes the web accessible for anyone who wants to publish something and find an audience. Early versions of HTML served that purpose well, for those whose major expression is the written word, but for everyone else HTML had to evolve. By the time Lynda and I wrote the first edition of Creative HTML Design (New Riders, 1997) we could use the web for some rudimentary presentation, and we could publish other forms of media by using ‘helper’ programs that would be launched by the browser, but HTML5 finally brings reality to the promise of the web: a fully interactive rich media experience.
Q: What foundation skills would people need to get the most out of your HTML course(s)?
A: I’ve always been the propeller-head in the family, so my audience tends to be the developer rather than the designer. My courses are more about writing code than designing an overall experience. So if you’re my audience, you have coding experience of some kind, you know your way around a text editor, and you have taken my XHTML and HTML Essential Training and CSS for Developers courses. That said, I do try to explain things thoroughly enough that you can still gain some knowledge and experience from my courses even if your glasses aren’t taped together in the middle.
Q: What are some of the main issues for developers as they develop their HTML5 skill set?
A: In my mind the largest issue is the fragmentation of the browser market. As of today, the major browser vendors are staking out positions on supporting or not supporting the various technologies in the disparate HTML5 proposals. We’ve already seen one major advancement lose its W3C support. Now we have a situation where, if you want your database application to run on all the major browsers you need to write your database code twice, for two entirely different and completely incompatible technologies, and detect which database is supported at run time. This kind of fragmentation threatens the viability of HTML5 for the future.
Q: What inspires you about HTML5?
A: HTML5 and its related technologies offer the opportunity to finally deliver the fully interactive, immersive experience that the web has promised all along. HTTP is a stateless protocol, which makes it challenging to produce the kind of immersive experience that you can achieve with a desktop application. AJAX and jQuery have bridged that gap to some extent, but without the support of a standard there was only so far that effort could ever go. With HTML5 a lot of that functionality has become more accessible to the average developer. What comes next is the fun part: What will people do with this new power? Where will the development community take it? What new applications will people devise for things like local storage, web workers, and even drag-and-drop?
Q: Where do you get your information about HTML5?
A: I tend to go to the source— I’ll read the specs and write my own code to experiment and learn about it. For me, the fun is in the discovery and the trial and error. I know that’s the part that most people find frustrating, but think about it—where would the rest of you be without a few folks like us to figure it all out for you!? I enjoy learning about it, then designing simple examples so I can teach it clearly.
Q: What is your favorite gadget? What do you wish you owned?
A: My favorite gadget is my iPad. And what amazes me most is that it’s still my favorite gadget after having it for over a year! That doesn’t happen very often. Recently I’ve been playing with Garage Band on it. Wow! As for wishes, I think my next gadget is going to be a DSLR. I haven’t had a good camera in a long time. I’ll probably get a Nikon or a Canon.