A year and a half after Steve Jobs endorsed it in an unusual essay, a set of programming techniques called HTML5 is rapidly winning over the Web.
The technology allows Internet browsers to display jazzed-up images and effects that react to users’ actions, delivering game-like interactivity without installing additional software. Developers can use HTML5 to get their creations on a variety of smartphones, tablets and PCs without tailoring apps for specific hardware or the online stores that have become gatekeepers to mobile commerce.
“HTML5 is a major step forward,” declares venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who helped invent the first successful browser, Netscape, in the 1990s.
Another Silicon Valley investor, Roger McNamee, predicts the technology will let artists, media companies and advertisers differentiate their Web offerings in ways that weren’t practical before. “HTML5 is going to put power back in the hands of creative people,” he says.
Many companies are placing bets. Amazon.com Inc. used HTML5 for a Web-based app called Kindle Cloud Reader that sidesteps Apple rules for selling content on its iPhone and iPads.
“Angry Birds” creator Rovio Entertainment Ltd. developed an HMTL5 version that lobs avian projectiles at enemy pigs with no need for an app. Pandora Media Inc. used the technology to overhaul its popular Internet radio website, which launches more quickly and helps users more easily track others’ listening patterns. Publications including Playboy and Sports Illustrated used HTML5 to let online readers boost the size of photos and rapidly flip through them.
The trend has been fueled by Apple, Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.—rivals that more often disagree about technology choices—by building HTML5 support into their latest Web browsers. So have the Mozilla Foundation, maker of Firefox, and Opera Software ASA.
Some 34% of the 100 most popular websites used HTML5 in the quarter ended in September, according to binvisions.com, a blog that tracks Web technologies. Resume searches by hiring managers looking for HTML5 expertise more than doubled between the first quarter and the third quarter, according the tech job site Dice.com.
The excitement has spread despite the fact that HTML5 is missing some key features. Many users, moreover, won’t notice striking differences from websites that use Flash.
But Flash, a dominant Web technology before the advent of smartphones, relies on downloaded add-ins to browsers called plug-ins. Mr. Jobs withheld support for the approach in iPhones and iPads, and railed against it his April 2010 essay “Thoughts on Flash.”