A recent article on ZDNet, 10 things you should know about HTML5, brought to mind the good old days. I wrote my first web site in early 1995, back before there was a World Wide Web Consortium, before there were hundreds of thousands of web sites, before Internet Explorer was even a gleam in Bill Gates’ eye, and HTML 1.0 had recently been ratified. I had to manually install a TCP/IP stack in DOS (underlying Windows 3.11), and bought a book on the proposed HTML 2.0 standard to use with my purchased 3½” disc of the new Netscape 2.0. Yes, I wrote my first several sites using Notepad, before moving up to the superior Notepad++. Netscape had some good debugging tools built in that IE never felt the need to mimic.
The first deficiency that I noticed in the HTML standard was that there was no graphical mode. They had no way to draw a box, a line, a circle, or any graphical image except for the img tag to import Microsoft BMP and CompuServe GIF files. The open JPG standard was just coming out. I couldn’t believe it. The HPGL vector language seemed pretty standard to me back then, and has since become the universal vector drawing protocol in plotters and such. But somehow the designers of the new, image-based World Wide Web addition to the Internet had no apparent plan to explicitly support graphics.
Sure, one could buy Flash and embed it as an object on a page. But it was expensive, clumsy, and not widely deployed back in the 300/1200/2400 baud world.
But now, only sixteen years later the W3C is finally putting together the new HTML 5.0 standard, including both vector and video graphics as part of the basic language! Because of the now-entrenched nature of Flash, that isn’t going away quickly. After all, many web sites still use the CompuServe GIF 1989a (formerly proprietary) image format. But Flash or DivX or QuickTime will no longer be necessary to build fully graphical web pages.