I recently read a preview of a column which is to be published in the next addition of ACM CHI magazine, Interactions. This particular article is a rather interesting read in that it touches upon what the authors argue are the many short-comings in current Gestural Interfaces; stating that they pose a huge step backwards in terms of Usability.
This may not have raised many eyebrows if it were not for the expertise of the articles authors, Donald A. Norman and Jakob Nielsen; both of whom know quite a bit about HCI.
Experimentation in new technology and the process of learning what works and what does not can be challenging. This article raises some important, yet mostly overlooked, concerns surrounding new technologies which are built upon Gestural Interfaces; i.e. current touch screen devices such as iOS and Android. Certainly a good read for anyone interested in Touch Screen development. Gestural Interfaces: A Step Backwards In Usability
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford
The HTML5 Family of Technologies has been receiving considerable coverage lately; and, rightfully so, as, many next generation browsers – specifically those in the Mobile space based on WebKit: Android, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry etc. are now beginning to implement it’s specification, or parts thereof. On the Desktop more HTML5 support is also being seen in the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE9 and Opera.
The HTML5 Family of technologies will without question play a vital role in the future of the web; and currently, in the mobile Web space, that future is now.
A Brief Overview of the HTML5 Family
For anyone who is unfamiliar with what has been termed “The HTML5 Family“, allow me to provide succinct overview of the technologies which I feel encompass what has already become a rather overloaded term. In general, on a very high level, I would summarize the HTML5 Family simply as follows:
While the above could be considered the umbrella Technologies upon which The HTML5 Family is based, there are certainly more associated technologies which themselves further augment what could be considered the HTML5 Family, some of which are (based on current specification status at the time of this writing ):
Web Storage (localStorage, sessionStorage) APIs
Web SQL Database API
Web Workers API
Web Sockets API
First, HTML5. HTML5 is the next major revision of HTML which aims to advance the open Web through web standards and semantically rich content. HTML5 defines an emphasis on semantic structure and meaning.
In general, HTML5 provides a content model which can be broadly defined into the following categories: Metadata content, Flow content, Sectioning content, Heading content, Phrasing content, Embedded content and Interactive content as well as form-associated elements etc.. HTML5 defines new tags such as canvas, audio, video, keygen, header, footer, nav, article, aside, datalist and more.
HTML5 Microdata provides a mechanism which allows machine-readable data to be embedded in HTML documents in the form of annotations, with an unambiguous parsing model. Microdata is compatible with numerous data formats such as JSON. Micro-data is intended to provide a standard to replace other similar concepts such as RDFa, from which browsers and other applications can discover relevant content based on the context of an applications markup. Such examples include markup for contact information, calendar events and more. This markup is understood by HTML5 compatible browsers which can then automatically offer to add the relevant content to the appropriate application. At an implementation level, microdata simply consists of a group of name-value pairs; with the groups being called items, and each name-value pair is a property.
The HTML5 Geolocation API is rather straightforward; it simply provides a means by which the location of a device can be determined via a native API (as opposed to say, determining the clients IP address). The Geolocation spec is currently in last call status in the W3C.
Device APIs are client-side APIs which allow for direct interaction with native device services such as a device Camera, Calendar, Contacts etc.
Web Storage API
The Web Storage API allows for the persistence of local (permanent) and session based (browser session) data on the client. The API for Web Storage is extremely simple as it is based upon simple Key / Value pairs; with which Keys are simply Strings. Each site contains its own separate storage area.
Web SQL Database
While not a part of the actual HTML5 specification, the Web SQL Database presents some extremely interesting possibilities within Web Applications. The Web SQL Database provides a set of APIs which allow for the manipulation of client-side databases using SQL. The Web SQL Database is based upon SQLite (3.1.19) thus supporting the features as specified therein.
Web Workers API
Web Workers provide a mechanism by which web content can execute scripts in background threads. Web Workers allow for a much needed multi-threaded implementation for web based applications executing in a browser. While somewhat similar, Web Workers are different from threads in that they are primarily intended for executing long running, expensive computations and algorithms so as to facilitate non-blocking UI background processes. One specific aspect of Web Workers which has considerable positive implications for the web moving forward is that they run in native threads as opposed to Green Threads; as is the case in VM architectures. This is quite significant as it essentially means Web Workers can scale vertically. Considering the inevitable proliferation of multi-core desktop and mobile devices, this is certainly something that will prove advantageous.
Web Sockets API
If you are interested in learning more about each of these technologies I recommend the following resources:
Moving forward, I plan to go into further detail for each of these associated HTML5 Family technologies, providing working examples and detailed information as to how each can be utilized to create some very unique and interesting possibilities on the Web.