Sencha: The 2012 HTML5 Wishlist

Our Top Ten HTML5 Wishes for 2012 It’s that time of year, and we’re once again publishing our HTML5 wishlist. But before we do that, let’s see how our 2011 wishes went. On balance, we didn’t do so bad. Out of our ten wishes, four came through. Here are the HTML5 wishes that became reality in 2011. We wished for:

  • A richer CSS3 effects toolbox; and lo there was CSS Filters, a port of the sophisticated filters available in SVG to the DOM.
  • High performance position: fixed for mobile browsers; and we were granted it in iOS 5’s Mobile Safari. Now we’re waiting for other devices to catch up.
  • Pervasive GPU acceleration; and we were pleased to see the BlackBerry PlayBook and Android 4.0 join iOS’s excellent implementation of accelerated graphics.
  • Websockets stabilization: and we got a Christmas present of RFC 6455 and the W3C Candidate Recommendation for the web sockets protocol and API respectively.

But our other six wishes didn’t fare so well. There was only minor progress toward deeper device access on mobile browsers and developers continued to use native wrappers to access cameras and microphones. WebSQL stayed dead as a standards track technology (and its performance even decreased in iOS 5). We also saw slow progress on IndexedDB implementations. The rival HTML5 codec camps remained entrenched with little prospect of harmony, even as the mobile patent battles raged across global jurisdictions and institutions, and live debugging on mobile browsers remained a difficult task.

In the “welcome surprise” category, Microsoft impressed us with its support for HTML5 in the IE10 preview, showing a solid commitment to the latest HTML5 and CSS3 standards. Finally, and disappointingly, many of WebKit’s nicest proprietary extensions, like @background-clip: text@, remained off the standards track and omitted from other browsers.

So, looking forward to 2012, we’ve got a new top ten wish list for HTML5 and for the browser makers. Some of 2011’s top wishes make a comeback, but others are brand new. We don’t claim these are definitive, but a motley collection of what we think would be most interesting for developers creating the rich and responsive applications that HTML5 was built for.

10. HTML Media implementations

Although we got some support for photo uploads in Android, web browser support for media capture and other HTML5 media technologies remains elusive. As a result, mobile web developers, in particular, have to wrap their web apps in a shell to get device API access. Camera access is the #1 feature reason for HTML5 developers to deploy to native rather than web, and given Apple’s leadership in almost every other area of mobile web, it remains a glaring omission for Mobile Safari.

9. HTML5 audio quality

While long-playing HTML5 audio works in most places, short-form audio, particularly for the features that games need, is lacking. Synchronizing audio with video or animations, multi-channel and mixing are all features that developers want. There are a number of early stage drafts to create standards for richer media handling, so that’s encouraging. Perhaps by the end of the year, we’ll be looking at solid desktop support, at the very least, with some standardization in round 2 of working drafts. We wish.

8. Better Offline Caching

HTML5 cache manifests are great for basic offline application support, but they require developers to know in advance what their assets are, declare them in a file and link the file into their pages. Mobile browsers in particular have had idiosyncratic and occasionally buggy interpretations of cache manifests. So, we’re wishing for a more dynamic, easier caching mechanism, ideally one that has some JavaScript APIs.

7. Web Intents: Standardization & support

Web Intents are a great mechanism to allow web applications to hand off tasks to one another, without knowing in advance who and what the offloading web app is. Invented by Paul Kinlan from Chrome, and inspired by Android’s intents system, they’re a neat way to allow web applications to collaborate on tasks. We’re wishing for a speedy standards track draft and good interoperable Firefox and WebKit implementations by the middle of the year.

6. WebGL Everywhere

It’s here, it works, it’s gorgeous. We’re even supporting a framework for WebGL. It looks fantastic on desktop. Our (probably fruitless) wish for 2012 is that IE10 supports WebGL, and we get ubiquitous WebGL on mobile. With iOS planning to support WebGL only within iAds, at least for now, it looks like we might wait a while to get that broadly, but we’re wishing for it anyway.

5. IndexedDB

2011 put a stake through the heart of WebSQL (thanks to Mozilla’s leadership) but IndexedDB is not ubiquitous yet. On desktop, Safari has yet to ship it, and it’s not here on mobile. Until then, developers continue to roll their own shims on top of local storage and WebSQL to get cross-browser offline data storage. We’re wishing for IndexedDB everywhere this year.

4. Right-sizing images src helps developers deliver the right image size to any mobile device, but in our opinion this is a neat solution for something that should be solved in standards. Karl Dubost from Opera points out that there was a proposal back in the day to enable this at the HTTP layer. However, given today’s cloud environments where developers often dont get to tweak their web servers and vanilla HTTP is the only thing available, this won’t fly. It needs to be added to either HTML or CSS. We’re hoping the CSS4(!) Images standard now in “pre-draft” form will get some love and attention this year.

3. Contacts API

We’d like contacts access without having to use a shell API. So would lots of our developers. There’s a spec from Nokia and friends but too few implementations.

2. Background Services

We’d also like to see more capabilities for managing multiple resources and handling background tasks. Chrome, once again, is leading on implementing these OS-y type services. Web notifications are in working draft and we wish they get broader implementation this year. We’d also like to see server-sent events get the wake-up behavior that’s spec’d.

1. Better Mobile Browser Debugging

And for the second year in the row, we’re asking for better mobile browser debuggability and profiling. Chrome’s remote debugging feature has been made to run on BlackBerry PlayBook, there is no reason others can’t follow it. Scriptable debugging/profiling would greatly assist mobile application QA, something that’s currently a painful task in mobile web app (and framework :-) ) development.

So that’s it! We know lots of our wishes have to do with mobile, since that’s where new technologies get adopted and reach critical mass the fastest. But it’s also the environment that’s hardest to hack around shortcomings, since the iOS and Windows Phone environments are so tightly controlled. And there’s a much longer list of things that we could add here (better, easier crypto for one, WebCL and more) but we’ll stop here in the interests of brevity. What’s your favorite wish for 2012? Give us your feedback in the comments!

Written by

Michael Mullany is the CEO at Sencha. He has held various product and executive marketing roles at influential Silicon Valley startups -- Netscape, Loudcloud, and VMware. He holds an MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics from Harvard College.


  1. seasharp2 says

    Surely the biggest unexpected HTML5 news event of 2011 was Microsoft’s decision to embrace HTML5 and by implication deprecate its home grown Silverlight technology. Some of those shell shocked MS dev troopers will discover Sencha Nivana.

    My wish for 2012 is to witness Ed Spencer (in the role of Harry Potter) jump on his broom stick and engage in mortal combat with the JQuery dragon. My money will be on Ed since the poor dragon will be weighed down by the mass of all those incompatible widgets in the JQuery UI gallery.

  2. Tim says

    When will we be talking about HTML5 Form which seem’s basic stuff and still not implemented (except for Opera) ?
    My wish is starting use standard slider, date picker and so on for building more intuitive web app easily.

    I love the two first wishes, because a standard audio api would make thing easier for everyone.
    A camera access would open a lot of field on web like augmented reality, virtual reality, live retouching pictures and prevent me doing C++ / xhr request on each frame :)

  3. says

    There are ways to pre-process JavaScript to make it debuggable on any client, including mobile ones, but with WIP maturing, I think we’ll see Android showing the way when it includes Chrome as the default browser, hopefully in time for I/O. It is better to use a baked in solution. And remote Illuminations for Chrome on a SenchaTouch app would be pretty cool.

  4. says

    I wish for native CSS centering of block-level elements. We have “text-align”; why can’t we have “block-align” which could either be “center” or “auto” and centers all direct children including text and block elements?

    Using “margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;” is not apparent to beginners and it is not guaranteed to function this way since the W3 CSS spec doesn’t specifically mention this trick.

    Something to make column layouts easy to mark up would also be nice.

  5. says

    It’s not the better mobile debigger, but I use the Firebug Lite adding the code below in favorites. It helps a little! ;-D

    [removed](function(F,i,r,e,b,u,g,L,I,T,E){if(F.getElementById(b))return;E=F[i+'NS']&&F.documentElement.namespaceURI;E=E?F[i+'NS'](E,’script’):F[i](‘script’);E[r](‘id’,b);E[r](‘src’,I+g+T);E[r](b,u);(F[e](‘head’)[0]||F[e](‘body’)[0]).appendChild(E);E=new Image;E[r](‘src’,I+L);})(document,’createElement’,’setAttribute’,’getElementsByTagName’,’FirebugLite’,’4′,’firebug-lite.js’,’releases/lite/latest/skin/xp/sprite.png’,’’,’#startOpened’);

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