The news broke yesterday about the Microsoft General Manager who said that that the “future of the Web is HTML 5.”

But it’s important enough for us to write about even if in the long run it still does not solve the issues with earlier versions of the Internet Explorer browser.

The news came from Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft’s general manager, for Internet Explore. Of note:

“Today, video on the web is predominantly Flash-based. While video may be available in other formats, the ease of accessing video using just a browser on a particular website without using Flash is a challenge for typical consumers. Flash does have some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance. We work closely with engineers at Adobe, sharing information about the issues we know of in ongoing technical discussions. Despite these issues, Flash remains an important part of delivering a good consumer experience on today’s web.”

It’s this kind of development that will give more developers the confidence to build HTML 5 apps. But does it really matter that much? IE has been hands off in how it deals with support for HTML 5 on its existing browsers. Further, full support for HTML 5 is nonexistent across Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox and IE. We have no release schedule for IE 9 but it will support HTML 5.

HTML 5 is very cool. But IE’s market share is not to be taken lightly.

From Psyked:

“You can’t ignore 40-60% of your users because they use a browser that isn’t up to the same standard as its competitors. I’d dearly like too, but I can’t. Which means everything has to be developed without HTML5 & CSS 3, either using browser targeting and using multiple styles and coding options, or developed to the lowest common denominator – IE.

You might say that things will eventually catch up – but considering IE6 is still at 10% market share, you’re always going to be developing something for IE6, or IE7, or IE8. None of which have very much HTML5 support at all. IE9 isn’t going to be available for users on Windows XP, which means the best they’ll ever get is IE8, which means… argh, this really isn’t going to work.”

Microsoft’s acknowledgement should be viewed as a positive one for developers. HTML 5 can be used universally on any device. Google thinks that’s important. It’s good to see Microsoft showing that sentiment, too.

But still, let’s not give this too much credence, either. Microsoft’s first allegiance is to Silverlight. That’s not going to change.

We referenced a Forrester viewpoint post last week that illustrates the reality of the situation:

“Will HTML 5 make rich Internet application (RIA) technologies such as Adobe Flash/Flex and Microsoft Silverlight obsolete? For at least the next five years, the answer is a definite “no”; inconsistent implementations of the draft HTML 5 specification and immature tooling make building HTML 5 apps that work consistently across browsers and operating systems a real challenge. Furthermore, this “either/ or” scenario is driven only by vendor politics, not by developer realities. Ultimately, HTML 5 and RIA platforms will be complementary technologies, and enterprise development shops will need to invest in both approaches to deliver expressive applications that combine reach and richness.”

Well, vendor politics will always be rich in themselves. In the meantime, HTML 5 sure is sexy. Unfortunately, it may be a while before we see how beautiful it really is.

alex williams