Will Microsoft Implement HTML5 in Internet Explorer?

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IE HTML5Microsoft has remained suspiciously tight-lipped regarding their plans for HTML5 in Internet Explorer. Google, Mozilla, Apple, and Opera all consider HTML5 to be the future and are eagerly implementing facilities within their browsers. Google has even developed Wave, their new online communication system, using HTML5 technology.

Unfortunately, IE is the only mainstream browser that fails to provide rudimentary HTML5 support. Bruce Lawson’s article, Yes, You Can Use HTML 5 Today!, provides a solution but it relies on JavaScript so it’s not viable in all situations.

However, it appears that the Redmond-based software giant is finally examining the implications of HTML5. The following message was recently posted by Microsoft’s Adrian Bateman in a mailing list:

As part of our planning for future work, the IE team is reviewing the current editor’s draft of the HTML5 spec and gathering our thoughts. We want to share our feedback and discuss this in the working group. I will post our notes as we collect them so we can iterate on our thinking more quickly. At this stage we have more questions than answers but I believe that discussing them in public is the best way to make progress.

The post reveals some valid questions and criticisms of the HTML5 draft specification, although it’s unclear whether Microsoft has raised the issues directly with the W3C/WHATWG working group.

Microsoft are in no rush to implement HTML5, but perhaps that’s not surprising: it’s still a draft specification. Could HTML5 succeed without Internet Explorer? The browser’s market share may be dwindling, but how may developers would consider HTML5 if 60% of users were unable to use it?

Historically, Microsoft have followed standards — and even led them — but only when it’s to their advantage. They conveniently drop functionality if it’s a competitor to MS products such as Silverlight. I suspect HTML5 will make an appearance in IE9, but doubt Microsoft will ever be inclined to implement rich-media facilities such as the canvas, audio and video tags. We’re still waiting for SVG support!

Can HTML5 be a success without Microsoft’s full backing? Could HTML5 be considered a “standard” if it wasn’t implemented in the world’s most popular browser?

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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