SitePoint Podcast #61: HTML5 = The Kitchen Sink

Kevin Yank

Episode 61 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week your hosts are Patrick O’Keefe (@iFroggy), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves), and Kevin Yank (@sentience).

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You can also download this episode as a standalone MP3 file. Here’s the link:

  • SitePoint Podcast #61: HTML5 = The Kitchen Sink (MP3, 45.1MB, 49:09)

Episode Summary

Here are the topics covered in this episode:

  1. Global Grind Content Theft Update
  2. HTML5 the Marketing Term vs HTML5 the Specification

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at

Host Spotlights

Show Transcript

Kevin: May 14th, 2010. There’s HTML5 and then there’s HTML5, but what’s the difference? Plus: Patrick updates us on the Global Grind content theft. I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #61: HTML5 = The Kitchen Sink.

And we’re back with another news and commentary episode.

I, of course, am Kevin Yank and joined today by Patrick O’Keefe and Stephan Seagraves.

Brad is hosting some sort of Word Press meetup or something like that at the moment.

He’s a hard working guy so we gave him the week off. Seemed like he deserved it, right guys?

Patrick: Eh.

Stephan: Meh.

Kevin: (laugh) So, you know, it feels like it’s been a busy couple of weeks, but it’s been busy with a lot of the stuff we were talking about. I think we’re on top of most of the stuff that happened, there’s not a lot to say. The last time we were together we were talking about the Palm Web OS situation and almost immediately after we finished recording Hewlett Packard came in and bought Palm. So we’ll talk a bit today about what that may mean and some of the buzz words that are being thrown around perhaps incorrectly.

But before we do an update on a story— another update from a story last week, Patrick?

Patrick: Update, update, update. So last week we talked about Global Grind. It was a story that I wrote about on my personal blog. Basically, to summarize, Global Grind is or was a kind of social news and blog network hybrid, think Digg for a kind of a hip hop/urban community. I found that they were scraping content from many sites; scraping articles in full without really — and the attribution that they provided; it was similar to the Digg bar but worse because there was no direct link. It was all through their bar; all external links were through this sort of top bar. And, of course, then you have the issue of the links being with content that is completely taken away. So fair use is out the window when you excerpt nothing and you take the entire work.

They were doing it to my site and that’s how I took notice. I tried to contact them privately and we talked and no action. Weeks later — so I wrote my post. It got a lot of attention on Twitter and on Facebook, 114 tweets and 17 shares as we talk right now and probably within six days Global Grind addressed most of the issues, and shortly thereafter they addressed the rest of them. To address the full text scraping they now quote excerpts and all of the past content has been cut down to an excerpt. They say they will quote no more than 250 characters, which puts them in line with Digg, for example, which quotes no more than 350 or allows you to enter a description of no more than 350. Their top bar is dead completely in every aspect; it’s no longer linked on their site. The old links that were through it now go to their site, the page on their site for that article. There is no more framed content so that part of it is gone. Like I said, the content is excerpted, and even better, the links on their site are now all direct links since there’s no bar to pass them through. They’ve said they won’t scrape content in the future, content scraping, that’s done with and if they take any work from any other site it will be excerpted again at 250 characters. And they added also a more visible source link where previously they had a link on the article page itself. Now they have a more bold link on that page and also a mention on the index page which, again, puts them in line with Digg.

So all in all they addressed all of my concerns and appear to be operating on the up and up at this point.

Kevin: Yeah. So you would now consider them a good citizen of the Web.

Patrick: Well, yes, I would consider them a good citizen of the web based on how they are right now. Now, of course, this has to continue, they can’t revert back and, of course, I would say that full text scraping isn’t something that should happen with any legitimate outfit. It’s not something that necessarily I should have to point out. A company with this amount of funding and people behind it should never have run into this type of issue. So the issues here are simply wrong. The full text scraping not so much, the bar, the changes only happened once I pointed it out and put it in public. And they still haven’t acknowledged it publicly the issue itself. They’ve fixed it but nothing publicly mentioned about it.

And a couple of their editors actually came and mentioned — one was rather attacking toward me, and another was kind of making excuses.

Kevin: Hmm. So those responses from the editors were really interesting to me. I mean I guess we need to be fair and say that was their own opinions not endorsed by their own employer.

Obviously someone at Global Grind agreed with you or at least was forced to agree with you after you brought the issue out in public. But one of the editors criticizing you by saying that you can’t be a hater, you have to be willing to work with people on the Web; hearing you telling the story before they finally caved, it seemed to me like you were the one that was trying to work with them and they were the ones who wouldn’t answer your email.

Patrick: Right. Weeks before, four weeks before I even published this article I had spoken to them about it and they had said we could do this, we could do that, but they didn’t actually do anything. Now there was some response, in some cases I had to send two emails to get a response, but they didn’t take action and that’s what led me to write the post. And what the editor said is like you said, it’s just their opinion, it’s not necessarily a reflection of Global Grind. But, you know, it was interesting to watch, overall the response was pretty positive from people, but in this case the editor wasn’t happy with me and said that I was lying and hating and that’s a problem, I think, and something I point out in the post is the idea of criticism being hating is something that is prevalent in some areas, especially in entertainment and music especially. Where you have a lot of musicians, a lot of artists on Twitter, and so on, and if you criticize their work you’re a hater. And that kind of disposition just leaves you to be surrounded by yes men, yes women, and enablers where we never get better. And that’s the same thing for anything whether it be a web designer or a musician.

Kevin: So the other thing that surprised me, the responses you got from people who said they knew this was — like content creators, people who their career is hinging on their ability to create and publish and benefit from successful content on the Web who were replying to you and saying, yeah, I kind of knew this was going on, and it really sucked but I didn’t know you could do anything about it. People who write content on the Web and who had never heard of a DMCA take down notice? I found that shocking.

Patrick: You know, I don’t know what phenomenon that can be tied to. I think in some cases that was people who were maybe not — this isn’t a career, and for others it is something that, hey, they would be happy if it became a career. But, you know —

Kevin: Well, I’d like to go over that for the benefit of our listeners because if you are a content creator and even if that just means that you’re a blogger and every once in a while you really hope that one of your blog posts will get highlighted, take off in a big way and make you some Google AdWords money, you’ve got a horse in this game, and you have some powerful tools at your disposal to assert your ownership over your own content.

Patrick: You do, and it’s something that I’m familiar with from my own writing and having a book and stuff and having that pirated and having to take care of it. The DMCA is controversial, a lot of people are critical of it, but if it’s used in its intended way it’s actually very helpful where it doesn’t discriminate based on your amount of income or how large you are. A major company, an individual, they both file the same essential notice, this DMCA notice, that goes to a host of the content. Now that can — in this case Global Grind might be a host, Digg, for example, is a host; if they list an item on their site in their index that is pirated then you can file a DMCA notice with them. But most often it goes to the web host and then the web host, at least if they’re based in the U.S., and other countries have similar acts in many cases, some don’t, but they are forced to take the content offline, disable access to it, or they themselves could then be held liable for it.

Now, it is built for abuse as well. I’ve had a false DMCA notice filed against me once. And you can counter-notice if you completely believe and know that you are in the right, and your host will have to put that content back up. Then the onus is placed on the person who placed the original claim because now they can sue you because you’ve taken liability for that content that you’ve taken. So it’s a powerful thing. It can be confusing the first time. There’s a great resource that I always recommend; it’s Plagiarism Today, and, and the author is Jonathan Bailey and he has just a ton of resources at the top of the site if you click on ‘stop internet plagiarism’ he walks you through the entire thing. And the first time it may take 20 minutes, a half hour, but after you take care of it that first time you have your template; it’s really only a minute or two, if that, to file future notices.

Kevin: So, I mentioned the other story from our last big news episode that we’re going to update today, and that is the Palm story. We were talking about Palm, and I think Brad said “speaking of things that are failing, Palm.”

Patrick: And now he disappeared.

Kevin: Yeah.

Patrick: So, take that for what it’s worth folks.

Kevin: Hmm, interesting indeed. Yeah, but immediately after the show Palm sort of got a new lease on life depending on your point of view. Hewlett Packard went and bought them. And there’s a lot of speculation out there over why they bought them and what exactly they’re going to do with the different pieces of what Palm does. Reading what Hewlett Packard has said on the subject, which is not a whole lot, reading their stuff though they seem to be really excited about the operating system that runs on Palm’s current phone devices, and that is WebOS. And the core of that operating system is written around the idea that you will build applications using web technologies—HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Palm had recently announced a native SDK for building native apps like games and things like that on these devices, but that was really not the core and they were still encouraging developers who are building apps suited to that sort of platform to use web technologies wherever possible. Now, so the rumor mill is spinning of course as usual, and people are saying, oh, Hewlett Packard is making a bet here on the Web as an application platform; they’re going to throw away all of Palm’s phones that no one is buying, and what they’re going to do is build a tablet device of some kind to compete with the 800 pound gorilla in this space now, which is Apple, compete with them and bring out a tablet device that has an application platform built on web technologies. And, yeah, people are talking. Lots of people are talking. Not least of which is Steve Jobs who posted a gigantic open letter to the Web called Thoughts on Flash. And I have promised our listeners not to descend into iPhone propaganda for at least another couple of months.

Patrick: But you lie! Ha, ha, ha.

Kevin: Ah-ha-ha-ha! No, I’m going to do my best — let’s do our best to avoid that aspect of this.

Patrick: It’s a good letter.

Kevin: What I’m interested in, in this letter though, is that when Steve Jobs holds up Flash and says that this is not something we want to support on our devices, the alternative he presents is this thing called HTML5. And I don’t know about you guys but I’m finding any time HTML5 is mentioned these days I have to do a lot of work to figure out exactly what it is they’re talking about.

Patrick: I have to do that every time someone mentions HTML, so I’m with you.

Kevin: (laughs) Stephan do you know what I mean?

Stephan: Yeah, it’s kind of — it’s a boondoggle I think is the best way to describe it. It’s being thrown at you, you know.

Kevin: (whispers) What’s a boondoggle?

Patrick: You just made people think more.

Stephan: Look that one up.

Well, I think that there’s just so much going on right now with HTML5, and people are doing different things and we’re seeing cool things developed with it and then cool examples. Everyone’s getting in this idea that we can make an app that performs like Flash with HTML5. And it’s kind of like hmm, uh, yeah, I don’t know. I’m still — I’m a little torn.

Kevin: Yeah. So, there’s this blog post, this essay sort of thing by a web developer named Ben Ward called Understand the Web. And he kind of goes off on a semi-unfocused rant about these issues; he’s a bit all over the place with it, but I tend to agree with most of what he says, he’s just saying a lot of different things. But one of the things he says is that “HTML5 now refers to a collection of related client-side technologies branded together as a product. It is no longer just a hypertext specification document, and everything that concerns document semantics is being ignored anyway.” So, let’s unpack that a little.

What he’s saying is that we have HTML5, this tag language, and if you open up Dreamweaver and start writing HTML code, there is a new specification coming called HTML5 that adds some new tags and clarifies the rules around how browsers read those documents, and to call that HTML5 is quite correct. But that specification all by itself is not going to take on Flash, is not going to power WebOS as the next mobile application platform; you have to add a lot of stuff to it. So, there’s HTML5, this document language standard that is being worked on, and then there’s HTML5 this mystical product that every time people say it’s not good enough to do something, people expand the definition to go, oh, well, if we also add some new JavaScript features to HTML5 they weren’t part of HTML5 yesterday, but today they are because we need HTML5 to be able to do this so it can take on Flash.

So this product name, HTML5, is this ever expanding definition of things, it’s this tool kit to take on the Flash technology of the world, and we’re constantly chucking more stuff into that tool box so that HTML5 is becoming this big, heavy thing that you have to lug around every time you want to get into a fight with Flash.

Stephan, you sent around this link to a slide show about HTML5.

Stephan: It was done in HTML5.

Kevin: Yeah. It’s really impressive. But this now, this slide show for me is about HTML5 the product, not HTML5 the standard for documents. So, one of the very first slides says, I think this is slide four, it says HTML5 is roughly equal to HTML plus CSS plus JavaScript APIs. Now correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that the entire Web?

Stephan: Yeah, why don’t you just call it web technologies? I mean HTML5 is just to me it’s always been the spec. I mean back when we first started talking about HTML5 that’s what it was, right? When we first started talking about the spec we were like, ooh, this is a new tag that they’re adding, you know, and this is ones they’ve taken out. That was what we were talking about. Now we’re talking about Ajax and Geo Location and kinds of — and I never thought of that stuff as HTML5. I think it’s really throwing people, and I think it’s going to continue to throw people.

Kevin: Yeah, the timeline in this presentation on the slide three is pretty interesting as well. It presents a rough timeline of web technologies. But for me I would say this isn’t a timeline of web technologies, this is a timeline of hot web buzz words. In 1991 everyone was excited about HTML. Just HTML by itself was exciting enough. People were all excited about these things called web browsers that could display HTML.

Stephan: People, like seven.

Kevin: It was a simpler time. 1994 came and HTML2 was the cool new thing, and that’s around the time where I got interested in this stuff. Fast forward to 1996 and CSS entered the picture, and very quickly behind it JavaScript; so now we had these three technologies working side by side, but HTML was boring, that was the old Web. The new Web was CSS and JavaScript. In ’97 it was all about HTML4, and I would also put Dynamic HTML in that sort of year, that’s kind of the fourth generation browsers coming out and them all saying Dynamic HTML, which was just a new marketing term for HTML4, CSS, and JavaScript used together. We had CSS2 in 1998, XHTML in 2000—man, did that not pan out.

In 2002 tableless web design, which again—

Stephan: It’s a standard? Oh, wow.

Kevin: It’s just another name for CSS really. 2005, Ajax, and this is the one that feels the most to me like HTML 5 does today, Ajax, because once again, Ajax, when Jesse James Garrett first came out with the term Ajax it meant something very specific. It stood for something very specific; Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. But within six months the web marketing machine had whipped into its usual frenzy and turned Ajax from this very specific technical acronym into a marketing term. And so much so that we don’t even spell it in all capital letters anymore, these days we tend to spell Ajax with just a capital A because it’s a word with a very vague meaning. And I would not be surprised to see us spelling HTML5 with only a capital H very soon because we’re no longer talking about HyperText Markup Language; we’re talking about the entire collection of “the next big thing” coming to web browsers.

Stephan: My vote is modern web technologies. That’s what we should call it. MWT.

Patrick: Oh boy. Trademark.

When look at this timeline, what I think of is where is HTML3?

Kevin: Mmm! It got eclipsed by CSS1 and JavaScript in there somewhere.

Patrick: Wasn’t quite the buzz word.

Stephan: Was there a full spec? I don’t even — I don’t remember.

Kevin: 3.2 was the big one. Like when we were talking about HTML4 everyone was saying it’s better than HTML 3.2 for these reasons. But, yeah, I guess nothing really exciting happened between versions 2 and 3.2.

Stephan: What gets me is that when he defines HTML as roughly, he’s got the kind of like sign there; he’s got kind of equals HTML plus CSS plus JavaScript APIs. So it kind of equals that. Then what really is it, right? And that’s really the question I have.

Kevin: Well, it’s nothing.

Stephan: Yeah, it’s a document, right. So I mean I just — I’m kind of the mindset that we’re throwing around this term willy nilly and hoping that someone’s going pay us to do something with it somewhere down the line.

Kevin: Well, you go to the very last slide of that presentation and he uses a hard equals sign and even makes it red. He says HTML5 equals next generation features for modern web development.

Stephan: Oh man, he’s close. One word off.

Kevin: (laughs) Um, yeah. I wonder how many people actually get to the end of this presentation. It’s really impressive. As you say, it is built in “HTML5”, but a lot of these slides you can actually play with parts of them and see the actual features that are being talked about. Obviously you need a fairly up-to-date browser to view this, and if you’ve turned JavaScript off on this page you get a blank page, which I think is in itself just evidence of how this is not HTML we’re talking about. If it were you would be able to see something without JavaScript enabled. But this is not an HTML document; this is HTML and CSS being used on the fly with JavaScript to display something really impressive in your browser.

But quickly flicking through the pages there’s the green labeled pages which are about JavaScript features. There’s a few red labeled pages about HTML features, and then like the whole second half is stuff in CSS. So, yeah, it’s a mix here we’re talking about. I guess when Steve Jobs says we don’t need Flash, we support HTML5, and developers should be using HTML5, you gotta sort of look at that word HTML5 and go “insert web technology of the day here”. Whatever web browsers are letting you do without Flash, that’s kind of what HTML 5 means in that context.

Stephan: And I think it’s being touted as open, right? HTML5 is being touted as open by Apple, right?

Kevin: Yeah.

Stephan: And I don’t — that’s kind of a misnomer.

Kevin: Is it?

Stephan: I think so. It’s open but some of the technologies it relies on aren’t open, such as the video codec; what is it, H.264? Is that the video codec; is that what it’s called?

Kevin: Yeah.

Stephan: That’s not actually an open spec, right? That’s not an open codec. It’s a closed patented technology and that’s in HTML5, that’s what drives that video thing that we showed not too long ago.

Kevin: It’s in HTML5, the marketing term; it’s not in HTML5 the spec.

Stephan: Yeah, exactly.

Kevin: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Oh, it’s so confusing this stuff.

Ben Ward, whose essay I kind of quoted very quickly before, he says a few other things. He says “People are writing that the Web sucks, talking about it as an application platform.” And certainly, yeah, touching on the iPhone very briefly; when it first came out Apple wanted you to build applications for it using web technologies just like Palm wants you to do for their OS. And now we have Hewlett Packard apparently investing in that type of mobile application platform. But again, these efforts, these marketing people are casting the Web, web technology, as a platform for building applications, things that are not very web-like.

And Ben Ward quotes this guy, Sachin Agerwal, saying “Web applications don’t have threading, GPU acceleration, drag and drop, copy and paste of rich media, true offline access or persistence; are you kidding me?” And Ben Ward goes on to say “There in that quote is where I want to pull all this together. Sachin’s complaint has absolutely nothing to do with the Web. Think about that word, web, think about why it’s so named; it’s nothing to do with rich applications. Everything about web architecture, HTTP, HTML, CSS, is designed to serve and render content. But most importantly, the Web is formed where all of that content is linked together. That is what makes it amazing and that is what defines it. This purpose and killer application of the web is not even comparable to the application frameworks of any particular operating system.”

So Ben is frustrated that his web technology is being appropriated and twisted for use as an application development platform.

Patrick, I’m curious to hear what you think about this because you — I would cite you as an example of someone who is used to using web technology to build web, to build websites, interlinked documents, that sort of stuff. And probably once upon a time you felt like you had a pretty good handle on this HTML stuff. And today people are talking about building applications for their mobile phones using this stuff that you thought was for building websites.

Is this a frustration for you? Do you feel like you’re losing touch with the Web because people are trying to use it for things that it shouldn’t be used for?

Patrick: I’m in a fetal position right now. No, I wanted to say Sachin’s voice was pretty annoying when he was speaking back then, pretty annoying.

Kevin: Thank you. Thank you very much.

Patrick: Here’s the thing about me; so I’m not really a coder, and I guess most people who know me know that. So I have some knowledge, I can program a little of HTML and CSS. I don’t even know if you call that programming. I can write a little code. And I’ve never felt like I had a great grasp on it. My main concern is always like if it works well in the browsers that are popular on the site. And, I don’t know, like that’s just my perspective of it. Now, HTML5, I mean it sounds cool and everything, but to me it just seems like it’s going to be something else to do, more code, or something, and my hope, and this kind of relates to the app store in a way, I guess, is that the programs that I use hopefully will take advantage of those technologies in a way that is popular with the masses.

So, for example, phpBB is a piece of software I use a lot, or WordPress. And so I rely on them for most of my sites, to power most of my sites. So my faith is in them to create code and software that will be well received now and in the future when I upgrade to new versions.

I don’t know if that answers the question but there you go.

Kevin: Yeah. Well, it sounds like it does to me because once upon a time, back in HTML 3.2, which didn’t make that list, as you pointed out, but back in those days when a new version of HTML came out what people were excited about were the new tags that were being added to it. So if HTML were adding a <sarcasm> tag that would probably be something that you, Patrick O’Keefe, although I know you are never sarcastic, but that would be a new feature of HTML that you might be interested in because you’re writing a blog post, you go, oh, hey, this sentence is sarcastic, I can use that <sarcasm> tag to make sure people know that I’m being sarcastic.

Patrick: Isn’t that <em>? Just kidding.

Kevin: (laughs) Yeah, that is <em>, that’s how I use it. But it sounds like what you’re saying now is that you have given up and have decided that the features that are being added to HTML now are not for you the content producer, they are for the developers of these applications, the WordPress platforms, the phpBB platforms, and those are the people that these new features are being targeted at, and it is now up to the creators of these intermediary authoring software tools to create the features built on that foundation.

Patrick: For the masses I would say that’s true because it’s for developers. So phpBB, they’re developers.

Kevin: I agree with you completely, definitely. Even the new tags that are being added to HTML 5, things like <article> and <header> and <footer>, really are— They’re not content producer features, they are features for creators of web content management systems. If you’re building a layout and a framework for a site as a whole from scratch these features are going to be interesting to you. But if you are a blogger, a content producer, HTML5 has moved on. It seems to be saying the collection of tags that you have now are good enough. And the few tags that people were thinking of taking out, like the bold tag and the italic tag, they’re being redefined with slightly different meanings so they continue to be useful for content producers. But, yeah, not a lot of love for the people who are actually writing the vibrant content that makes the Web a good thing to have around.

Patrick: It’s probably just a natural progression because it just makes the Web more accessible to people. On some level HTML and those things and different languages have always been for developers. I mean that’s what they are, so people who are developing phpBB or WordPress or the blog software of the future or who work for clients or who do programming for clients or for their own projects, because some projects are custom coded, those are the people that it’s really for. You see the commercial by, I think it’s GoDaddy or something, and their web page builder, you see this husband and wife sitting at the computer and the husband is all happy, he says “We’re gonna learn HTML!” And he flips the book and the wife looks scared to death.

Kevin: (laughs)

Patrick: So that’s pretty much how I think most people feel.

Stephan: And would you say then too, Kevin, or Patrick I guess you can answer this too, that even with all these technologies being geared towards more the developer side, isn’t it still kind of overwhelming? I mean it’s a lot to keep up with.

Kevin: Even for developers, yeah.

Patrick: It’s always been overwhelming for me.

Kevin: Yeah. Oh! I mean there’s a reason — this presentation you found, I’ve seen that link passed around a lot this week. And there’s a reason it’s popular. I mean it’s been passed around by people who I consider professional web developers and they’ve been saying things like, “Wow, finally everything in one place; I didn’t understand HTML5 until I watched this presentation.” And I’m going, hey, you’re supposed to be doing this for a living. Like this is a plumber saying, hey, I didn’t understand pipes until I saw this particular PowerPoint slide deck.

Yeah. And the cruel twist is that give it a week and this slide deck will probably be out of date because people will have lumped more new things into the HTML5 marketing term. And unless they’re keeping that slide deck up to date it’s going to fall out of date.

Yeah. So I was walking down the street just the other night talking to this fellow named Russ Weakley. We were in Brisbane teaching some workshops. I was teaching JavaScript and he was teaching CSS. And we were talking about how for a while there the Web had slowed down, and this is back in the Internet Explorer 6 lull for the first half of the past decade. For a while there Internet technology slowed down to the point where as an individual you sort of could start to feel like you got your head around it all. It wasn’t changing so much everyday that you didn’t feel behind the curve at all times. But that isn’t true anymore; it feels like things are racing ahead at such a clip that you really do need to try and choose the things that are relevant to you to learn and to keep up with and just hope that all of the other stuff is taking care of itself by other passionate people who are interested in those details of the Web.

Stephan: I agree. It’s hard for me to keep up. I’m just going to be honest. I got out of web development for a while and was doing consulting for a different industry. And I came back and everything’s changed. And so I’ve had to dive back in and try to learn it all and to me it’s overwhelming and I have a background in it. So I can’t imagine someone just starting out trying to figure out where to begin, just really getting the hang of it, and then it changes tomorrow or something. I think we’ve overcomplicated something that was fairly simplistic and useful.

Kevin: This echoes the thoughts of a fellow named Tim Bray who works at Google. And this is another link for the show today, and this is one more voice that I’d like to bring into this discussion because he talks about what HTML5 means and how it is possibly, potentially important for the Web, but it is not vital for the Web.

What he’s saying basically is that the Web will live on; it will continue to be important and useful whether or not HTML5 succeeds. And although looking at the HTML5 marketing term it seems clear that at least in the marketing sense HTML5 is destined to make an important impact on the Web. But as we’ve seen, that marketing term really encompasses everything but the kitchen sink, or even including the kitchen sink, when it comes to new browser technologies. So, it’s a pretty safe bet that some parts of it will be important even if it just turns out being the CSS features that are in there.

But talking about the HTML5 specification itself, the new tags, the new JavaScript features for working with those tags, and that sort of stuff, what he’s saying is that the Web doesn’t depend on that to pay off and to succeed. What he says is important about the Web is the hyperlinks, the URLs. And the Web has moved beyond the browser. If you get a tweet with a URL in it and you can click that URL to go and open a web page in a browser, that tweet is a part of the Web as far as he’s concerned, because it deals with these URLs; these interlinked things that are described with web addresses. And by the same token all of the best desktop software is linking into the Web using these URLs as well, and that his experience of the Web day to day is not just browsing web pages anymore, it’s reading tweets, it’s getting news feeds through his news reader, and that a lot of this stuff is kind of making progress and getting better, and whether or not HTML5 ends up succeeding or not.

If you’re building something webby that needs to link into the Web, but you’re building it for a mobile phone or you’re building it for a desktop, at least so far it seems clear that HTML5 is not, right now, not the best way to build one of those things; there are richer tool sets, whether it’s Flash, whether it is one of Apple’s development tools or whether you build it using old school desktop application programming languages.

So the point he’s making, and I’m scrolling down to the section of his essay called “And Your Point Is?”. And I think I’ll just read from it here because it’s a subtle point: he says, “HTML5 promises to broaden the classification problems you can solve with HTML and providing a good user experience while saving time and money. But that’s all. It’s not better because it’s web technology, it’s better because it’s better than what came before. Except when it isn’t. Right now there are certain classes of applications, particularly on mobile devices, where you’re going to get a better result by building a native app. Maybe even by building two or three native apps for iPhone and Android and WebOS. This is entirely orthogonal to the webby-ness of the technologies.”

So it’s independent is what he’s saying. These applications can be more or less webby, and the fact that they are built in HTML or built in something else doesn’t really come into it.

He goes on to say, “And another point: building a really hot HTML5 application that takes advantage of the nice new features is not exactly easy. Even assuming that you’re using one of the dozens of clever toolkits it’s still not a slam dunk. In fact, compared to the level of support and tooling you get from Xcode on Apple’s side, or the various pieces of Android integrated development environment-ware, HTML 5 development is a major pain in the ass.”

So what he’s saying is that HTML5 may end up being important or not, but right now it’s a pain in the ass, and the biggest challenge is to figure out whether we can make it not a pain in the ass.

When did HTML become so complicated? It used to be HTML was the simplest part of the Web.

Stephan: Yeah, I agree. And I’m interested to see where we go from here. Do people kind of abandon the idea of using HTML5 as a buzz word? I doubt it. I think people are still going to push forward with that. But I think we may see people try to move away from web technology for a while and really focus on their apps. You know, for general things, things that people thought about doing on the Web.

Kevin: Well, like I said, the last thing in that list, that timeline, the last buzz word before HTML5 was Ajax. And Ajax is another term that became so all encompassing and general that it basically became meaningless. And when is the last time you heard someone talk about an Ajax app?

Stephan: Yeah, never.

Kevin: Never. I mean all web apps are now Ajax apps effectively if they were built in the past year and are at all impressive or novel, it’s probably because they’re an Ajax app. But no one calls them that anymore.

Stephan: Yep. Yep. I agree.

Kevin: Well, let’s get to our host spotlights, shall we? Stephan, what have you got for us?

Stephan: Speaking of web technologies, no, I just was browsing around and found this tutorial on CSS3 gradient buttons.

Kevin: CSS3, don’t you mean HTML5?

Stephan: I think I do. I’m not really sure, though. But it’s a cross-browser button that’s got the gradient that everyone knows, you know, that fades from one side to the other and looks really cool. Really clean looking and it degrades gracefully, and it’s a good tutorial on how the writer did it. And it’s on a website called Web Designer Wall, and the author, I think — I had his name up here just a second ago.

Kevin: Yeah, it just says by Web Designer Wall.

Stephan: Yeah, I thought I had it but I don’t. But he writes a really great post on how he did it without images or JavaScript. So it’s just CSS 3. He’s got a nice demo, so if you’re wanting to do gradient buttons or something check it out, it’s cool.

Kevin: Yeah. Nick La is the author of Web Designer Wall.

Those are some very nice buttons. Every time I see a link to one of these things I kind of cringe because I picture it’s going to be glossy, it’s going to look like one of these 1991 era Mac buttons, the sort of blue jellybean things. But I was pleasantly surprised when I clicked through to this. These are really tasteful, understated, but you really want to click ‘em.

Stephan: Yeah, they’re just simple buttons for form submission or whatever you want to use them for. It’s great.

Kevin: Yeah, they look like they belong on a web page. If these buttons appeared in a desktop application you’d kind of go, oh, that kind of looks like a web page button. But they’re perfect for the Web.

Patrick: Yeah, the small ones would’ve looked good on like forum software for the profile buttons that appear on posts, I mean that would be a nice little addition, and also it’s quick loading because it’s not a graphic, so they would work well there.

Stephan: Are you hinting at something Patrick?

Kevin: My spotlight comes from a previous guest of this podcast, Derek Powazek joined us I think earlier this year for a couple of episodes to talk about, well, first of all he talked about publishing, the future of publishing, and digital publishing versus print publishing. And he also joined us to talk about web communities. And if you haven’t heard those episodes I do encourage you to go back and listen to those interviews because they’re some of my favorites for sure.

But what he’s been working on this past week is something called 48 Hour Mag, or a magazine — 48 Hour Magazine. And the idea here is that he got together a bunch of people and put together a magazine, a full printed, glossy, color, beautiful magazine in 48 hours. And this is the very first issue of this; I guess the assumption is they’re going to do it again if the experiment pays off. And the title of this issue is Hustle. So it is a 60 page magazine of artwork and original writing from well known photographers and authors and content creators from the print publishing world who got together and wrote and photographed and produced content on the theme of the word hustle.

This is one of those great words that you sort of think and your mind goes through all these different connotations, like it’s a pretty, you know, the word means hurry, but I think of my soccer coach on Saturday mornings when I was growing up going “let’s see some hustle out there!” But at the same time there’s a seedier side to the word hustle that I don’t think I even need to go into.

But the website, which is, and there’s a link to this on the podcast page if you don’t want to have to remember that or you can just Google for 48 Hour Mag.

It says “This is 48 Hour Magazine, a raucous experiment in using new tools to erase media’s old limits. As the name suggests, we wrote, photographed, illustrated, designed and edited a magazine in two days. From noon on May 7th, through to noon on the 9th, a team circled up around the original Rolling Stone conference table in Mother Jones’ offices to transform 1,502 submissions from around the world into a chorus of voices all harmonizing around the same theme, Hustle.” And the best thing is you can order it for just ten bucks.

So, I really enjoy what Derek Powazek does with his quarterly magazine, Fray, and this feels like a sequel in spirit to that. So I’m definitely trying to get my hands on a copy of this thing.

Patrick: “Everyday I’m hustlin’. Everyday I’m — Everyday I’m –” No, congrats to Derek and Heather Champ on the launch of Fertile Medium as well. They recently launched a community kind of consultancy in the last month, and I just found out about it so it looks really cool.

Kevin: Hear, hear.

Patrick: And my host spotlight is an article at Plagiarism Today, which is a site I mentioned earlier by Jonathan Bailey, it’s how schools are hurting the fight against plagiarism. And Jonathan talks about how schools, teachers, more schools themselves, are hurting the fight against plagiarism by instead of educating, inspiring a sense of fear and driving students to become better cheaters than to become better educated and to avoid plagiarizing the works of others. He cites a few examples in his work like one school he said that was dead set on expelling a student because of a missed citation. So it’s a really interesting article about how schools can do better.

Kevin: Wow. So, what is it saying that the schools are overreacting to plagiarism and thereby, what, creating an unhealthy environment for students to understand these issues?

Patrick: Well, he’s saying that really where schools are focusing their efforts is on detecting plagiarism then in punishing people. Once works are submitted they have tools in place that are checking to see, checking those works against a database of other works to see if they’ve copied and they plagiarized. And then if those students are found to be plagiarizing then they are dealt with very harshly. He says what’s lacking though is education. For example, in writing classes, in English classes of any kind, where citations, not just plagiarism but proper citation, proper quoting, are maybe but footnotes as part of the lesson plan, not something that the teachers are going out of their way to teach and instruct students on. And he feels that’s where it needs to be improved and that there should be more leeway than to have a zero tolerance policy which, of course, some schools apparently have where you could if you have one sentence that’s misappropriated you could face dire consequence. He’s testified on behalf of students in a case he says where one sentence was literally the point of contention.

Stephan: Yeah, that’s a little extreme.

Kevin: I see what you mean. It sounds like you could do a whole podcast on this and probably have.

Patrick: Maybe.

Kevin: (laughs) But yeah, the issue of content and how you build on someone else’s content in a responsible way is so important, not just on the Web but in the world in general these days. Because it used to be if you wanted to write about something you kind of started from scratch. And maybe students for years have been writing essays on the same subject, but you as a student would sit down and open the book that you were writing about and you would start your ideas from scratch. But these days no one starts from scratch. The Web has enabled us to, as a culture, as a race; continually build on what came before, the ideas that came before. But we’re not teaching students how to do that in a responsible way. And when they get it wrong, having a zero tolerance approach to it to say, “oh, you got it wrong, and by the way that was your last chance.”

Patrick: Right, agreed. And I think that writing in general online, especially like you say, it’s so important whether you’re a blogger or you write for the New York Times, that you know how to properly excerpt and cite content so that you’re able to have some fair use claim at least, if anyone ever calls you on it, you need to be able to properly cite work.

Kevin: Yeah. Thank you Patrick.

Patrick: Sure thing. So we are about a week or so as this podcast will be released from the WordCamp Raleigh Conference in Raleigh North Carolina, May 22nd and 23rd, we’ll be hosting, and a live episode, for the first time ever of the SitePoint Podcast. So, we’ve been talking about it but in case you missed it we’ll be live streaming on USTREAM, and you’ll be able to see that at So that’s the URL that I’ll give if you can’t make it in person. But if you can make it there’s a coupon code for registrations, SitePoint15, it will get you 15% off, and we’d love to see you there whether online or in person.

Kevin: I can’t wait. It’ll be the middle of the night for me, but it’s on a weekend so I’m going to be staying up for it for sure.

Alright, well, look forward to that, and we will be trickling out bits and pieces of that live recording over the weeks and months to come I’m sure, depending on just exactly what we get. That’s the exciting thing about a live broadcast at a conference is we know we’re going to get good stuff, but we have no idea what it is yet. So, can’t wait to get some of that stuff out to you. Definitely if you are subscribed to this podcast you can expect to hear all the highlights as we identify and clip them out for you.

Our hosts for this week, Patrick, Stephan, who the heck are you?

Patrick: Well, I’m Patrick O’Keefe of the iFroggy network,, I’m on Twitter at @iFroggy.

Stephan: I’m Stephan Seagraves, you can find me at, that’s my blog, and my Twitter username is @ssegraves.

Kevin: And I am @sentience on Twitter, and you can follow SitePoint on Twitter at, that’s @sitepointdotcom. Visit the podcast at to leave comments on the show and subscribe to receive every show automatically.

The SitePoint podcast is produced by Carl Longnecker. Welcome back, Carl, from your honeymoon; it’s good to have you back on deck.

Patrick: Woo-hoo!

Kevin: And I’m Kevin Yank. Thanks for listening. Bye bye!

Theme music by Mike Mella.

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