Web Directions @media Interview: Remy Sharp – Browsers with Wings

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Craig speaks to Remy Sharp, presenter of “Browsers with Wings: HTML5 APIs for web app developers” at Web Directions @media in London, 8-11 June 2010.

Note: Do you want to attend Web Directions @media in London, 8-11 June?

@media boasts an amazing lineup of speakers including jQuery creator John Resig, SitePoint authors Rachel Andrew, Bruce Lawson and Simon Willison, and British designers Andy Clarke and Mark Boulton. Craig will be there too, but don’t let that put you off!You have only a few more days to register and SitePoint readers are eligible for a £100 discount on @media tickets. Simply enter the code SitePoint when you sign-up at the Web Directions website.

Craig Buckler: Please tell us a little about yourself, your work, and how you became involved with web directions @media.Remy Sharp: My name is Remy Sharp and I’m a developer from Brighton, UK who has all ten of his grubby little fingers in grubby little pies. I’ve dabbled in writing and co-authored Introducing HTML5 (published by New Riders) with Bruce Lawson and I’m currently working on jQuery for Designers (published with Manning) and publishing articles. I speak about my specialist topics at conferences and run workshops. First and foremost though, I’m a developer who loves the creativity of building *stuff* on the web. JavaScript is my poison, either client side or server side — it’s the bees knees [translation from UK-speak: “very good”!].I first got involved with Web Directions via John Allsopp getting in touch with me last year, asking me to come and speak in Denver with the promise of snowboarding — my second passion after JavaScript. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but John also asked me to speak at @media in the UK. It was easy to say yes and get involved.CB: Your presentation, “Browsers with Wings: HTML5 APIs for web application developers”, sounds intriguing. What will you be discussing?RS: If I manage to bend time and talk about everything I want to, I’ll first be discussing all the parts of “HTML5” which are available to developers in all browsers today. I quote “HTML5” because there are numerous JavaScript APIs which aren’t part of the HTML5 specification, but I feel compelled to talk about them because they’re so important to web app development. I also intend to show developers how shims can be used to pull the socks up on browsers to level out the playing field. For example, IE can be made to work with the Canvas 2D API by using either a JavaScript or Silverlight shim.The next part will cover experimental stuff which is not available in all browsers. I’ll show what they do and how they affect your applications.It’s an extremely exciting time to be developing for the browser seeing all the new toys appearing which we can use and exploit.CB: Do you think developers can use HTML5 today?RS: “Use HTML5 today” is an extremely ambiguous term. The reason is that HTML5 is a mass of APIs — the specification is 900 pages and that doesn’t include the other APIs people lump in with the term “HTML5”.Web Storage is a great example — it’s not part of the HTML5 spec, but it’s part of “HTML5” (as a brand) and is available in all the latest browsers including IE8 … exciting, I know! What’s really interesting is that Web Storage can be emulated with JavaScript if support isn’t available. Developers can write code as if Web Storage *is* available then plug the gap using a shim if no native support exists. I call this technique “pollyfilling” as developers don’t need to worry about whether the browser supports the aspect of HTML5 they’re using.Another example: canvas can be supported through excanvas (a JavaScript solution) or a Silverlight Bridge. It really doesn’t matter *how* canvas is supported, only that it’s available. There’s lots of ways to flattening the development landscape.Even if you’re super wary about this approach, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t minimize your doctype and drop type attributes from the script and style tags. This is valid HTML5, works in every browser, doesn’t require JavaScript and saves time and bytes across the wire.The most important thing to remember is that you can use parts of HTML5 today. The specification and related specifications are massive. CSS 2.1 isn’t implemented completely in any browser but that doesn’t stop us from using the good parts (incidentally, IE8 has the most complete CSS 2.1 implementation, but is still missing one property). That’s the approach we must take with HTML5.CB: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of HTML5?RS: The offline capabilities excite me the most. Working without the web: the idea that we can cut the umbilical cord from web applications which have depended on connectivity. The specification is easy to understand once you’ve grasped the caching aspects of the offline API.The worst aspect for me is drag and drop. This is one of the most painful APIs in HTML5. It evolved from IE5, was reverse engineered and documented. It’s awful and non-intuitive.The only other thing I’m not keen on is article and section element confusion. Unlike “div”, “article” has a real meaning in English so I have preconceptions as to when I should use the tag. For example, confusion arises when it’s applied to interactive widgets — should they be wrapped in an article? However, I think there’s hope; many people are writing posts explaining their interpretation of the specification and that will help us understand how they should be used.CB: Have you presented at an event of this size before?RS: I spoke at StackOverflow to 800 people, which I think was my biggest audience to date (it went fine). I don’t actually know the numbers for this event and I prefer not to know! I don’t want to think about how many people will be staring up at me while I ramble on about JavaScript!CB: Are there any awkward questions you like us to avoid asking at your presentation?!RS: Bring it on! Even if you do catch me out, I’ve got my trusty response of “good question, I’ll have to look into that and get back to you” ;-)CB: Many thanks Remy.See Remy speaking at Web Directions @media in London, June 2010. Use the promotional code SitePoint when you register to receive a £100 discount.

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.

HTML5 Dev CenterHTML5 Tutorials & Articlesweb directions
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