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HTML5 is (finally) feature complete
HTML5 is (finally) feature complete
December 18, 2012 | By Mike Rose

December 18, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Programming, Design

HTML5 has been in development for several years now, and while it's had its fair share of criticism, it's impossible to completely shrug off the promise of a purely web-based platform that can be used to create and release games on any number of supported devices, from phones to PCs and beyond.

This week marks a major milestone for the HTML5 project, as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has finally published the complete definition for the language's specifications.

The W3C did note that the specifications are not yet the W3C standard, but that they are technically "feature complete," such that development studios can now plan and implement HTML5 with a stable target in mind.

The group is also keen to stress that it has big plans for the future of HTML5. A draft of HTML 5.1 is already available to view online, and the W3C intends to combat browser fragmentation by standardizing future definitions via interoperability -- that is, by which each browser and HTML5 implementation seeminglessly exhanges information between each other.

Specifications for Canvas 2D, the element of HTML5 that allows the language to render dynamic 3D shapes and images, are also complete and published online. A draft for Canvas 2D, Level 2 is also available to view.

The long road

The HTML5 language has come under fire from numerous studios in the past year, many of which say that it simply isn't ready for games yet.

German social developer Wooga dropped HTML5 development this summer, stating that "the technology is not there yet" when compared to native iOS apps. Major engine provider Unity has also previously said that it is still waiting for "the moment HTML5 is right for games."

However, there has also been plenty of studios that have embraced the language, from game startups to entire platforms built around HTML5.

More recently, it appears that the negatively surrounding the language is subsiding. Tokyo-based mobile games behemoth Gree is currently expanding its efforts into HTML5 territory, while NonStop Games' Henric Suuronen suggested last month that most of the top-grossing mobile games of late could have been made using it.

For those developers who are considering reading up on HTML5, it's worth checking out our "7 Things To Know About HTML5" feature from earlier this year.

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Joe Wreschnig
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Meanwhile, in the real world, and are still what's really meant when anyone says "HTML 5", and are still eternally incomplete and used by existing browser makers to retain their control. Sorry, I meant they're "living standards".

Joe Wreschnig
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That would be reasonable if the W3C HTML5 was the endgame, and WHATWG documented the increasing subset of "what works in the real world."

But really it's the other way around, W3C HTML5 is a frozen-in-time snapshot of WHATWG, meaning it's neither an accurate reflection of the real state of browser support, nor something that will be a useful reference a year from now after more changes to WHATWG HTML5.

Tom Baird
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HTML 2.0 spec was published in 1995, how much time does it take before it's no longer new?

Or do you consider the fact that they added a 5 to the name that they get to restart their timers and consider it all brand-spanking new? Even then, HTML5 was first drafted 4 years ago. It's older than the entire Android OS. When talking about technology, 4 years is not a new spec. As well, if it takes you 4 years just to agree on what it's supposed to do, how long do you think it will take before it's even remotely implemented in a way that could be considered standardized?

This is all ignoring all the major issues with the spec itself (Javascript/interpreted only, involves competing interests on audio/video formats, capabilities FAR surpassed with existing/old technologies such as NaCl, various plugins). OpenGL was able to grow into what it was because there were no alternatives, HTML5 is not in the same boat, and there is no reason to put up with so much crap performance, crap portability, and crap limitations with the wide variety of alternatives we now have available.

This isn't to say it's not a good thing that they are attempting to standardize all the capabilities under the HTML5 banner, it's just that they are going about it VERY slowly, and there will never be a time where it's the best tool for the job (unless the job is mobile games in a browser, in which case it's only the best tool because it's the only tool).

Everyone knows Audio support is busted in HTML5. It's been talked about now, on here and elsewhere for over a year. It's still an issue. It's fine that things take time to implement, but if this is how long it's going to take, you are better served by looking elsewhere if you want a performant, capable toolset for making games, and no longer feeling stuck in the crossfire between competing browsers.

Joe Wreschnig
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"This is not how standards work. You're confused."

QED HTML 5 is not a standard, I guess.

Again, for those interested in reality, you can get a summary of the (very complicated) history of the two sometimes-competing sometimes-cooperating sometimes-there's-only-one-because-the-W3C-didn't-care HTML standards at

Tom Baird
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Direct3D wasn't an alternative to OpenGL, because it was platform locked. I.e. if I wanted to make a 3D game that ran on a Mac, Direct3D wasn't going to be an option, and so OpenGL filled a critical gap.

I don't feel the same way about HTML5, and while I do agree that it's here to stay, I feel that as Game Developers looking at the glut of languages, platforms, and tools available there are very few reasons we should care about HTML5. People keep saying it'll be more competitive in the future, but that makes the ridiculous assumption that all these other systems(Flash, Unity, NaCl, Gaikai, to name a few examples) won't be improving as well. And these other systems have shown that they can improve faster, maintain much higher consistency and performance due to being a singular commercial enterprise and not a hodge-podge of competing companies.

In Short: It's good there is an attempt at standardization, it's true it's not going away, open standards are good, but HTML5 is so little, so late, from an organization that has historically and currently moves preposterously slow, in a time when competition is incredibly fierce, and if it can't compete alongside it's peers, why should us as game developers care about it?

Edit: Personally I'm keeping a much closer eye on NaCl, and am keeping up hopes that other browsers can be persuaded to implement the NaCl SDK (Although there is a plugin for Firefox so it's getting there). The benefit's of NaCl is that the implementation comes with the Spec, and it supports a MUCH broader range of languages, tools, engines with much less work.

Lorenzo Gatti
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What's bad about standardizing a "snapshot" for the general public and allowing avant-garde developers and implementors to experiment with HTML5.1? How can future, expected WHATWG improvements be considered in good faith "more real" than a candidate recommendation?
HTML5 ceases to be a moving target; it's going to be implemented more consistently and completely in browsers (because it's a requirement for W3C approval) and more supported by libraries and tools (because the risk of features remaining unsupported or being changed or obsoleted after investing in them is eliminated).