HTML5 for IWB Resources?

html5It is now 2 days since I released my first resource created not in Flash but in HTML5.  I enjoyed making it and I have others in the works but…

As detailed here HTML5 promises universal compatibility across all web capable devices and no reliance on proprietary technology.  Promises but does not yet deliver.

Since release it seems like every machine I try shows another issue.  Firefox 6 on Vista showed a very interesting kaleidoscope but not an interactive clock.  XP Firefox I’m assured by a commenter on the above post runs the resource terribly.  Firefox works fine on Win 7 but doesn’t look as good as IE9 on Win 7 however IE9 isn’t preloading the images correctly so the first time the clock face is toggled there is a clock with no face shown for a bit.  Safari on Mac and iPad seem excellent.  So much for universal compatibility.

It is my fault for doing research now that should have been done before.  My thinking process went along the lines that I didn’t want to exclude any user from the resources I make.  If Apple devices continue to grab a higher proportion of web users, as is predicted, than the proportion of those who can use a Flash based site decreases.  When/if this reaches a certain point the owner of a Flash based site will have to choose: rewrite everything or be content with only reaching a limited section of the web.

I find it quite disheartening writing resources that may have a shelf life or will be limited in audience.  Hence my decision to switch to HTML5.  The response and my own experience suggests, though, that we are in a time of uncertainty where we have stepped backward, before going, hopefully, forward.  Flash used to give us universal compatibility.  Now it doesn’t work on vast numbers of Apple products.  Flash is in the hands of a single powerful corporation.  HTML5 is defined by a standards committee.  Sadly browsers are created by competing powerful corporations and each one has little differences.  There was only one Flash Player and it always worked the same assuming it was updated with new revisions.

Then the next problem.  This is specifically to do with schools and I should have thought more about this before.  I have yet to go into a UK computer suite that is using any operating system higher than Windows XP.  Most of these have only Internet Explorer as a browser.  XP cannot have IE9.  Which is a problem as IE9 is the first of this browser that can use HTML5.  Firefox can use HTML5 on XP but the HTML5 performance I have seen, and been told about so far, is poor.  I’m not sure why this is so, it may be that XP machines are likely to be older so less powerful, or it may be that XP doesn’t have some of the features of later versions to support the graphics.

I’m only speaking from personal experience here but many UK school IT technicians (not all, some are great) are very conservative about their networks.  They have a working network and they’re not going to risk that but by changing the configuration.  Such as putting more recent browser versions on them or different a browser altogether.  I remember a tweet from  Danny Nicholson of the Whiteboard Blog mentioning that a school he had gone to provide training to did not update its Smartboard software so as not to confuse the teachers.  This lag in updates is all too common in schools and it is difficult to tell the reasons from the excuses.  Sadly a culture has evolved in some school technical support that a working network that requires minimal maintenance is the goal rather than one to support teaching and learning using the most modern tools available.   Now, if the network is brought to a grinding halt it is these technicians who get the blame so this conservatism is in some way understandable but the result is the same.  A network configuration that is identical to the first one that worked well after its instalment in around 2007.

Where does this leave  It looks like a fork is necessary.  If a resource particularly suits tablet devices I’ll make it in HTML5 and anybody with a desktop who can use it is a bonus.  If it is a resource that particularly suits whole class teaching I’ll produce it in Flash and exclude tablet users.  There is an argument that the right development tool for the job should be used and this is representative of that.  I disagree.  This is the step backward to which I referred.  Producing for the web is, at the moment, like producing software for PC or MAC.  Your software is for one or the other.  Until recently software produced for the web was for the whole of the web.  Now I have to choose what platform on the web I wish to serve.  Let’s hope it is one step backwards and two forwards and that those forward steps happen quickly.