A press release with details about Safari 5 was leaked on the web Monday afternoon, then promptly removed.
Many were expecting Apple to release a new version of its Safari web browser during the Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) taking place this week. But the Monday morning keynote was all about the new iPhone. Safari wasn’t discussed.
Then, at about 3:30pm Pacific time, a press release went out over the PRNewsWire service. It was live for a short time — under 10 minutes — before it vanished. The link now returns an error. Apple has yet to update the Safari pages of its website or make any additional announcements. We’re guessing the news item was released mistakenly or prematurely.
It was live long enough for us to grab a copy, and you can read the full release below. Here are some details.
There’s also Reader, a built-in app that strips ads, images and other clutter out of the way, presenting news articles and longer reads in a simplified, scrolling, text-only window “without distraction.” Instapaper and Readability, it appears as though Apple is drinking your milkshake.
According to the release, the updated browser will include expanded support for the HTML5 stack, including geolocation, sectioning elements, drag and drop, form validation, Ajax history and WebSocket. There’s also “full screen playback and closed captions for HTML5 video” — though we should note that Apple currently only supports native playback of h.264 video and not WebM, which all other major browsers are backing. No further details there.
Apple posted a showcase of “HTML5 and web standards” on its website Thursday that highlights the level of support for the emerging standard in the company’s Safari and Mobile Safari browsers.
It’s nice to see Apple (or anyone for that matter) talking about HTML5 and mentioning more than just video. The site showcases HTML5 audio and canvas elements, as well as CSS 3 transitions and typography tools. It also has a nice photo gallery that looks and behaves just like former Apple designer Mike Matas’ amazing photo-gallery site.
Unfortunately, the way Apple presents the showcase, you would think Safari is the only web browser that supports these new web standards.
In fact, visit the site with any other browser and you’ll get a message telling you to download Safari. Surely your browser must be inadequate? Actually, your browser is probably capable of handling the showcase just fine, but ultimately the showcase isn’t about web standards: It’s about Apple’s version of web standards.
Apple is detecting the user-agent string (the bit of identifying data your browser passes to a web server when it requests a page) and only allowing Safari users to see the galleries. Other browsers are effectively cut off, regardless of the fact that many can render them just fine.
Worse, Apple’s CSS code uses only WebKit-specific selectors — for example, -webkit-border-radius instead of the actual CSS 3 selector border-radius. WebKit is the open source engine that powers Safari and Google Chrome. Firefox, IE and Opera can’t understand this code as clearly.
So much for web standards. Not only is user-agent sniffing absolutely the wrong way to determine the HTML5 capabilities of the current user, the implicit suggestion is that HTML5 is something only Apple supports.
Microsoft recently published its own HTML5 showcase to hype the coming release of Internet Explorer 9, and its demo pages are viewable (and work) in any non-IE browser with the proper support. Mozilla’s HTML5 demo pages are geared to work with experimental builds of Firefox, but at least other browsers aren’t blocked, and most of the demos actually work in Chrome.
To test Apple’s demos in other browsers, we spoofed the user agent in Firefox and Chromium and found that, while several examples do indeed fail in Firefox, most worked just fine. Naturally, everything works without issue in Chromium, because it uses the same WebKit rendering engine as Safari. Apple is being disingenuous by making its browser seem more compelling than others. That’s not surprising, but we’d be disappointed to see independent developers follow suit. [Update: As several commenters, and John Gruber point out, the version WebKit that Chromium uses doesn't yet support all of CSS 3's 3D transforms, which renders this demo incomplete, though still functional, in Chrome/Chromium.]
So how should you detect whether the current browser can display whatever bit of HTML5 or CSS 3 you’re using? The long-established best practice is to detect for features, not browsers. To find out which features are available in the current browser isn’t hard — there are even several free, open source libraries out there that do just that.
There are however, some cases where Modernizr might be overkill. For example, if you just want to embed some HTML5 video, you only need to detect one element. If Modernizr isn’t right for your project, check out Mark Pilgrim’s list of ways to detect HTML5 elements. The list of elements and how to detect them is an appendix to Pilgrim’s book in progress, Dive Into HTML5.
The list isn’t just elements, though it does cover those as well. But it also shows you how to detect API support for things like offline storage or geolocation, as well as SVG, SVG-in-HTML and even which video codec the current browser supports.
One thing Pilgrim doesn’t cover is CSS 3 features (CSS 3 != HTML5). To detect which CSS 3 features are available in the current browser you can use Modernizer or you can roll your own code using a library like jQuery, which includes a support() method to check a wide range of browser features before executing code.
SAN FRANCISCO — When Google announced it would be releasing the VP8 video codec under an open source license, all of the major browser vendors jumped up to support it.
Well, all of them except Apple.
The WebM Project, a partnership between Google, Mozilla, Opera and dozens of other software and hardware makers, provides web developers a way of embedding video and audio in HTML5 pages without plug-ins, and without resorting to patent-laden technologies.
Watchers of the open web have been waiting for this development for some time. The HTML5 video playback experience varies greatly between browsers, with different browsers supporting different flavors of video, creating a poor user experience and forcing developers to rely heavily on plug-ins like Flash and Silverlight. Google was widely expected to take a step towards solving the video problem on the web with Wednesday’s WebM announcement.
Indeed, within minutes of the project’s launch here at Google I/O, links went up to new versions of Firefox and Opera with built-in support for WebM video. Chrome support will be coming in the next beta, due later this month. Microsoft says that Microsoft Internet Explorer 9, due to arrive as soon as the end of 2010, will support VP8 video playback if a user has installed the free codec on their copy of Windows. Adobe says Flash Player will also support it as soon as possible. Executives from Mozilla, Opera and Adobe were all on stage during Wednesday morning’s keynote to pledge their support.
But nobody from Apple appeared, and as of Wednesday afternoon, the company has made no such announcement about support for WebM video in Safari. When asked to comment on this story, Apple didn’t respond.
Of course, Apple has a great deal of time and money invested in a competing technology, H.264. Its Quicktime ecosystem is built on H.264, and it uses the video format for all of its content served through iTunes. It’s also the native format on iPads, iPhones and iPods.
Most video on the web — approximately two-thirds of it — is served in the H.264 format, but various licensing requirements make some nervous to use it. Apple owns patents around H.264 and benefits from the licensing fees that allow its use (so does Microsoft, and many other companies).
So, will Apple begin supporting a open source video codec that competes for space on the web with H.264?
“Stranger things have happened, but I’d be surprised if that happened soon,” says Christopher “Monty” Montgomery, creator of the Ogg container, an open source video and audio technology integral to the new WebM Project, in an e-mail to Webmonkey.
Apple has sent not-so-subtle threats about possible patent violation complaints being brought against supporters of open video codecs. In an e-mail to a blogger, Jobs warned that MPEG-LA, the licensing group that oversees H.264, was assembling a patent portfolio to “go after” open video codec makers.
“Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn’t mean or guarantee that it doesn’t infringe on others patents,” Jobs wrote.
But Monty isn’t worried about the MPEG-LA suing him or anyone at the WebM Project.
“The recent saber-rattling by Jobs felt more like a message to his own troops than a warning shot to ours,” he says. “MPEG itself has always has an internal contingent that has pushed hard for royalty-free baselines from MPEG, and the missives about video codecs and patents were probably meant for them, not us.”
Google VP of product management Sundar Pichai says the company has done “a thorough legal analysis of VP8″ since acquiring it, and remains confident it can release the technology under an open source license without infringing on any patents.
The Safari browser is based on the same WebKit engine as Google Chrome, and the WebKit engine is open source. But codec support is not a component of the rendering engine, so even though Google’s browser supports VP8 and WebM content, it doesn’t provide an instant fix for Safari.
And of course, iPad and iPhone browsers run Safari, so WebM video won’t work on those devices until Apple adds support.
However, it wouldn’t be tough for Apple to implement WebM support. All of the technologies involved have been released under permissive open source licenses, and it’s already been rolled into three major browsers.
“It’s not a technical challenge,” says Google VP of engineering Linus Upson. “If you look at the other browsers that have already implemented VP8, it’s just been a matter of a few weeks.”
Google’s Upson and Pichai both say they hope all web browsers will support WebM’s efforts eventually.
“The story is not about HTML5 vs. Flash,” Adobe’s Kevin Lynch says. “It’s about freedom of choice in the industry.”
Lynch says developers should be able to use whatever tools they want to create whatever experiences they want on the web.
“There are some who would like to wall off parts of the web and require you to get their approval to create something,” he says.
Lynch spoke Wednesday morning at the Web 2.0 Expo taking place here at Moscone West. The twice-per-year developer conference focuses on all things web, and though the audience is primarily made up of developers, the talks often turn to current events in the tech world.
Adobe has certainly been in the news quite a bit lately, with its Flash platform and Flash Player being derided by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who has disallowed Flash on the iPad and the company’s other mobile devices, and has banned apps created in Flash from being sold in the company’s App Store by changing the wording of the developer’s agreement for its latest iPhone OS.
Lynch didn’t refer to Apple by name until prompted by Web 2.0 Expo program chair Brady Forrest, who was interviewing Lynch on stage.
“Are you referring to Apple and the iPhone,” Forrest asked.
Lynch shot back: “Are you reading between the lines?”
“Apple’s playing this strategy where they want to create a walled garden around what people use,” Lynch continued.
Adobe announced details of its Creative Suite of applications Monday amid a stormy debate over its relevancy and the vitality of Flash, one of its most important products. But even though the air around it has grown chilly and the skies above have darkened with menace, Adobe went ahead and held its big parade anyway.
The fact is, even though it looks like the cards are stacked against the Flash platform, there’s very little threat that it will be supplanted by another technology any time soon.
Key to Flash’s success is the explosion of web video. More than 90 percent of web-enabled computers around the world have Flash Player installed, and all of those people can go to sites like Hulu or Comedy Central or YouTube right now and watch the full spectrum of clips, from viral candy to Hollywood hits. Microsoft’s Silverlight technology, which can also stream videos at a level of quality roughly on par with Flash, doesn’t have the same penetration (it’s closer to 30 to 40 percentUpdate: the post I previously linked to was outdated, and according to Microsoft’s April numbers, it’s actually closer to 60 percent), and there are far fewer sites using Silverlight as their sole video platform.
Also, the latest version of Flash Player (version 10.1, which came out earlier this year) addressed many of the performance, security and consistency issues that have been dogging Flash for the last year.
So, for now, Flash remains the de facto standard for video on the web.
While some proponents of the open web would have you believe that a viable replacement for Flash is already here in the form of HTML5 video, that’s not exactly the case. The HTML5 video tag does indeed allow you to embed videos in web pages without Flash. But native HTML5 video has several things holding it back.