I’ve been asked by multiple clients how HTML5 fits into their 2011 technology strategy.  It’s obvious there’s a lot of buzz around the topic, and of course everyone wants to be on top of it when it’s ready.  But, when is it ready?  Like everything, it depends on several factors: audience, platform, business objectives, and more.

What’s the official answer, if you had to give it?  If you look back into history, specifically at the adoption of HTML4, HTML5 won’t be a “candidate recommendation” until 2012, and not a formal proposed recommendation until 2022.  That’s right, 2022.  We’re talking tens of thousands of scripted and tested use cases here, which takes time.  Before you set an Outlook reminder for ten years from now, the HTML5 recommendation and standard are really not barometers of when it can be useful to your business.

You cannot consider HTML5 as being “ready” or “not ready”, black or white.  Some portions of HTML5 are more clearly specified than others, some portions haven’t even begun to be specified at all, and some portions of HTML5 are mature enough that they can be deployed and valuable right now.  As time goes on, the formal W3C HTML5 specification will inch closer to being final, during which time browsers dedicated to being ahead of the curve will accommodate the more mature HTML5 components. This makes perfect sense from a business perspective for Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and other browsers; integrating HTML5 capability will be a game of maximizing ROI and mitigating risk.  My investment in building HTML5 capabilities must be large enough to be innovative which will increase user share, yet it must be small enough to avoid offering capabilities that aren’t mature or stable enough to be useful.

Implementing HTML5 into browsers and releasing it into the wild isn’t just a model of being “pragmatically innovative”.  Iterative HTML5 feedback from both developers and users becomes ironically critical to forging the HTML5 specification, which, in turn .  There is a delicate dance with implementation and specification here, as implementation’s real-world feedback will help confirm the specification, yet people think the specification must always precede the implementation.  It just doesn’t work as cleanly as that, so, to quote a Mozilla developer, “there is unavoidable tension here, but we just have to muddle on through.”

So, how do we muddle on through the voyage toward HTML5?  We assess the current implementation of HTML5 in the wild, assess its value considering the business objectives at hand, and integrate it into our strategy accordingly.  We won’t be reaching HTML5 anytime soon, but we’ll get glimpses along the way at various scenic points.