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Apple Web-standards demo requires Apple browsers

I realize the above title reads like an Onion headline, but it's true--the undeniably impressive exhibits of HTML5 Web coding that Apple posted to its Web site last night will ask users of almost all other browsers to install Apple's Safari browser first.

apple_html5_showcase.png

Click on any one of the seven demonstrations--"Video," "Typography," "Gallery," "Transitions," "Audio," "360º," and "VR"--in such competing browsers as Mozilla Firefox or Google's Chrome, and you'll get this notice:

You'll need to download Safari to view this demo. This demo was designed with the latest web standards supported by Safari. If you'd like to experience this demo, simply download Safari. It's free for Mac and PC, and it only takes a few minutes.

The funny thing is, Google built Chrome on the same foundation as Safari, an open-source framework called WebKit. (WebKit, in turn, dates to an older open-source project called KHTML.) As a general rule, pages that work in Safari should work in Chrome and vice versa. The same goes for the mobile versions of each browser used in Android phones, iPhones and iPads--that's the entire point of using Web standards, a point Google repeatedly made at its Google I/O developers conference last month.

I tried getting around Apple's screening with a standard remedy for uncooperative sites, adding a Chrome extension that would cause the browser to identify itself as Safari to Apple's site. That didn't make any difference.

Weirder still, a reader found that a different WebKit-based browser, the Omni Group's free, Mac-only OmniWeb, didn't get shut out. It couldn't present one video-playback option or run the VR demo at all, but it still provided a useful view of Apple's demos.

(Update, 2:19 p.m.: Another user wrote on Twitter that the demos also worked--without any user-agent hacks--in the Linux version of Chromium, the open-sourced, non-Google-branded version of Chrome, and posted a screenshot of the evidence.)

Apple doesn't have a blog or Twitter feed on which it might explain these technical issues, but I've sent in a query to Apple PR and will update this post when I get a response. In the meantime, I suppose you all can try e-mailing Steve Jobs.

And if you have a copy of Safari handy, please do check out the HTML5 demos--all built solely on Web code, without any plug-ins involved. In the video exhibit, for instance, you can watch a trailer of Disney's upcoming "Tron: Legacy" (warning: nerd trap), in which you can smoothly resize the video or tilt it to one side. The typography demonstration lets you type out sample text in a variety of fonts before applying various styles and effects. The transitions page whisks sample photos in and out of view with slick, iMovie-worthy visual effects. It's neat stuff--and I look forward to being able to appreciate it all in any modern browser, the way Web standards are supposed to work.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 4, 2010; 12:10 PM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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Comments

Seems to me that it is crucial to know whether (a) Apple has done something proprietary, beyond the standards, or (b) whether other browsers just haven't built in support for the latest standards. If (a) is correct, it kind of belies Apple's public statements of support for the open web. If (b) though, then it just means that Apple has built a better browser!

Posted by: eprice29 | June 4, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

A note about my experiences trying the HTML5 demos. I tried the demos on a PPC Mac running Safari 4.? and the only demo that didn't run was the VR demo. I got the following message:

"This demo requires a browser that supports CSS 3D transforms.
To view this demo, you’ll need Safari on Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Safari on iPhone OS, or the latest WebKit Nightly Build."

I guess that not all HTML5 is backward compatible.

Posted by: deckstro | June 4, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

eprice29:

At the bottom of each example is a link to the code or the Safari Dev Center. You can very easily go see how they achieved what they did. I'll probably be checking it out once I have some time to look it over.

And I had a similar experience as deckstro - everything worked but the VR.

As for me? I've been developing interface and usability for about 15 years now. While this all has a very "oooh" factor to it, my initial reaction is .... frustration.

These are good tools, and in the right hands, they will make good web sites great, and great web sites exceptional. Except that for every good developer or development team, there are two or three who don't take the same level of care. I can see a lot of pain for end-users coming both through poorly developed sites and poorly used technologies.

I suppose I should rejoice - I'm a "fixer" of other's people's bad code, either directly or through consulting with other like-minded professionals. This will keep me busy for at least the next decade, most likely. But while all this is cool and lucrative for professionals like myself (not to mention instructional book authors and educators and consultants), I think there's going to be a few years of pain for regular end users. As a usability consultant, that makes me sad.

That Mac can't even support one of their own examples in their own browser is a prime example of how frustrating this is going to be both for users and developers in coming years.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | June 4, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Hola Rob! a mucha gente de mi Twitter que pregunté me dijeron que con Safari se le cierra inesperadamente la demo.También te mandé a tu Twitter un chico que ha conseguido ver las demoscon Chrome en Linux.Yo no lo he conseguido desde Linux ni con Chrome ni con Firefox tampoco.Un saludo!

Posted by: novatillasku | June 4, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

También con Midori identificado como Safari se pueden ver las demos.

Posted by: novatillasku | June 4, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Using Firefox I went to the demo site and confirmed your report. After clearing the invitation to download Safari, I copied the link location for the Typography demo to the clipboard and then pasted it into the form at http://validator.w3.org/. The validator reported 2 errors and 1 warning. I leave validation of the other demos as an exercise for the readers.

Posted by: Huston | June 4, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I posted some of my earlier thoughts on this whole HTML5 vs Flash business some time ago. This most recent demonstration of HTML5 really made my day though!

As a developer who is open to all available technologies in order to offer the best fit for my clients needs I have been aware that I need to get going on HTML5 and CSS3. I've just been waiting for learning materials to become more widely available (old school book learner) and IE9 to come on the scene; because like it or not, unless it is going to work on Internet Explorer you're not going to sell it anytime soon.

I've been in a quandary though about which direction I should be pushing my current projects; the ones being completed this year. I was feeling like I might be falling behind with all of the HTML5 fandom in the air, and Steve Jobs' emails, and pads for young men and maybe I should really be discouraging people from Flash involvement. So here, I thought, is a well put together page of what HTML5 has to offer from Apple; the best product promoters on the planet right now.

And all of that angst was for this! FOR THIS?! Optimized for Safari? So we're going back to optimizing for every browser again? Why doesn't the video work on Chrome? What happened to the VR demo? Those choppy transitions aren't going to fly with nitpicking clients! Flash brought this functionality to the web years ago, and has set the precedent for how it must work: cross browser, idiot proof, look good. This page has made it clear that HTML5 is still catching up, not setting a new standard. I'm all for HTML5 and CSS3, but if this is the best that Apple of all companies can put together I see that I need not be in any rush to push it over Flash. I'm going to cancel some of those HTML5 preorders and invest more time in jQuery instead.

Finally, a last comment on the complaint of poor performance on whatever toy is being carried around at the moment - as you grow up, better and more powerful toys will be at your disposal.

Posted by: TobyFuller | June 5, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't it have been better for Apple to allow other browsers to click through the links so one could see them fail? That would certainly reinforce their claim that Safari is better.

Posted by: danatay2 | June 7, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

So are these actual working examples of HTML5 code, or just "demos" using God-only-knows what kind of technology, but requiring Safari? Like, say, ActiveX in IE?

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | June 7, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

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