Microsoft is perhaps not the first company people would associate with open standards, but the firm has a presence in many of the standards bodies thrashing out the future direction of the web and defining the standards that will shape it, including HTML5.
Paul Cotton, Microsoft's director of web services standards strategy, is a good example, as he is also co-chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) HTML Working Group working on HTML5, and can therefore offer a good indication of where key web technologies are heading.
Possibly the most interesting opinion that Cotton divulged is that virtually any kind of application could be developed using HTML5, enabling developers to create true cross-platform applications that work on any device and any operating system, so long as it has a modern browser or supports HTML5 within the platform itself.
"I think you are going to see some really rich applications based on the HTML language and the kinds of APIs that are being developed at the W3C, such as WebSockets," said Cotton, who described WebSockets as "the most interesting thing in HTML5".
WebSockets allows full bi-directional communications between a browser and web server, in contrast to HTTP, whereby a server cannot deliver updated information until the user polls it and asks for a refresh.
"Imagine if you could tell Facebook who your top five friends are, and anytime one of them updates their status, Facebook could push that content to your home page right away. It turns the web into a two-way street," said Cotton.
But it is not just consumer-focused capabilities that are being addressed at the W3C, and many features now being considered will make it easier for developers to build everyday business applications using web standards.
File API, for example, is an HTML5 specification that allows web applications to access the underlying file system and manipulate the data stored inside files.
However, File API is still a work in progress, according to Cotton, and was not implemented in the early IE10 Platform Preview code recently unveiled at Microsoft's Mix developer conference.
Some browsers have already added support for File API, but Cotton said that developers are likely to find that changes to the specifications would break any applications built around the current implementation.
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