Web standards change so rapidly that even the most cutting-edge of browsers can’t keep up with them. No matter what you want to do, there’s probably a draft specification out there started by someone, waiting to be completed by the Internet Engineering Task Force or the World Wide Web Consortium. No joke, there’s even a spec on how to properly write a spec (For serious! RFC 2223). Dude who used to edit all the RFCs, Jon Postel, had his obituary published as an RFC (For deadly serious!! RFC 2468). With so many specifications out there, here are four specially selected emerging web standards to keep your eye on… Expertly picked out by yours truly.

WebSockets API

This one you’ve probably already heard of. This API allows bi-directional (full-duplex) communication across a single TCP connection. This is something that has been easily implemented in desktop applications for years, but has been elusive in its web flavor. What does this mean for communication? It means live data back and forth, not just timed listeners. This is efficient and instant communication across an open channel. Bonus: All the communication takes place over standard HTTP ports, so generally there’s no firewall or security concerns, which was probably one of the roadblocks for getting sockets on the web in the first place.

Preliminary support is there in the all the recent browsers like Chrome (v23), IE (v10), Firefox (v16), Safari (v6) and Opera (v12.1).

See RFC 6455 for details.

 

Indexed Database API

Oracle proposed IndexedDB (originally as WebSimpleDB) as a browser-storage concept for holding a local database of records and hierarchical objects. You might have heard of an alternative called WebSQL as another browser-storage concept… Word on the street is that IndexedDB has all but killed WebSQL entirely. Bad news for you hard-core SQL query folks, good news for us B-tree folks. Expect IndexedDB to win the browser-storage wars, so you better go learn what a B-tree is.

There’s some support in Chrome (v11), IE (v10) and Firefox (v16). Expect more to come as WebSQL is phased out entirely.

See the W3C Working Draft for Indexed Database API for details.

 

Media Capture API

With all the built-in microphones and cameras in laptops, tablets and phones these days, web-based media capture is becoming very important. That’s why there’s a ton of people working on the new Media Capture API standard. Imagine having a cross-browser, cross-device, simple JavaScript API for all forms of media capture and processing. Forget about plugins and helpers for media capture including streaming. How’s that for a native-code app killer?

You can find some support in the browsers like Chrome (v23), Firefox (v14) and Opera (v12.1).

See the W3C Working Draft Media Capture and Streams for details.

 

FileAPI

If you’ve ever tried to get something done on your iPhone or iPad and had to stop because you reached a mandatory “Upload a File” dialog, you already know why FileAPI will be big in the future. It promises cross-device file system access that is secure, standard and requires no plug-ins or helper applications. With all the variation in file systems across devices, this has been a tough API to work out, and it’s still under heavy development. Regardless of the inherent difficulty, it’s too important to go away–or as some like to say, too big to fail–and thus it will persevere.

Experimental support is there in browsers like Chrome (v13), IE (v10 – partial), Firefox (v3.6), Safari (v6) and Opera (v11.1).

See the W3C Editors Draft File API for details.

 

These emerging standards are pretty much the few remaining pieces of the puzzle that will put the nail in the native application coffin. Don’t be surprised a few years from now when all your “apps” work from anywhere, on any device and any browser. When that happens, think of this article and remember to thank me for the heads up ;)

 

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