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Sunday, February 14, 2010, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Adobe working to sabotage HTML5 (updated)

Despite initial comments in support of HTML5 as an option standard, Adobe has taken action to sabotage the open specification in an effort to support its existing position with Flash.

Update: Adobe's Larry Masinter has issued a correction that insists neither he nor his company is intentionally holding up the HTML5 spec:

"No part of HTML5 is, or was ever, 'blocked in the W3C HTML Working Group — not HTML5, not Canvas 2D Graphics, not Microdata, not Video not by me, not by Adobe."

Neither Adobe nor I oppose, are fighting, are trying to stop, slow down, hinder, oppose, or harm HTML5, Canvas 2D Graphics, Microdata, video in HTML, or any of the other significant features in HTML5."

Masinter also added, "There are some things that are wrong with the spec I'd like to see fixed. There are some things that are really, really, wrong with the process that I'd like to improve."


Ian Hickson, a member of the HTML5 working group and an employee of Google, originally reported this week that "the latest publication of HTML5 is now blocked by Adobe, via an objection that has still not been made public (despite yesterday's promise to make it so)."

Hickson contrasted a series of comments from Adobe executives, including CEO Shantanu Narayen, who in 2009 said, "To the extent that an improved HTML standard accelerates innovation and consistent reach for web content, we’re very supportive."

Dave McAllister, an Adobe Evangelist, said last year that, "for Adobe, 'open' is all aspects of communications and technologies. For us, those are open source, standards, and community. [...] We make sure that we talk to our communities, that we play with the standards groups, [...] We are actually one of the most open companies that are active."

Earlier this month, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch said that “Adobe supports HTML and its evolution.”

Despite all these supportive public comments however, Adobe was seen to be working to block the HTML5 specification, particularly in the realm of the canvas element. While HTML5 is often contrasted with Flash as a means for supporting video playback, the new HTML5 canvas element presents a direct threat to Flash as a way to add animation or navigation elements to a webpage.

The HTML5 canvas element also supports the creation of web games, advertisements, and other interactive content, a feature set that will make its adoption a direct threat to Adobe's Flash platform.

Adobe has been working to incite interest and talk about Flash, particularly on the iPhone, iPod touch and the new iPad, none of which support Flash.