The dream of building desktop-like Web applications based on commodity Web browsers is starting to look more and more feasible. HTML 5 represents not just another evolution of Web standards, but for the first time a viable starting point for applications that blur the distinctions between thick and thin clients.
Ordinarily, new HTML features don't get a whole lot of attention until Microsoft decides whether to join in and how big a mess to make of it. But this time seems different. For one thing, market share for Internet Explorer continues its multi-year slide. For another, the only two mobile device platforms that matter (iPhone/iPad and Android) have embraced HTML 5 with gusto. For still another, developing native apps on these mobile platforms will require massive re-tooling by existing players (not to mention a massive amount of certainty that they are backing the right one).
These new features aren't just pie-in-the-sky, either. Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome are all aggressively implementing new features from the HTML 5 spec - even before it becomes finalized.
Chemistry software has a long history on the desktop, so it will be interesting to see what effect the availability of desktop-like power through the browser has on the market.
In the series of articles to follow, I'll be taking a closer look at developing rich chemistry applications using purely browser-based approaches.