May 27 AT 6:16 PM Clark Wimberly 3 Comments

Google I/O Opening Keynote Highlights (HTML 5 and FREE PHONES)

I’m sure by this point you’ll all heard about the free phones. In fact, I was half done with this article when I had to stop to rush across the Mascone Center and grab one. But even if you missed out on the free phones, there were still some really impressive demos and information to get excited about.

The main topic covered seemed to be new standards and making sure everyone is using them. The speech covered numerous features of HTML 5 that the open source community needs to fully embrace to push web and app development to the next level. The keynote was broken into five main sections, listed below.

HTML 5:
Canvas
Video
Geolocation
App Caching / Local Storage
Web Worker

Of course, I’m no keynote speaker, but I’ll attempt a quick recap of why each of these things is so important (bare with me).

The canvas tag is a way to dynamically script the rendering of bitmap images (which is a fancy way to say images and interfaces can by built on the fly). This section started with the speaker saying “How do you make a diagonal line in the browser?” As a web designer, I quickly thought “Save an image and place it.” With the use of canvas tags, images can be built when they are needed, as they are needed. Canvas isn’t totally new (actually none of these things are) and is already be used in a wide range of applications (one of my favorites is Cufon, a dynamic text replacement script).

The video tag was one of the things I’m most looking forward to. The demos were so impressive I leaned over to Taylor and said “I’ll believe it when I see it.” The point of the

Geolocation is coming to a desktop near you. If you’ve got a mobile device, geolocation is nothing new. What is new, however, is the fact that desktop browsers are jumping on board. Mozilla showed a demo of Google Maps working with the new “My Location” feature. When clicking “My Location” Mozilla launches a small permission pop-in (sort of like the pop-up blocker bar or the remember password bar we are all familiar with).

Another thing they were pushing was the use of a cache and other ways to store data locally on a user’s machine. This way the apps behave more like a true desktop application and can even have functionality offline. To demo, they displayed a notes application that could save and recall notes with no internet connection, then showed gmail browsing and displaying emails with airplane mode on (no connection).

Web workers are a way to run javascript processes in the background without affecting other applications (or browser tabs). To demo, they showed a page that was using javascript to calculate the highest prime number possible. In launching, the script slowed the browser down and made the other tabs unresponsive. With the new web worker running the process in the background, the script was able to spit out prime numbers even faster and without affecting the other tabs.

If you’d like to watch this morning’s keynote, Google has posted the whole thing on YouTube, which you can find here. Overall it was an amazing speech for a number of presenters. We heard from Google, Mozilla, Palm, and others. We also had a room of thousands all laughing in unison at Internet Explorer (which is always a sure sign you are in good company).

Oh yea, they also gave all 4,000 of us free phones.

The HTC Dream has a new street name, the Google Ion. You can find pictures of the unboxing and details here. Again, I’m no speaker so I may have botched a few of the finer points here, but I think you get the gist. HTML 5 is ready and able to take our web applications to the next level.

Clark is a developer living in Austin, Texas. He runs ClarkLab, a small web firm with his wife, Angie. He's a big fan of usability, standards, and clean design.

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