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Google bear hugs Microsoft in web standards team tag

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Google has given Microsoft a virtual bear hug, lauding the Redmond software giant for finally joining the push for a new-age HTML.

In early August, Internet Explorer product manager Adrian Bateman suddenly appeared on a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) mailing list dedicated to the still-gestating HTML 5 standard, and this simple gesture has sparked a rare moment of Redmond love inside the Mountain View Chocolate Factory.

"On August 7, 2009, Adrian Bateman did what no man or woman had ever done before: he gave substantive feedback on the current editor's draft of HTML 5 on behalf of Microsoft. His feedback was detailed and well-reasoned, and it spawned much discussion," Google's Mark Pilgrim wrote in a recent post to the official blog of the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).

"As you might expect, much of the discussion since August 7 has been driven by Microsoft's feedback. After five years of virtual silence, nobody wants to miss the opportunity to engage with a representative of the world's still-dominant browser."

In May, at the Google I/O developer conference in downtown San Francisco, vp of engineering Vic Gundotra ribbed Microsoft - again and again - for dragging its feet on the HTML 5 effort. As he showed off various HTML goodies he believes will change the world - from the video tag, for plug-in-free video, to web worker, for background processing - Gundotra announced that each one was in some way supported by all "modern browsers." That did not include Internet Explorer.

"You can imagine how excited we were to hear Microsoft's public statement about their commitment to the HTML 5 standard," he said. "And we eagerly await actually seeing evidence of that."

Now, at least, Microsoft is openly discussing the standard with the rest of the big-name browser vendors. Before August, the serious discussion was between Google, Firefox, Apple, and Opera.

For Google, HTML 5 signals a new age in application development. "This is the beginning of the real win of cloud computing, of the real win of applications, of the real win of the internet, which is changing the computing paradigm we all grew up with - so that it just works," CEO Eric Schmidt told Google I/O. "It works no matter what device you're using, no matter what operating system you're using, whatever operating system you're using - as long as you're connected."

And in some cases, even when you're not connected. Google has already introduced HTML5 versions of its mobile Gmail app, using app-caching to provide off-line access to messages. The company has also toyed with an HTML 5 incarnation of YouTube, which uses a video tag to deliver video sans plug-ins.

In contrast, Microsoft is pushing its Silverlight plug-in for video. And it continues to harp about "software plus services," eschewing the all-web-all-the-time model that Google espouses. But it appears the company is legitimately committed to hashing out a feasible HTML 5. Among other things, Bateman has endorsed the video and audio tags.

But there's still the rather thorny matter of which compression technology those tags will use. ®

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