I had an interesting online chat with a friend in the US this morning (well, this night for him...). The topic was HTML and the recent Microsoft announcements. While we see HTML reach a next level with desktop apps, the lingua franca of the web is still far, really far away from having all what's needed for desktop apps or even web-based desktop-alike apps. If form controls improved a lot between html4 and html5, a wide range of UI elements are still out of reach. Well. Let me explain before shouting : they are codable but each and every site has to reinvent the wheel with lots of UI theming and JavaScript-based controls. That's bad because that's incoherent and expensive. HTML+CSS still lacks major, really major stuff like:

  • real menus
  • tabboxes
  • pop-ins and more powerful tooltips
  • trees (and when I mean trees, I mean tree-like widgets like the XUL <tree> able to render tens of thousands of lines w/o making the user experience awful)
  • better integration with the OS/WindowManager
  • etc.

While we're (the Standards Community) now focusing on super-mega-hyper-useful stuff like an API to get the battery status (sic...), we're still unable to include in a web- or desktop app such widgets with a native look&feel. There are zillions of frameworks to ease the pain, but none of them is ready for desktop apps, and HTML+CSS+JS desktop apps need them to become mainstream AND cross-platform.

I think then a new standardization effort between HTML and CSS is needed to make HTML UI appear. Let's look back at XUL and XAML a bit... Thoughts?