Recapping Times Open, HTML5 and Beyond

The New York Times Vice President of Digital Technology, Rajiv Pant, and staff developer, Andre Behrens, kicked off the event, the first of this year’s four TimesOpen events, plus the Hack Day scheduled for December 3. There are four events scheduled culminating in a December Hack Day, all hosted at the New York Times.

“HTML5 has become not just the hot new thing, but the serious serious thing,” said Behrens. “People that you would think are so removed from technology that they wouldn’t know that word, they know that word.” The evening’s talks would focus on where HTML5 is going, and some things about two related technologies, node.js and CoffeScript, that have HTML5 people excited.
David Padbury from Lab49, where he’s been working on HTML5 applications for the past couple years, spoke first, and focused on node.js. He spent nearly all of his time exposing the guts of “node,” live-hacking demos that showed what it could do as a web framework, on mobile platforms and as a push technology.

Jeremy Ashkenas, an Interactive News developer at The Times, invented CoffeeScript, a new nicer-than-JavaScript programming language that compiles into JavaScript. He made the case that languages, like his CoffeeScript, belong in Web developers’ utility belts along with their preferred framework, (Rails, Django, etc.) And fast-running JavaScript, a byproduct of today’s intense browser competition, makes it possible, and increasingly useful.

Pete LePage is a Developer Advocate at Google and showed what the company is doing in their Chrome browser in preparation for an HTML5 future. He presented a series of demos that ran the rich media gamut from new precision GUI and style elements, to speech input, and to dynamic interactive audio and graphics.

The three experts joined up for about 10 minutes of Q&A after the presentations. “What are your thoughts on Flash at this point in time and moving forward?” one audience member asked. “Is it dead? Don’t learn it? Or what?” You’d have to ask Adobe if Flash is officially dead, said Padbury, “but as to whether we still need them as developers, it’s less the case.” LePage pointed out that Flash does some important things, like digital rights management, very well and it will always have a place because of it. “But the cool thing is that HTML5 is really about the Open Web, and it does a lot of cool stuff,” he said. “If you love the Open Web — HTML5!”

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