Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘talk’

HTML5 and the future of the web – Dr. Seuss style

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Update: there are now videos (screencasts) and audio of the talk available on the Mozilla blog.

I am currently at the Webvisions Event in Barcelona, Spain and tomorrow I will give a talk about “HTML5 and the future of the web”. To spice things up a bit, as I enjoyed watching The Lorax on the plane and seeing that a lot of people at the conference are parents, I thought it would be a good plan to write my whole slide deck in Dr.Seuss rhymes. This may go down immensely well, or fail horribly, but you got to take chances.

The talk (with a few extra slides) is available on Slideshare, as a PDF on Dropbox and as a styled HTML version on GitHub. Also thanks to Eric Shepherd for some rhyming help.

Enough of this – here we go:

  1. There’s a big web out there, 
    it’s huge – I tell you, 
    it spans the whole world
    but it was boring and blue
  2. Then change came about, 
    in the shape of a fox
    it was cunning and open
    and it broke all the locks.
  3. Others showed up,
    and joined the good fight
    a singer, an adventurer
    and a shiny new knight.
  4. These all played together
    and spoke the same tongue
    which brought back old players,
    to join them in song. 
  5. A standard was set, 
    and it changed a few things,
    a richer web for apps
    was the promise it brings.
  6. Bah, standards! Who needs them?
    Some flashy ones said, 
    till a phone that was smart,
    kicked them out of its bed.
  7. We moved past one standard, 
    as web work is richer,
    so HTML5 and friends,
    paints a much better .
  8. Things that are fun
    should be shiny and cool,
    that’s why the new standards
    bring many a new tool.
  9. Watching and hearing,
    are what people like to do.
    Using and is simple,
    and you can do it, too.
  10. Both of them are web-native,
    which is a reason to clap.
    They can interact with other content,
    and Mozilla Popcorn makes that a snap.
  11. If beats and frequencies are
    what you need to play,
    check the Web Audio API -
    it gives you just that – even today.
  12. To play nice with batteries,
    use requestAnimationFrame(),
    don’t let it stop you
    that it has such a long name.
  13. 3D graphics are thrilling,
    as gamers will tell,
    we now have that on the web
    and it is called WebGL.
  14. Water goes everywhere you pour it,
    just ask Chris about his Macbook Air :(
    MediaQueries allow you be as fluid
    and respond instead of despair.
  15. Natural movements are smooth,
    just open your eyes.
    With CSS animation, transforms and transition,
    you can mimic this – nice!
  16. “The web means you need to be online”,
    I hear smartypants gloat,
    well, we have offline storage,
    so there – take your coat.
  17. Got a cam and some friends,
    and do you want to chat?
    WebRTC is what you need,
    even to show off your cat.
  18. Rhymes sometimes don’t come easy,
    as you just became aware.
    So let’s just move ahead quickly,
    this was just too much to bear.
  19. An artist needs a ,
    and HTML5 gave us that.
    Read, write and convert pixels,
    All in the client, it’s mad!
  20. “We don’t have rich elements!”
    many people complain,
    Use Web Components with X-Tag
    and create them – easy to maintain.
  21. Passwords are tough, 
    it is easy to see, 
    so allow login with emails,
    using BrowserID.
  22. The web is a mess,
    with third party buttons abound.
    Web Intents make them pointless,
    let’s not have them around.
  23. By design HTML5 is forgiving,
    its parser is great.
    It didn’t want to break the web,
    so let’s not break it in its stead.
  24. Course you can write weird things,
    and they will work – there’s no doubt.
    But will they be readable by others?
    This is what it’s about.
  25. You don’t create for yourself,
    or your friends who are the same.
    You develop for the next guy,
    so make sure you’re not to blame.
  26. You don’t jump in a river,
    if you don’t know its depth.
    On the web using Modernizr,
    should be your first step.
  27. Give new stuff to new players,
    and use it to enhance.
    Don’t support when it’s not needed
    IE6 walks – it can’t dance!
  28. With a vendor prefix browsers tell you
    “this is not ready”.
    So by all means, give them a go,
    but don’t expect to go steady
  29. And those prefixes vanish,
    you mustn’t forget!
    End with a prefixless version,
    It’s your very best bet.
  30. So we ask you to help us,
    build a web that will last.
    Be future friendly and look forward,
    and stop building for the past.
  31. The web is on phones,
    tablets, computers, TVs.
    We have to move it forward.
    or else our existence will cease.
  32. Hardware that is locked up,
    is not what we are about,
    so check out Firefox OS,
    if you like the web – you will like it – no doubt.
  33. Last but not least,
    if you find something’s wrong
    please file a bug and tell us,
    this is how things get done.
  34. So there you have a lot to play with,
    check out and share.
    We really want you to do that,
    come on, show us you care.
  35. Unless someone like you
    cares a whole awful lot,
    nothing is going to get better.
    It’s not.
  36. So well done for reading and listening,
    and going great lengths,
    that’s all we got time for today,
    so good-bye and thanks!

Kings of Code – HTML5: Time for some slicker apps

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Yesterday I was in Amsterdam to speak at the Kings of code conference. My ambitious goal was to cover the relevant parts of HTML5 and CSS3 for backend developers in 25 minutes and I think I just about managed to reach it.

The presentation slides are available here and embedded below (use cursor keys to navigate back and forth):

The audio recording of the talk (raw, unedited) is available on

Overall the reaction was good, so I hope I managed to bust some myths and look forward to see what people do with the inspiration.

Using HTML5 sensibly and Multimedia on the web – speaking at the London Ajax Meetup

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Yesterday night I spoke at the London Ajax Meetup about Multimedia on the web (a repeat of my MIT talk as I wanted a video of it) and “Using HTML5” sensibly.

Especially the second talk was close to my heart as I think it is high time us developers take back HTML5 from the marketing people. HTML5 is the evolution of our web technologies, not another flashy add-on to already badly used outdated practices.

You can find the Slides of the talk on Slideshare:

The audio recording of the talk is also available on

The organisers promised that the video of the talks is available soon.

I am also going to write a detailed post on Mozilla once the video is available.

Of Hamsters, Feature Creatures and Missed Opportunities – my talk at Fronteers 2009

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

The outline

In this session Chris Heilmann will show how some of the traits we have as developers keep us from evolving and our market from maturing. Instead of picking and choosing from already amazing products we tend to want to build and maintain everything ourselves – and fail at keeping up the quality leaving both security holes and carwrecks on the information superhighway behind. There is another way and Chris will show just how much more fun we can have with the web if we use systems that are available for us for free, remix the web with simple meta-mixing systems and liberate our developer minds from the barriers technology throws at us. If you always thought that there has to be more to our jobs than fixing bugs, this session is for you.


The audio recording

You can download the MP3 of the talk at – 42MB.

Following are the notes which will resemble what I am talking about…

Remember, remember the 5th of November…

First of all, how cool is it to have a conference on Guy Fawkes? Whoever can recite the “V” alliteration later on flawlessly I will buy a beer for.


Here’s a thing that happened in my garden in London the other day. My friend keeps putting bird feed in the garden to, well, feed the birds. She also wonders why she keeps having weeds in her garden. Well, the reason is this: a squirrel keeps coming and takes the bird feed and buries it a meter away from the bird feeder (video of the theft). This is stupid as we keep replenishing the bird feed anyways. However in the mind of the squirrel it is a safe idea to keep a cache. Luckily we humans are cleverer, right?

No. One very human trait we have is that we want to collect things – especially when they are free. If you followed my exploits this year you’d have seen that I travelled – a lot. What I found myself doing is collecting both inflight sock and toothpaste packs and little soap/shampoo/body lotion bottles. I am amazed just how many of these things I accumulated without ever needing them.

This is exactly what we do with knowledge and code examples. I have about 20GB of e-books on all kind of technical subjects. All of these I haven’t looked at for years as most of the topics are outdated. However, we accumulate knowledge and think we do a great job once we found the solution to end all solutions. That doesn’t work any longer. We should not fill up our head with useless information about how some browser fails to do one thing or another. This secured our jobs during the first .com crash but it is time to let go.

Amazing resources

Nowadays we have amazing resources for beginners to learn what we are doing. The times of copy and paste and then try to understand someone else’s code is over. We should not put random stuff on the web. Both the Opera Web Standards Curriculum and the WaSP interact curriculum needs your input.

Evolving the web

Our job as developers is to evolve the web to something more than it is now. However, we are not really concentrating on that. There are a few things that are in our way.

Specialising without caring about the consequences

One thing is that we tend to become specialists in a certain area and forget about the others. Web development is a task of working together with other specialists to build amazing interfaces that make a change in people’s lives. If you are not passionate about a certain aspect of it, don’t do that job – instead partner with somebody who is passionate about it.


The amount of energy wasted every day fighting each other on forums, mailing lists and other resources about which technology is best and what library to use pains and bores me. It is not helpful and it doesn’t make any sense to try to make the world fit your tool of choice.

Be a librarian

Good developers should be like librarians. You don’t need to know everything, but you need to know where to find the right information at the right time.

Use libraries

And for that, use libraries like Dojo, jQuery, YUI, mootools or whatever to work around the browser problems so that you can concentrate on what you want to build rather than how it fails.

Libraries fix browsers

Our main enemy to build cool products are browsers. The technologies and standards that drive the web are dead easy – we just don’t have time using them as we spend most of our time testing and wondering why browsers don’t implement them in a predictable manner. This is where libraries come in and my plea here is to use them. Using libraries you can write predictable applications built on a base that can be altered for all the browsers to come – if you build towards the browsers in use today you build for the past. We’ve done that before and paid dearly for it.

Use don’t abuse libraries

Libraries give you an amazing amount of power to do quick solutions. Be aware that when you use them though, you use them wisely. Do not mix HTML, CSS and JavaScript in the same script. This creates unmaintainable solutions and we had years and years of those.

The feature creature

The first time I heard about the feature creature was in 2004 here in Amsterdam at the PHP conference. I loved the image of every developer having a little creature on their shoulder that keeps telling us what we should be doing. Most of the time the feature creature tells us that whatever is out there is not nearly as good as the thing we can come up with. It also keeps telling us that whatever we do needs more features. This leads to something I call the feature loop.

The feature loop

As developers we are driven to writing simple, elegant and clever solutions for complex issues. Then we do the right thing and release those to the whole world. Then we do the wrong thing by listening to everybody who wants to have an extra feature and support for some very esoteric edge case. We add all of these extensions and build something complex again that another developer might find and simplify again.

Breaking the loop

The only way to break this vicious circle is by broadening our horizons and being cleverly lazy. I talked about this before in detail at the web expo in Prague. In essence what I am saying is that a lot of what we think is our job to do has been done for us already. And now I am going to show you some of these things.

Missed opportunities

The thing is that by building on tested and working solutions we can build faster, more secure and working solutions. While we think that we need to squeeze the last out of everything we do ourselves very successful web sites are being built in other countries where developers are very pragmatic of what has to be done. Questioning an out-of-the box solution is a good safety measure but you also need to draw the line at trying to replace them. Instead, why not add to the already existing system – all of them are open source!

The other thing we keep forgetting as web developers is that the technologies we are experts in right now reach much further than the browser world.

Our technologies are hot right now

Mobile development, W3C mobile widgets, iPhone development, TV widgets and applications running inside Facebook, Yahoo or iGoogle are all based on CSS, HTML and JavaScript and run in much more defined and easier to use environments. We can take our knowledge and finally work without the sword of damocles of bad browser support hanging over our head.

Changing the idea of what the web is

The web is not web sites, it is not even code. Deep down all of it is about data and information. The Yahoo homepage for example moved from a directory of bookmarks to a portal full of third party content to a starting point for users where they can mix and match content of the web to their liking. This goes as far as now allowing people to update Facebook from the Yahoo homepage or you to write an application that is shown on it.

Building with components

Interfaces like that are only possible when you move away from the old idea of having a single page but you think of small components in the interface that could hold whatever the end user pleases. This is were we run into issues with the web standards, but that is another talk.

Based on APIs

All the data to remix and show is available for us on the web already – offered as APIs and listed on sites like Programmable Web.

Kobayashi Maru

Looking at the sheer amount of APIs – over 1500 right now – and knowing full well that all of them were built by developers with the feature creature on their shoulder it seems impossible to use a lot of them at the same time as you need to read up on all the documentation, get developer keys, learn the authentication and so on. We have that same problem internally at Yahoo, which is why we tackled it.

YQL is there for you

YQL is a meta language for the web that over a single, simple REST service turns the whole web into a giant database for you to explore and take part in. Let’s see some examples:

Photos from Flickr?

select * from where text = “cat”

Headlines of the New York Times?

select * from where query=”spontaneous combustion”

Latest commits on a GitHub repo?

select * from github.repo.commits where id=’yql’ and repo=’yql-tables’

Latest headlines of the Volkskrant?

select title from html where url=”” and xpath=”//h2[@title]”

Latest “English” headlines of the Volkskrant?

select * from google.translate where q in (select title from html where url=”” and xpath=”//h2[@title]”) and target=’en’

Updating Twitter?

use ‘’;
insert into twitter.status
values (
“In your fronteers, blowing ur mindz”,

Updating WordPress?

insert into
(title, description, blogurl, username,
(“Test Title”, “This is a test body”,
“”, “codepo8”, “iedoesitright”)

Updating the internet?

delete from internet where user_agent=”MSIE” and version < 8;

– Not yet, sorry

Search one term in Google, Bing and Yahoo?

select * from query.multi where queries=’
select * from where query=”Jimmy Hoffa” and source in (“web”);
select * from where q = “Jimmy Hoffa”;
select * from search.web where query = “Jimmy Hoffa”

You can do all of this in the REST API{uri-encoded-query}&

Things you can do in YQL

  • You can mix and match whatever you want.
  • You can sort and limit.
  • You can extend with your own data tables by writing a schema and putting it on GitHub.
  • You can store information on the YQL servers (the cloud, the cloud)

Where’s the catch?

  • 10k hits an hour (20k with oAuth).
  • 100k hits a day.
  • Data is cached for 15 minutes (soon customisable).
  • Execution limit on the server is 30 seconds (for now).

That’s all!

An example – loading photos for a location from Flickr

Find Amsterdam

select * from geo.places where text=”amsterdam”

Define Amsterdam and get photos taken there

select * from where woe_id in (
select woeid from geo.places where text=”amsterdam”

Get all the information about these photos

select * from where photo_id in (
select id from where woe_id in (
select woeid from geo.places where text=”amsterdam”


Get only what we need

from where photo_id in (
select id from where woe_id in (
select woeid from geo.places where text=”amsterdam”


Select format JSON, define a callback and copy and paste the URL.*

Copy into a script src and write some DOM scripting to display

And you have a mashup!

Well, to a degree. You can see that it pulls photos from Flickr and shows them on a page.

You also have FAIL

As much as we love it, JavaScript is not reliably available in browsers and cannot be trusted for providing very important content. Or can it?

Moving JavaScript solutions server-side with YQL execute

Open data tables providing YQL with data can contain JavaScript that will be executed on the server to convert information. That way you can take the script just shown and make it a server-side conversion. The benefit of this is that you are not bound by client security flaws and you have full language support, including E4X for XML. The earlier script will thus become the following:

var amt = amount || 10;
var query = ‘select farm,id,secret,owner.realname,server,title,’+
‘urls.url.content from where ‘+
‘photo_id in (select id from‘+
amount + ‘) where ‘;
query += ‘woe_id in (select woeid from geo.places where text=”’ +
location+’”) and ‘;

query += ’ text=”’ + text + ‘” and license=4)’
var x = y.query(query);
var out =

This, embedded in an open table means you can retrieve photos from Flickr as a UL now using the following YQL statement:

use “” as flickr;
select * from flickr where text=”me” and location=”uk” and amount=20

You can then display the photos returned either with PHP:

$url = ‘;%20select%20*%20from%20flickr%20where%20text=%22me%22%20and%20location=%22uk%22%20and%20amount=20&format=xml&diagnostics=false’;
$ch = curl_init();
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $url);
curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
$output = curl_exec($ch);
$output = preg_replace(‘/.*
      $output = preg_replace(‘/
$output = preg_replace(‘//’,’‘,$output);
$output = preg_replace(‘//’,’‘,$output);
echo $output;

Or you can of course use JavaScript:

Be part of the movement

If you have other practical solutions like that, please write them and add them to the GitHub repository so they can become part of the interface.

Read the YQL documentation

Other than that you can read the YQL docs, there’s a YQL Blog and a Forum available. See you there.

Be clever, not busy

I think it is time we find solutions like libraries and YQL for our problems rather than doing everything by hand. Spend your time on making the web fun for humans, not on pleasing machines. If you are clever, you are allowed to be lazy. Replacing the web would be tough, so use it well.

Find, mix and show web data – a talk at the YDN developer evening in Madrid, Spain

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Monday I was in Madrid for a developer evening at ETSI Telecomunicacion. The hosting university had a very cool auditorium, but what really amazed me was that it is in part a museum for telecommunication which means the whole building was full of old comms hardware – something I really dig.

Anyways, my talk for the developer evening was a deep-dive into Yahoo Placemaker, YQL and YUI. Here are the slides:

You can also listen to the audio recording of the talk hosted on

If you want to see the video of the talk (which uses Isabel, the university’s conferencing system) you can check the recording on the university web site.