Lawson's Creek: A Few Words With the HTML5 Doctor

Bruce Lawson is a web standards evangelist on Opera's Developer Relations team and a former member of The Web Standards Project's Accessibility Task Force. We recently caught up with Bruce to discuss web accessibility, HTML5, his publishing past, and other topics.

How and where did you get your start in the web?

I'd long been interested in computers, having been a Basic, COBOL, Fortran, and Assembler programmer in the late 80s and early 90s. While living in the Far East just before the millennium, I used the web a lot to access English-language news, and so on, and was immediately struck by the realisation that this was a revolution in communication as profound as the printing press—so it was natural I'd want to work in it. On returning to Blighty, I got a job with a computer book publisher and set up glasshaus, a brand dedicated to what we now call “front end.”

Has having Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affected your perspective on the web and particularly accessibility?

Probably. There's doubtless some self-interest in my fascination with accessibility, but it's wider than that. We have a medium that is designed to be available to anyone, on any device, running any operating system available. That openness is built in. So it grieves me to see people breaking it, whether it's by ignoring accessibility, or browser sniffing, or saying something stupid like “best viewed on an iPad.” Attendees should also know that, if my MS bites so I can't use a mouse, anyone who turns off outlines on focus when I'm navigating with the keyboard will be hunted down. I am a purple belt in kickboxing.

You've been an advocate of HTML5 for years now. What's got you most excited about it these days?

Service Workers. The spec's not finished yet, but they'll allow real offline apps (without the weirdness of AppCache), push messaging, and background sync—enabling web apps to do some of the things that native apps can. That's the most important thing: give the web feature parity with native, without mimicing native's worst aspects.

Speaking of which, your An Event Apart presentation is on native apps versus the web. What will people take away from it?

That the core strengths of the web should be preserved, not abandoned. This is just as much a job for developers as it is for browser makers and standards bodies. Oh, and that you're never too old and portly to have ludicrous hair.

Hear Bruce on “Web+: Can the Web Win the War Against Native Without Losing its Soul?” along with presentations from eleven other brilliant speakers at An Event Apart Boston in April—or attend the AEA conference nearest you.