ready

It’s a wrap! “App Basics for FirefoxOS” is out and ready to get you started

A week ago we announced a series of video tutorials around creating HTML5 apps for Firefox OS. Now we released all the videos and you can watch the series in one go.

wrap
Photo by Olliver Hallmann

The series is aimed at web developers who want to build their first HTML5 application. Specifically it is meant to be distributed in the emerging markets, where Firefox OS is the first option to get an affordable smartphone and start selling apps to the audiences there.

Over the last week, we released the different videos of the series – one each day:

Yesterday we announced the last video in the series. For all of you who asked for the whole series to watch in one go, you now got the chance to do so.

There are various resources you can use:

What’s next?

There will be more videos on similar topics coming in the future and we are busy getting the videos dubbed in other languages. If you want to help us get the word out, check the embedded versions of the videos on Codefirefox.com, where we use Amara to allow for subtitles.

Speaking of subtitles and transcripts, we are currently considering both, depending on demand. If you think this would be a very useful thing to have, please tell us in the comments.

Thanks

Many thanks to Sergi, Jan, Jakob, Ketil, Nathalie and Anne from Telenor, Brian Bondy from Khan Academy, Paul Jarrat and Chris Heilmann of Mozilla to make all of this possible. Technologies used to make this happen were Screenflow, Amazon S3, Vid.ly by encoding.com and YouTube.

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getUserMedia is ready to roll!

We blogged about some of our WebRTC efforts back in April. Today we have an exciting update for you on that front: getUserMedia has landed on mozilla-central! This means you will be able to use the API on the latest Nightly versions of Firefox, and it will eventually make its way to a release build.

getUserMedia is a DOM API that allows web pages to obtain video and audio input, for instance, from a webcam or microphone. We hope this will open the possibility of building a whole new class of web pages and applications. This DOM API is one component of the WebRTC project, which also includes APIs for peer-to-peer communication channels that will enable exchange of video steams, audio streams and arbitrary data.

We’re still working on the PeerConnection API, but getUserMedia is a great first step in the progression towards full WebRTC support in Firefox! We’ve certainly come a long way since the first image from a webcam appeared on a web page via a DOM API. (Not to mention audio recording support in Jetpack before that.)

We’ve implemented a prefixed version of the “Media Capture and Streams” standard being developed at the W3C. Not all portions of the specification have been implemented yet; most notably, we do not support the Constraints API (which allows the caller to request certain types of audio and video based on various parameters).

We have also implemented a Mozilla specific extension to the API: the first argument to mozGetUserMedia is a dictionary that will also accept the property {picture: true} in addition to {video: true} or {audio: true}. The picture API is an experiment to see if there is interest in a dedicated mechanism to obtain a single picture from the user’s camera, without having to set up a video stream. This could be useful in a profile picture upload page, or a photo sharing application, for example.

Without further ado, let’s start with a simple example! Make sure to create a pref named “media.navigator.enabled” and set it to true via about:config first. We’ve put the pref in place because we haven’t implemented a permissions model or any UI for prompting the user to authorize access to the camera or microphone. This release of the API is aimed at developers, and we’ll enable the pref by default after we have a permission model and UI that we’re happy with.



There’s also a demo page where you can test the audio, video and picture capabilities of the API. Give it a whirl, and let us know what you think! We’re especially interested in feedback from the web developer community about the API and whether it will meet your use cases. You can leave comments on this post, or on the dev-media mailing list or newsgroup.

We encourage you to get involved with the project – there’s a lot of information about our ongoing efforts on the project wiki page. Posting on the mailing list with your questions, comments and suggestions is great way to get started. We also hang out on the #media IRC channel, feel free to drop in for an informal chat.

Happy hacking!

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Launching Evangelism Reps – getting the army of awesome ready to take the stage

Today the Developer Engagement Team has launched the Evangelism Reps program – a special interest group within ReMo. Each year, we get thousands of requests to send Mozilla speakers around the world to talk about HTML5, new web technologies, Mozilla’s mission, our projects, products and more. Now, we would love for you to join the effort and become a Mozilla speaker too!

This program is open to paid staff and Mozilla Reps of all skill levels and capabilities. If you are a new speaker and have always wanted to represent Mozilla at events, you can take advantage of our advanced speaker training where you can learn from people like Christian Heilmann and Robert Nyman on how to give effective presentations and get access to their best practices. People who are veteran speakers can also benefit by having the tools and resources available to host events, prepare stunning screen casts and be mentors to new Evangelism Reps.

We encourage all current Mozilla speakers to please join our Speaker Database even if you don’t join the Evangelism Reps program. This will help us know who you are and match you up with the speaking opportunities that fit you best.

The Evangelism Reps program information is on the wiki: https://wiki.mozilla.org/ReMo/SIGs/Evangelism_Reps

Please contact us at make-me-a-speaker@mozilla.com if you are interested in joining the team. We anticipate our first training to be held in May so stay tuned for this exciting opportunity.

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HTML5 is not ready yet – and will never be (and that is a good thing) – HTML5 Question #1

One of the big questions I repeatedly got at events lately is this:

Is HTML5 ready yet?

The Roscommon Spaghetti Incident

The answer is no, because HTML5 is not a bowl of spaghetti that you know when they are ready by flinging them against the wall. HTML was never “ready” and will never be “ready”. It can be “the right choice” and it will be “an exciting opportunity”, it might also be “a dirty hack that works right now” or a “semantically valuable resource that can be converted to whatever you want”.

You see, even HTML4.01 or XHTML for that matter was never “ready”. Sure, the standard was agreed on and you could put in your project deliveries that your web site will be compatible with it, but in most cases this was a lie.

Standard compliance on the web is a means to an end. It made it easier to track mistakes and it made your work understandable by other developers but when it comes to delivering web products, it had not much impact. As web developers we were constantly asked to build interfaces and apply designs and interactions that were never defined in the standard. Which is why we had to find ways to do that which in a lot of cases meant abusing the standard.

We used spacer GIFs and   for padding and margins before CSS got support, we used tables for layout, we used image maps, we used image replacement, we used HTML generated from JavaScript for different browsers and whatever it took to get the best out of what we had in order to achieve the goal we set ourselves.

The goal was always the same: deliver the best possible experience in an unknown, always changing environment.

You don’t know what browser in what setting on which operating system with which security settings the end user has. You also don’t know what ability and connectivity the end user has. An HTML5 app is meant to run on a desktop with 1440 resolution, quadcore processor and lots of RAM on a 10mbit line but also on an old smartphone in the middle of nowhere with a flaky connection. And this is where HTML/CSS and JavaScript excel: you can build apps and sites that adapt to the needs of the environment they run in. This always meant a mix of various web standards and approaches.

The big issue we have now is that with a lot of HTML5 marketing this goal has been washed out and people expect more control from HTML5. The incredibly brain-dead message of “HTML5 is the Flash killer” (yes, I said it) clouds all of our judgement and stands in the way of great web applications. In my book, Flash doesn’t need killing at all.

What needs killing is the close-minded limited way we think about web applications. Flash gave people the impression that they can control the web and define what the end user sees. This is limiting the web and does a disservice to your product. When building web applications you should focus on reaching as many people as possible and not force-feed your design or interaction to all and deliver an agreement that leaves everybody unsatisfied. The recently released Web App Field Guide by Google brings it to the point: HTML5 has enabled developers to break free of the limits they were used to when building web applications.

HTML5 is the evolution we needed in web technology to build apps instead of documents. HTML4 was not the right technology for that and XHTML was a bust from the very beginning as it was too rigid for the web. We now have ways to store information on the computer, we have access to multimedia and we can create visuals in the browser. HTML5 is not just markup or “watered down XML”, it includes JavaScript APIs and defines how a browser should behave if it wants to be called an HTML5 compliant browser.

The main difference between HTML4 and HTML5 is the direction of innovation. In the HTML4 world we had a standard that was inadequate to what we needed to build. That’s why browser vendors build their own extensions on top of it and created a total mess for developers. In order to achieve our goal we had to write code for each of the browsers out there, rather than writing HTML. This was awful and caused a lot of people to chose the simple way out and write exclusively for one browser. In the past this was Internet Explorer 6 and this is why we now have a lot of government and enterprise IT environments that don’t upgrade to newer browsers. This holds us back.

HTML is now a living standard. This boggles the mind of a lot of people – how could a standard be living? Well, to me, this makes a lot of sense. The needs of the web are constantly changing. A few years ago nobody predicted – least of all the standards bodies – that we will consume the internet on mobile devices with touch interfaces. What will happen in the nearer future? Who knows? Face and motion recognition?

HTML5 is defined by browser makers tinkering and innovating and feeding back to the standard. Then other browser makers weigh in and we make it an agreed standard. This avoids the issue of developers having to build things for browsers and it means the standard will not fall behind. The main power of the internet is that you don’t need to write the same app several times for different environments and by agreeing amongst browser makers we make sure that there will not be a new IE6 situation.

So no, HTML5 is not ready and will never be – and that is a good thing. We have a standard for the web with all its change and adaptation and not a software standard that expects 5 year turnaround times in innovation.

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Ask MDN: Our experts are ready to answer your questions

[Update] The panel of experts and time of the first event have been added below.

Something amazing is starting next week. No, not pay day. It’s more important than that. Got it yet? No? It’s Ask MDN, silly! Still no idea what that is? Don’t worry, it’s new and I’m here to tell you all about it.

Introducing Ask MDN

Ask MDN is a new initiative from MDN and the Developer Engagement team here at Mozilla.

For one hour a week on Twitter we will get a panel of experts together to answer your questions about a specific topic related to Web development.

Every week we choose a different topic, which will be announced in advance so you have plenty of opportunity to send in a question for our experts (who also change each week).

After each week we will archive the questions and answers so you can search through them and continue learning long into the future. We see this as being just as valuable a resource for learning as the documentation is on MDN.

Engaging with the developer community on Twitter

We’re starting Ask MDN because we believe that there isn’t much help for developers on Twitter outside of questions and answers between friends.

With Ask MDN we want to bring together the developer community and our long-standing relationship with experts. We want to make it super easy to get a trusted and valued opinion on something that’s been bugging you, no matter how simple.

Announcing the first topic: HTML5 gaming and creative JavaScript

The first Ask MDN hour on Twitter is next week and it will be focussing on HTML5 gaming and creative JavaScript (animations, graphics, etc).

We’ve already got a great panel of experts lined up ready to answer your questions. They include game developers, authors, JavaScript ninjas, and Flash heavy-weights (there is a still a lot that we can learn from the Flash guys).

We’ll announce the next topic after the HTML5 gaming hour is over.

When and where?

The live HTML5 gaming and creative JavaScript Q&A will take place on Friday the 29th of July at 6pm in the UK (BST), and will be moderated through the @AskMDN Twitter account. Make sure to follow that account to keep up-to-date with what’s happening.

We chose 6pm in the UK because it’s a time that the majority of the world will be able to access; it’s morning in the US, and evening in Europe. We appreciate that this isn’t perfect for everyone, but we haven’t gotten around to building a time machine just yet.

The first event will occur at the following times around the world:

  • 10am in San Francisco (PDT)
  • 1pm in New York (EDT)
  • 7pm in Paris, Berlin and Madrid (CEST)

Find the time where you live to make sure you don’t miss out.

Who are the experts?

We’re really proud to bring you an astounding panel of experts, each carefully chosen to give a fascinating insight into the tech surrounding HTML5 gaming and creative JavaScript.

You don’t get a chance like this often, so make sure you submit a question to the panel.

Seb Lee-Delisle

Seb (@seb_ly) is an internationally recognised creative coder best known for his award-winning Flash work. He has recently been teaching developers the delights of creative JavaScript through his workshops in the UK and US.

Seb was recently interviewed as one of our People of HTML5.

Rob Evans

Rob (@IsogenicEngine) is the developer behind Isogenic Engine, one of the most promising HTML5 gaming engines out there today.

Dominic Szablewski

Dominic (@phoboslab) is the developer behind the Impact HTML5 gaming engine, one of the most popular publicly-accessible engines out there right now.

Andreas Røsdal

Andreas (@andreasrosdal) is the developer behind Freeciv.net, which is a HTML5 version of the strategy game Freeciv.

Tom Schuster

Tom (@evilpies) is a core contributor to Mozilla’s SpiderMonkey JavaScript engine. His knowledge with JavaScript performance and optimisation will be invaluable.

Michal Budzynski

Michal (@michalbe) is the developer behind onGameStart, the first large-scale HTML5 gaming conference in the world.

Benoit Jacob

Benoit is a Software Developer here at Mozilla who works on graphics and WebGL. As a result of this he has in-depth knowledge about hardware acceleration in these kinds of environments.

Rob Hawkes

Rob (@robhawkes) is me. I am a Technical Evangelist at Mozilla with experience developing games and creative experiments with HTML5 and JavaScript. I will be on the panel, but my main role will be moderating the discussion and keeping things running smoothly.

Getting involved

It’s going to be a great experience so I encourage you to get involved by following @AskMDN on Twitter.

Submit your questions about HTML5 gaming and creative JavaScript in an @ reply to our account. Nearer the hour itself we’ll announce a hash-tag that can also be used to submit questions.

Got a topic that you want us to cover in a future Ask MDN hour? Send it as an @ reply on Twitter, or reply in the comments below.

Taking things forward

This is just the beginning. We have big plans for Ask MDN, but we won’t be able to do any of it without you.

Get involved today and help us make the Web a better place.

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The Web As OS: Time To Get Ready

The Internet as we know it is coming to an end. Is your organization is poised to take advantage of cutting-edge technologies that make it possible to build browser-based applications that rival traditional desktop software in capabilities and interface features?

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