The director of engineering for Adobe Web Platform explains how the firm is participating in web standards and working on a number of projects that make life easier for developers
This article first appeared in the November 2012 issue (#234) of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.
.net: How do you see Adobe’s role in developing the Open Web?
VH: One of Adobe’s goals is to enable content authors to create visually outstanding content that can reach their audiences. To that end, as it relates to the web, a few things are important. First and foremost, the ‘web engine’ – the web standards and the browser implementations – needs to enable a high level of creativity and needs to be reliable. While the web engine’s capabilities and interoperability have improved dramatically over the years, some key features are still missing or are only burgeoning, and some interoperability problems persist. So we are engaging in web standards, we contribute to the CSS, HTML and SVG working groups in the W3C, among others, we partner on the open source implementation of some features in the WebKit project, and we are starting to contribute to efforts to improve testing with the Test the Web Forward initiative.
In addition to helping improve the web engine, we are working a lot on letting web developers leverage their skills to create mobile applications with our Cordova and PhoneGap initiatives. We believe this broadens the applicability and usability of web technologies.
Finally, Adobe is focused on continuously improving its tools support and also creating new tools for the new challenges modern web development brings about. Our open source Brackets web code editor is an example of that.
.net: What are your main projects and initiatives?
VH: On the web engine part of our work, we currently contribute to layout features and graphical features. We co-edit a number of specifications (CSS Regions, CSS Exclusions) or proposals (CSS Pseudo-Elements) in the W3C. We believe these new features will enable a new level of document publishing on the web and meet the quality criteria required by the content creators and publishers.
Regarding graphical features, we work on what I call the web’s graphical foundation: core graphical features that apply widely to web content, HTML or SVG elements alike. In that category are CSS compositing and blending, CSS filter effects and the cinematic effects that CSS Shaders allow (a proposal we made to the W3C FX task force last year) and CSS transforms – we are working on making transforms work uniformly on HTML and graphical content. We just proposed to specify CSS masking to gauge the interest of the community for this feature that is widely used by creatives.
On the Cordova project, which is the core of PhoneGap, we focus on providing a streamlined architecture that will make PhoneGap applications leaner, faster and more efficient. The focus is really on making it easier for content creators and developers to use the web technologies and package them as applications. So we are working to make these applications easy to create, as small as possible, and support the simplest possible development workflow for easy debugging, emulation and cloud build solutions with PhoneGap Build.
.net: What do you see as the main challenges that web designers and developers face today?
VH: I think there are several big challenges.
One is to keep up with a very rapidly moving environment. It may be pedestrian to say so, but the web is really moving fast, and that does not make it easy for developers to know what to use, when to use it and how to use it. Thankfully, there are emerging resources and solutions such as Modernizr, HTML5 Please or www.caniuse.com which help the community keep up. As a community, I hope and trust that more and more efforts targeted at developers will appear.
Another big challenge is the wide variety of client devices web content has to support. The problem is not really new, but the challenge has reached a new level: we now have a very wide variety of device form factors, browser capabilities, pixel densities, processing and graphics capabilities. So responsive design in its largest sense, the ability for content and applications to adapt to their execution environment, is becoming key.
To provide the best possible experience to people accessing information and applications, developers must think broadly, test a lot, and keep up with the latest trends. An exciting but challenging task!
- Job: Director of engineering, Adobe Web Platform
- Previous career: Director of development at Kno; senior director, development at Oracle Corp; chair of the Compound Document Formats Working Group at W3C; Apache Batik founder
- Education: MS in computer science, Ecole Nationale des Télécommunications (ENST), Paris
- Twitter: @vincent_hardy