HTML5′s WebDB is one of the building blocks to create offline-enabled webapps. It allows web applications to store data in a local database and it is as such an important part in Google’s push for mobile webapps as an alternative for native mobile apps. The spec (although not finalized) is already implemented in Safari, Safari Mobile and in the Android 2.0 browser.
So WebDB will take the world by storm, won’t it? Well, pretend you didn’t read the title of this post and let’s look at some excerpts of the meeting minutes of the W3 Web Applications Working Group Teleconference of 02 Nov 2009 for more info on the state of WebDB. Charles McCathieNevile (Opera) had some good news to share:
At opera, we implemented web db [...] it’s likely we will [ship it] as people have built on it
and Google’s Ian Fette joined in:
We’ve implemented WebDB … we’re about to ship it
So that’s great news, no? We can expect WebDB to arrive in Chrome and Opera! OK, so what about Firefox and MSIE? Microsoft, represented by Adrian Bateman, stated:
We don’t think we’ll reasonably be able to ship an interoperable version of WebDB
Well, that doesn’t really come as a surprise does it? No WebDB in MSIE, but surely Mozilla will support this great spec? But Jonas Sicking’s point of view might be slightly shocking to some:
We’ve talked to a lot of developers, the feedback we got is that we really don’t want SQL [...] I don’t think mozilla plans to ship it.
Sorry, come again? Does that mean that Firefox will never support window.openDatabase()? Nope, they probably won’t and they provide some valid concerns (see also Vladimir Vukićević’s blogpost) in a mailinglist-discussion between Mozilla and Apple-engineers shortly after the meeting minutes were published. Summarized and simplified their objections boil down to two issues;
- in order to have a webdb standard, you also have to specify (and standardize) the SQL-language to query that database, the question is what SQL-dialect to standardize on.
- as the current implementations are all SQLite-based (including Google’s and Opera’s), the spec would have to describe the very specific SQL-dialect that SQLite uses (and maybe even of a specific version of SQLite)
Although I doubt that web-developers don’t want to do client-side SQL at all, writing a spec that almost mandates the use of a specific version of a specific product (even if it’s open source) can indeed be hardly considered the goal of w3.org’s standards creation process.
So back to the drawing-board for yet another spec? Based on the webapp group’s meeting minutes, Web SimpleDB (or “Nikunj”, after the name of the Oracle-engineer behind the idea) is considered a worthy alternative by at least Mozilla, Opera and Microsoft. Let’s hope that a consensus, a finalized spec (it’s in draft now) and the first usable cross-browser implementations will arrive soon.