December, 2010

  • Interoperability @ Microsoft

    HTML5 Video and Interoperability: Firefox Add-On Provides H.264 Support on Windows


    As you know, Microsoft is committed to interoperability, and the IE team has previously blogged about and provided developer previews and samples showing “Same Markup” – the same HTML, CSS, and script working across browsers – in action.

    Today, as part of the interoperability bridges work we do on this team, we’re making available a new Firefox add-on that enables Firefox users on Windows to play H.264-encoded video on HTML5 by using the built-in capabilities found in Windows 7.

    Microsoft has already been offering for several years now the Windows Media Player plug-in for Firefox, which is downloaded by millions of people a month who want to watch Windows Media content.

    This new plug-in, known as the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in, is available for download here at no cost.

    It extends the functionality of the earlier plug-in for Firefox, and enables web pages that that offer video in the H.264 format using standard W3C HTML5 to work in Firefox on Windows. Because H.264 video on the web is so prevalent, this interoperability bridge is important for Firefox users who are Windows customers.

    H.264 is a widely-used industry standard, with broad and strong hardware support. This standardization allows users to easily take what they've recorded on a typical consumer video camera, put it on the web, and have it play in a web browser on any operating system or device with H.264 support, such as on a PC with Windows 7.

    H.264 is also a very well established and widely supported video compression format, developed for use in high definition systems such as HDTV, Blu-ray and HD DVD as well as low resolution portable devices. It also offers better quality at lower file sizes than both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 ASP (DivX or XviD).

    The HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in continues to offer our customers value and choice, since those who have Windows 7 and are using Firefox will now be able to watch H.264 content through the plug-in.

    Microsoft is already deeply engaged in the HTML5 process with the W3C as we believe that HTML5 will be important in advancing rich, interactive web applications and site design.


    Claudio Caldato,

    Principal Program Manager, Interoperability Strategy Team

  • Interoperability @ Microsoft

    Prototyping Early W3C HTML5 Specifications


    Today we launched the HTML5 Labs Web site, a place where we prototype early and not yet fully stable drafts of specifications developed by the W3C and other standard organizations. 

    These prototypes will help us have informed discussions with developer communities, and give implementation experience with the draft specifications that will generate feedback to improve the eventual standards. It also lets us give the community some visibility on those specifications we consider interesting from a scenario point of view, but which are still not at the stage where we can consider them ready for official product support.

    Microsoft's approach with Internet Explorer as outlined in a blog post by Dean Hachamovitch, the Corporate Vice President for Internet Explorer, is to implement standards as they become site-ready for broader adoption.

    Writing Sites to IE Based on Stable HTML5

    For developers, this means that they can write sites to Internet Explorer and be confident that it is based on stable HTML5 and will work in future browser upgrades.  For users, it means that sites continue to work as they upgrade their browsers and they don't get locked in to older browsers.

    At the same time, Microsoft sees an important need in continuing to drive experimentation and testing of new specifications in the standards organizations. It is part of the process of ensuring that specifications are actually ready for real-world usage.

    This new HTML5 Labs Web site is the place where our Interoperability Labs will publish prototype implementations of certain unstable and in-progress W3C, IETF, ECMA and other standards specifications still undergoing a lot of change. So, developers should expect that code and web pages based on these prototypes will have to be re-written as the specifications mature.

    First Prototypes: WebSockets and IndexedDB

    The first two prototypes we are delivering today are Web Sockets and IndexedDB.

    WebSockets is a technology designed to simplify much of the complexity around bi-directional, full-duplex communications channels, over a single Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) socket. It can be implemented in web browsers, web servers as well as used by any client or server application. The WebSocket API is currently being standardized by the W3C and the WebSocket protocol is being standardized by the IETF.

    For its part, IndexedDB is a developing W3C Web standard for the storage of large amounts of structured data in the browser, as well as for high performance searches on this data using indexes. IndexedDB can be used for browser implemented functions like bookmarks, as well as for web applications like email. IndexedDB also enables offline scenarios where the browser might be disconnected from the Internet or server.

    We chose these two specifications primarily because they are potentially very useful but currently unstable. These are the two specifications we currently believe the community stands to benefit the most from, but both are in flux. 

    The details of the HyBi protocol underlying WebSockets are being hotly debated in IETF right now, and the IndexedDB spec will soon be updated to reflect decisions made at a recent W3C working group meeting.

    A Call to Action

    So please experiment with these prototypes and tell us and other working group participants whether the APIs are usable. We are making them available to help improve the final specifications. 

    Other implementers can use these prototypes to determine whether we have interpreted the specifications in the same way, and a larger audience can get a better sense of what potential will be unlocked when these specifications have stabilized into interoperable implemented standards.

    Also, please participate in the appropriate standards bodies to help finalize the specifications.

    Many thanks,

    Jean Paoli

    GM: Interoperability Strategy

  • Interoperability @ Microsoft

    Introducing the WebSockets Prototype


    As we launch our new HTML5 Labs today, this is one of two guest blogs about the first two HTML5 prototypes. It is written by Tomasz Janczuk, a Principal Development Lead in Microsoft’s Business Platform Division.

    In my blog post from last summer I wrote about a prototype .NET implementation of two drafts of the WebSockets protocol specification - draft-hixie-thewebsocketprotocol-75 and  draft-hixie-thewebsocketprotocol-76 - making their way through the IETF at that time.

    Since then, there have been a number of revisions to the protocol specification, and it is time to revisit the topic. Given the substantial demand for code to experiment with, we are sharing the Windows Communication Foundation server and Silverlight client prototype implementation of one of the latest proposed drafts of the WebSockets protocol: draft-montenegro-hybi-upgrade-hello-handshake-00.

    You can read more about the effort and download the .NET prototype code at the new HTML5 Labs site.

    What is WebSockets?

    WebSockets is one of the HTML 5 working specifications driven by the IETF to define a duplex communication protocol for use between web browsers and servers. The protocol enables applications that exchange messages between the client and the server with communication characteristics that cannot be met with the HTTP protocol.

    In particular, the protocol enables the server to send messages to the client at any time after the WebSockets connection has been established and without the HTTP protocol overhead. This contrasts WebSockets with technologies based on the HTTP long polling mechanism available today.

    For this early WebSockets prototype we are using a Silverlight plug-in on the client and a WCF service on the server. In the future, you may see HTML5 Labs using a variety of other technologies.

    What are we making available?

    Along with the downloadable .NET prototype implementation of the WebSocket proposed draft-montenegro-hybi-upgrade-hello-handshake specification, we are also hosting a sample web chat application based on that prototype in Windows Azure here. The sample web chat application demonstrates the following components of the prototype:  

    1. The server side of the WebSocket protocol implemented using Windows Communication Foundation from .NET Framework 4. The WCF endpoint the sample application communicates with implements the draft WebSocket proposal.
    2. The client side prototype implementation consisting of two components:
      1. A Silverlight 4 application that implements the same draft of the WebSocket protocol specification.
      2. A jQuery extension that dynamically adds the Silverlight 4 application above to the page and creates a set of JavaScript WebSocketDraft APIs that delegate their functionality to the Silverlight application using the HTML bridge feature of Silverlight.

    The downloadable package contains a .NET prototype implementation consisting of the following components:

    1. A WCF 4.0 server side binding implementation of the WebSocket specification draft.
    2. A prototype of the server side WCF programming model for WebSockets.
    3. Silverlight 4 client side implementation of the protocol.
    4. .NET 4.0 client side implementation of the protocol.
    5. A HTML bridge from the Silverlight to JavaScript that enables use of the prototype from JavaScript applications running in browsers that support Silverlight.
    6. Web chat and stock quote samples.

    Given the prototype nature of the implementation, the following restrictions apply:

    1. A Silverlight client (and a JavaScript client, via the HTML bridge) can only communicate using the proposed WebSocket protocol using ports in the range 4502-4534 (this is related to Network Security Access Restrictions applied to all direct use of sockets in the Silverlight platform).
    2. Only text messages under 126 bytes of length (UTF-8 encoded) can be exchanged.
    3. There is no support for web proxies in the client implementation.
    4. There is no support for SSL.
    5. Server side implementation limits the number of concurrent WebSocket connections to 5.

    This implementation has been tested to work on Internet Explorer 8 and 9.

    Why is this important?

    Through access to emerging specifications like WebSockets, the HTML5 Labs sandbox gives you implementation experience with the draft specifications, helps enable faster iterations around Web specifications without getting locked in too early with a specific draft, and gives you the opportunity to provide feedback to improve the specification. This unstable prototype also has the potential to benefit a broad audience.

    We want your feedback

    As you try this implementation we welcome your feedback and we are looking forward to your comments!


  • Interoperability @ Microsoft

    IndexedDB Prototype Available for Internet Explorer


    As we launch our new HTML5 Labs today, this is one of two guest blogs about the first two HTML5 prototypes. It is written by Pablo Castro, a Principal Architect in Microsoft's Business Platform Division.

    With the HTML5 wave of features, Web applications will have most of the building blocks required to build full-fledged experiences for users, from video and vector graphics to offline capabilities.

    One of the areas that has seen a lot of activity lately is local storage in the browser, captured in the IndexedDB spec, where there is a working draft as well as a more current editor's draft.

    The goal of IndexedDB is to introduce a relatively low-level API that allows applications to store data locally and retrieve it efficiently, even if there is a large amount of it.

    The API is low-level to keep it really simple and to enable higher-level libraries to be built in JavaScript and follow whatever patterns Web developers think are useful as things change over time.

    Folks from various browser vendors have been working together on this for a while now, and Microsoft has been working closely with the teams at Mozilla, Google and other W3C members that are involved in this to design the API together. Yeah, we even had meetings where all of us where in the same room, and no, we didn't spontaneously combust!

    The IE folks approach is to focus IE9 on providing developer site-ready HTML5 that can be used today by web developers without having to worry about what is stable and not stable, or being concerned about the site breaking as the specifications and implementations change. Here at the HTML5 Labs we are letting developers experiment with unstable standards before they are ready to be used in production site.

    In order to enable that, we have just released an experimental implementation of IndexedDB for IE. Since the spec is still changing regularly, we picked a point in time for the spec (early November) and implemented that.

    The goal of this is to enable early access to the API and get feedback from Web developers on it. Since these are early days, remember that there is still time to change and adjust things as needed. And definitely don't deploy any production applications on it :)

    You can find out more about this experimental release and download the binaries from this archive, which contains the actual API implementation plus samples to get you started.

    For those of you who are curious about the details: we wanted to give folks early access to the API without disrupting their setup, so we built the prototype as a plain COM server that you can register in your box.

    That means we don't need to mess with IE configuration or replace files. The only visible effect of this is that you have to start with "new ActiveXObject(...)" instead of the regular windows.indexedDB. That would of course go away if we implement this feature.

    If you have feedback, questions or want to reach out to us for any other reason, please contact us here. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

    As a side note, and since this is a component of IE, if you want to learn more about how IE is making progress in the space of HTML5 and how we think about new features in this context, check out the IE blog here.


  • Interoperability @ Microsoft

    Quicksteps to get started with PHP on Windows Azure


    The weather in the northern hemisphere is still a little nippy, and if you're like me, you're spending a lot of time indoors with family and friends enjoying the holiday season. If you're spending some of your time catching up and learning new things in the wonderful world of cloud computing, we have a holiday gift of some visual walkthroughs and tutorials on our new "Windows Azure for PHP" center. We pushed up these articles to help you quickly get set up with developing for Windows Azure

    "Getting the Windows Azure pre-requisites via the Microsoft Web Platform Installer 2.0" will help you quickly set up your machine in a "few clicks" with all the necessary tools and settings you will need to work with PHP on Windows, IIS and SQL Server Express. We’ve included snapshots of the entire process you will need to get a developer working with the tools built by the “Interoperability at Microsoft” team

    Deploying your first PHP application with the Windows Azure Command-line Tools for PHP" will visually walk you through getting the tool, getting familiar with how it's used and packaging up a simple application for deployment to Windows Azure.

    Deploying your first PHP application to Windows Azure” will build on top of the former articles with walk troughs of how to deploy the application using the Windows Azure management console, both the “classic” and present versions.

    I hope this will help you get over the first speed bump of working on Microsoft’s cloud computing platform and we look forward to bringing you more of these based on your feedback and input. So please check them out and let us know how you feel!

    imageHappy Holidays and Happy New Year, 2011!


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