HTML5 is the future of the internet. At least that’s the impression you might get from those who believe HTML5 will solve major challenges associated with everything from building cross-platform RIAs to mobile multimedia delivery.

But is HTML5 destined to be dead on arrival?

There are already hints of problems. Despite the fact that HTML5 is far from being ready for prime time, at least as the spec is concerned, there are already signs that HTML5 is “starting to sail off-course” as Erik Huggers, the BBC’s Director of Future Media & Technology, stated recently.

But perhaps the strongest evidence that HTML5 will fail to live up to expectations is the strangest evidence: in initial, albeit admittedly limited tests conducted by the W3C, Internet Explorer 9 most closely adheres to the current HTML5 spec.

Yes, you read that right: when it comes down to how well the most modern browsers respect the subset of the HTML5 spec the W3C chose to test compliance with first, a Microsoft product beat out beta versions of Google Chrome and Firefox, as well as the latest versions of Opera and Safari.

This, of course, is notable because Microsoft has historically been a thorn in the side of standards-loving web developers everywhere. And for good reason: Microsoft’s failure to respect standards has left many developers with little choice but to come up with painful hacks to get their products to work correctly with past versions of Internet Explorer. Some who had the luxury have even given up on Internet Explorer compatibility altogether.

Given this, the fact that Microsoft is, thus far, doing a pretty good job of adhering to portions of the HTML5 spec should be good news. Perhaps Microsoft has turned the corner, right? That’s one way to look at it. The other way: if Microsoft is most closely adhering to the emerging HTML5 spec, and browser makers like Mozilla, Google and Apple are trailing Microsoft, it probably doesn’t bode well for HTML5’s future.

Perhaps this is overly cynical, and by the time HTML5 is ready for prime time, we’ll all look back at the time IE9 was more compliant with any ‘standard‘ (however unfinished) and laugh. But there are reasons to believe that this won’t be the case. The truth of the matter is that the internet is evolving really, really quickly, and standards develop really, really slowly. As much as everyone may want HTML5 to be the standard that unites, the other browser manufacturers, for better or worse, may have finally come to the conclusion that there’s less in standards for them than they may have previously thought.

Photo credit: justinsomnia via Flickr.