Steve Jobs was recently quoted as saying “No one will be using Flash. The world is moving to HTML5” igniting interest in HTML5 and sparking numerous debates online in blogs and forums.
Jobs’ prediction that flash is dead invokes memories of the famous Mark Twain quote “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated“. While the debate rages on over the future of Flash, HTML5’s destiny is assured.
It’s not just Apple pointing to HTML5 as an internet revolution, Microsoft, Google, Opera, Mozilla, W3C and even Adobe themselves agree. In fact HTML5 may become historic for that very reason. It is arguably the only time Google, Microsoft and Apple have ever agreed on anything.
How HTML5 evolved was largely due to a disagreement with the W3C over Error Handling and the failure to embrace modern Internet applications. In 1997, W3C announced it would no longer extend HTML4 and saw XML and XHTML as the future. Draconian Error Handling, (Draco was the Greek leader that issued death penalties for minor offences), instructed that browsers were to treat all errors in XML as fatal. With 99% of web pages showing minor errors, and the lack of new features in XML, many webmasters ignored the new standard or continued to serve their websites as HTML, even when adopting XHTML.
In 2004, a group of developers and browser vendors including Apple, Opera and Mozilla gave a presentation to the W3C on evolving HTML4 to include new features for modern web applications. The W3C rejected their proposal of extending HTML and CSS. Those interested in evolving HTML4 rebelled and broke away from the W3C, forming their own working group called WHATWG (Web Hypertext Applications Technology Working Group). At the core of the WHATWG beliefs was backwards compatibility and forgiving error handling. WHATWG’s vision was to extend HTML features including form handling while ensuring that it would degrade gracefully in older browsers. While the W3C wanted the world to move to a new standard XML, WHATWG planned to evolve existing HTML to support a modern Internet.
In 2006, Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the W3C, recognized that the rebels at WHATWG had gained momentum and announced that the W3C would work together with WHATWG to evolve HTML. The W3C HTML Working Group was formed, working with HTML in conjunction with XHTML. HTML5 was officially born. In October 2009, W3C shut down XHTML2 making HTML5 the future of the Internet. The pirates had taken over the ship.
In many ways HTML5 simplifies web pages, taking laborious tasks such as form validation away from web authoring and into the browser. The idea of making the browser do the work probably stems back to IE3, where Microsoft provided the first browser to build in CSS support. HTML5 introduces new tags for page structure and semantics of documents.
New HTML5 API’s, such as drag and drop, are reverse engineered from Microsoft, ensuring that they are supported from the start by IE. What developers of HTML5 such as Ian Hickson (Opera) have done is to view the modern web and say, “OK that’s what people are trying to do, how can HTML5 support that“.
Unlike previous web standards based releases such as XHTML 1.1 and the never finished XHTML 2.0, HTML5 is backward compatible and is here to stay. With the involvement of people that have been critical of the W3C, HTML5 brings a standard based upgrade of HTML that is fully supported throughout the industry. HTML5 will genuinely future proof your site without the danger of your markup depreciating in a couple of years.
HTML5 timetable for completion is in 2022, which has left many webmasters confused as to its relevance now. However, any website can begin using the new specification immediately by simply changing the doc type to “<!DOCTYPE html>“, the lowest number of characters required to trigger standards mode in IE. Currently, only beta versions of browsers IE9, Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Opera support advanced HTML5 elements. However, typography “@font-face” is fully supported in current browsers. For more information have a look at Ethan Dunham’s “FontSquirrel.com” and Jeffrey Veen’s “Typekit.com“. Other HTML5 features such as “Drag and Drop” and “ContentEditable” are also currently supported. You can follow the implementation of HTML5 in modern browsers at “HTML5Readiness.com” and “Caniuse.com“.