HTML5 is the next major revision of the Hypertext Markup Language, which forms the backbone of every site on the World Wide Web. Currently under development, its immediate predecessors are HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.1. HTML5 adds new features that bring high levels of interactivity and media integration to websites that were previously only possible through browser plugins like Flash, Silverlight or Java. Today’s modern browsers supporting HTML5 can render feature-rich websites without the need of these intrusive and processor-intensive add-ons.
Why a New Standard
In the last couple of years, the evolution of the web platform has accelerated. In 2008 the iPhone was a real game-changer, in 2009 modern browsers – Safari 4, Opera, Firefox 3 and Chrome increased web capabilities, and even up to recently the Android and other mobile devices have given people a whole new array of means and uses for the web. Web applications have started to reach the level of what native applications can do that more and more users rely on them.
What’s interesting is as the web keeps getting better and better, it has presented key challenges for developers. These challenges are what HTML5 is aiming to solve – having improve graphics support, being able to tie locations into web applications, storage, cloud computing, and faster websites.
What HTML5 Offers
Canvass/SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)
The new capability of HTML5 allows graphics to be an inherent part of the web, neatly tying them in with the rest of the content. HTML5’s rendering tools, Canvass and SVG are embedded into the web platform – they are part of HTML, part of the Document Object Model (DOM), they can fit into CSS and HTTP.
This allows HTML-like tags for drawing. Graphic rendering, animation and interaction are made through markup. Scalable vector graphics stay sharp and legible whether they are being viewed on a 20-inch monitor or a small iPhone screen. As a result, images are information dense, highly interactive and dynamic – features that are lacking in static images.
Video on the web has been complicated and outside the realm of HTML. Since video is highly demanded content it is about time to make it a basic part of the web platform. HTML5 makes embedding <video> as easy as adding an <img> tag and will play videos without the need for plugins. Video is now pretty straightforward with HTML5.
Geolocation is also a native function of HTML5. It identifies real-world geographic location of a web application user. Geolocation data includes country, region, city, zip code, latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates and timezone. It is especially useful for CRM systems, gives more power for social applications, Ads, Business Search and even Games when combined with Augmented Reality.
APP Cache and Database
As more web users are going mobile there is a huge need for web applications to work both online and offline. The HTML5 Database and App Cache store user data and app resources locally allowing unhindered use of web apps even in the absence of a network connection.
Are We There Yet?
The HTML 5 specification is a working draft and yet, thanks to modern browsers, users are most likely taking advantage of it without knowing. Chrome, Safari 4, Firefox 3.6 and Opera already supports a lot of HTML5’s core features. Many Google products already use some HTML5 features. Websites with the claim “iPad ready” are making extensive use of this new protocol – that includes The New York Times, CNN and CBS.
Finally, as mobile web devices increasingly become ubiquitous, the challenge for web application developers is to maximize app distribution to as many platforms as possible. Many of them will turn to HTML5 to accomplish the goal.