Technology: Page (1) of 1 - 07/28/08 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

HTML 5 is coming, are you ready?

The Web experience will be more consistent between software platforms making the customer experience equally consistent By Matthew David

Back at the dawn of the Web it was common to have updates to the core HTML specification. Many early Web developers were introduced to HTML 3.2 as this was the standard for Netscape 3.0. In 1997 along came HTML 4.0 with the death of the FONT tag, and then. . . nothing. It is now 2008 and finally a new revision to the core HTML standard is being developed. It has been 11 years and HTML 5 comes with a boat load of improvements.

Why Standards are important
It is imperative that as you have more systems and increased complexity that you leverage standards controlled by an impartial group. Without standards your job will become almost impossible. Good examples of standards created from governing bodies include IP, Mail, and phone services. Equally, companies that dominate a single area also create a standard simply due to their presence. Microsoft's Office is an example of a standard created through mass support.

During the reign of Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5 and 6, a seven year period, many feared that Microsoft would force the world to commit to a standard defined and managed by the software giant. Spotty support for XHTML, HTML 4 and Cascading Style Sheets and increased support for Microsoft only technologies, such as Active X, lead to the creation of many Web sites that would only work properly in Internet Explorer. There was no need to check for other Web browsers compatibility as the competitive demand was almost non-existent.


In the end Microsoft got fat and lazy. Continued development of Internet Explorer stalled for many years. Why improve a product when there is no competition to make it better? A better product did then come in the form of Mozilla's FireFox. Now in it's third version in as many years, FireFox is gobbling up converts from Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Increased support for Web standards is allowing companies such as Google, Facebook and Ask to develop Web sites that they can trust will be executed correctly. Add to this group Apple's Safari, based on the Open Source Web browser project WebKit, it is now clear that standards for the Web have never been as important as they are today. Through standards, the Internet can be taken to a new level of experience.

The HTML 5 standard, as with previous versions of the HTML standard, is being governed by the World Wide Web Consortium Group (W3C), a group started by the Web's founding father Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

What is Changing in HTML, the core language
HTML 5 is a collection of the standards that have evolved over the last few years. CSS, XHTML and SVG are all part of HTML 5. HTML 5 will contain a strict and a compatible version. The compatible version is backward compatible with existing Web standards. This is important as it will take many years for HTML 5 to replace existing standards.

With that said, if you are developing a Web site that is purely HTML 5 then you do need to be aware that the following HTML tags will be eliminated:

  • basefont
  • big
  • center
  • font
  • s
  • strike
  • tt
  • u

Each of these tags can be more effectively managed with CSS. 

In addition, the following tags will also be eliminated either because they do not support accessibility standards or simply because they are seldom used:

  • frame
  • frameset
  • noframes
  • acronym
  • applet
  • isindex
  • dir

In addition, the W3C group is recommending the inclusion of a new set of APIs (Application Program Interface) that allow developers to extend the functionality of a Web page significantly beyond it's current abilities. The new APIs include:

  • 2D drawing API which can be used with the new canvas element
  • API for playing of video and audio which can be used with the new video and audio elements
  • Persistent storage. Both key / value and a SQL database are supported
  • Offline Web API
  • An API that allows a Web application to register itself for certain protocols or MIME types
  • Editing API in combination with a new global content editable attribute
  • Drag & drop API in combination with a draggable attribute
  • Network API
  • API that exposes the history and allows pages to add to it to prevent breaking the back button
  • Cross-document messaging
  • Server-sent events in combination with the new event-source element
  • Notification API to alert the user to new information, such as new e-mail messages in an e-mail application

As can be seen, the W3C Group is examining how the Web is going to evolve and what will be needed within a standard to support future applications. It is not just about JavaScript support but deep architectural support. This is clearly evident with APIs for offline browsing and rich media presentation with audio, video and SVG (a potential Flash killing solution).

Browsers Taking the Challenge
Standards have a notorious history of taking many years to develop and then even more years to be adopted. Does HTML 5 face this same fate? The simply answer is: NO. Both FireFox and WebKit are already supporting many of the HTML 5 standards. The Web Standards Project (WASP) have developed a complex test to see if your browser supports many of current standards. You can test it yourself at http://acid3.acidtests.org/. The current Acid 3 test does not test all of the features of HTML 5, but does come very close. Currently only WebKit has a 100% pass rating, with FireFox coming in a close second at 71%. Microsoft is now taking standards very seriously and is working hard to make Internet Explorer 8 a browsing experience that better supports standards than previous releases.  


 
In contrast the complex standards battle between Internet Explorer 4 and Netscape Communicator 4, the new support for HTML 5 standards is being met with enthusiasm and equal support by all Web Browser companies. The Web experience will be more consistent between software platforms making the customer experience equally consistent. Finally!

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Matthew has written four Flash books, contributed to a dozen Web books, and has published over 400 articles. He is passionate about exposing Internet's potential for all of us. Matthew works directly with many companies as a business strategist coaching IT architects and business leaders to work tightly with each other towards common goals.
Related Keywords:html 5, web development, web design, web browser

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