HTML5: What It Is, And More Importantly, What It Isn’t

HTML5’s early adoption by movers and shakers in the desktop browsers and mobile device market have stirred a lot of excitement, as well as occasional confusion for non-developers and programmers. This article provides some analogies to help better understand the changes with this latest version of HTML and to clarify common misconceptions as to how it impacts the web. Read more…

HTML5: What It Is, And More Importantly, What It Isn't

HTML5 is a newer version of the existing HTML markup language. Its early adoption by movers and shakers in the desktop browsers and mobile device market have stirred a lot of excitement, as well as occasional confusion for non-developers and programmers. Below are some analogies to help better understand the changes with this latest version of HTML and to clarify common misconceptions as to how it impacts the web.

The release of HTML5 is analogous to Webster’s releasing an updated version of a dictionary with the addition of new words. In most instances, the use of HTML5 tags may change the delivery method, but does not visibly change the end user’s experience; the overall message or content being delivered remains the same.

Much of the additional vocabulary introduced by HTML5 is commonly used already, but will allow developers to more efficiently:

  • Identify segments of a website for search engine parsing including header, navigation, and footer elements, sections and articles
  • Embed rich media content including videos and audios with more widely accepted formats.

HTML5 also introduces new methods of integrating client-side storage to streamline calls to the web server and associated databases, usually by syncing frequently accessed information locally on a user’s computer or phone. For mobile apps, this allows minimizing data transfers avoiding excess data usage and throttling from service providers.

HTML5: What It Is, And More Importantly, What It Isn't

Although many web browsers and mobile devices have begun to adopt and support HTML5, there are several that are incompatible and may have issues displaying various HTML5 elements. Browsers that currently offer limited support of HTML5 include:

  • Internet Explorer 9+ (available for MS Windows versions 7 and greater only)
  • Firefox 5+
  • Chrome 12+
  • Safari 5.0+
  • Opera 10.6+
  • iOS Safari 3.2+
  • Opera Mini 5.0+
  • Opera Mobile 10.0+
  • Android Browser 3.0+

The CanIUse.com website provides great compatibility tables for identifying which browsers support different HTML5, CSS3, and other newer proposed web encoding tags and features.

Just as users of Microsoft Office versions 2003 and older cannot readily open files created in Office 2007 and higher, and graphic designers using Adobe Creative Suite 3 cannot open files created in CS5, not all end-users will be able to view a website encoded with HTML5. As a result, web developers need to add additional code (in CSS and JavaScript) for backwards compatibility and cross-browser compatibility. While there are some functions and snippets of code that already exist for common compatibility concerns, more often than not, they will still need to be “tweaked” by developers for each individual website.

In the end, here are a few questions to consider when deciding if your site should be fully coded in older versions of HTML4 or in HTML5:

html 5

Does it really matter if your package is delivered by a Fed-Ex or UPS truck that runs on biodiesel, electricity, or gasoline? The newer technologies still often utilize a reserve of older proven techniques. (Hybrid vehicles still have a reserve tank).

Do you want a high-def or 3-D television? While 3-D tvs may be all the hype, they are still fairly new to the market and have their glitches. The HTML5 standard may already be supported by a wide variety of browsers, but has yet to be formally ratified and accepted as the new language for encoding web-pages.

Should I serve a traditional turkey, tofurkey, or turducken to at my Thanksgiving party? Hopefully, you’ll serve what the you AND the majority of your guests would enjoy. In regards to HTML5, ask yourself what browser or mobile device platform does the majority of your target audience use?

HTML5 is not a phenomenal new technology that replaces content delivery platforms and content management systems. It does not “enhance” images or videos as viewed by the end user. It is not a drawing and illustration tool like Adobe Illustrator, MS Paint, or Google Sketchup. It does not necessarily provide a better user experience for end-users and visitors of websites, as much as it provides a better experience for the developers and authors of websites.

HTML5: What It Is, And More Importantly, What It Isn't

In summary, until the HTML5 standard has been ratified and fully adopted, developers need to help their clients understand that features of HTML5 should be incorporated only when appropriate and applicable. Content management systems like Drupal and WordPress have themes that utilize the more supported tags and will continue to work in conjunction with web standards such as HTML5 and CSS3. Many developers, including the team at Star Group, are already making use of HTML5 as deemed feasible, and eagerly await reaching final consensus and adoption of the standard.