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HTML5 – The Future is in Your Browser

Posted by D'Arcy Lussier on Apr 29, 2013 9:17:50 AM

HTML5 is a hot buzzword right now. Everybody is talking about this new evolution of the web as we know it, but many discussions are at an abstract level. What is HTML5 anyway? Who’s developing HTML5? What makes it so much different from HTML in the past? Why are browsers only partially HTML5 compatible? Let’s try to answer some of these.

So, What is HTML5 Anyway? Who’s Developing HTML5?

HTML5 is a specification. It’s a blueprint that outlines features and functionality that defines the HTML5 platform. The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) oversees the specification and its development (you can view the most recent spec here: http://www.w3.org/html/wg/drafts/html/master/).

D'Arcy-W3C

As the W3C develops the spec, browser vendors begin to implement the features. This is a key point: W3C only defines what the features of HTML5 are, not how they should be implemented. The end result should be the same, but the underlying implementation can and often does differ.

Why are Browsers only Partially HTML5 Compatible?

This is probably a good time to talk about browser compatibility. Different browsers offer different levels of support for HTML5 features. Part of the reason is that HTML5 is still in development, and so features will be added, removed, and changed over time within the spec. Each browser vendor must evaluate which features are the most important based on customer needs and (in part I would hope) competitor offerings.

In a very real way, the HTML5 spec is the business requirements that browser vendors use to base their future feature releases on. Eventually we should see greater support for features across all browsers, but until then, it’s a good idea to use tools like HTML5 Test to evaluate what features are available in what browsers.

What Makes HTML5 Different From HTML in the Past?

HTML has always been about structuring pages for consumption through a web browser. It provides a standard for communicating content across the internet. But what happened is that the internet evolved. People figured out how to stream music and video, play games, create interactive experiences, and even offer business value. But HTML wasn’t designed for all that, so people invented solutions to fill this gap. Technologies like Flash and Silverlight were created, which provided rich interactive experiences within a web browser. JavaScript and CSS evolved as well, but under the hood of this amazing new web was an old architecture that was creaking under the strain.

Enter HTML5 – a new specification for web development that dictates that features to do with media, processing, and other enhancements should be handled by the browser and not through plugin architectures.

Consider just a few of the new features:

Web Worker – This feature allows you to take a JavaScript file and have it spin up in its own thread, leaving the web browser interactive while background processing is being performed. No separate and/or remote service is required for this, it all happens client side.

Web Sockets – This feature allows you to have live, connected, real-time communication with a backend server. These are persisted connections as opposed to the polling request/respond type web services provide.

Web Storage – This feature provides a dedicated sandbox of memory from which an HTML5 web page stores and retrieves values. Unlike cookies that are included in each request, this storage is left on the client – 5 MB worth! Silverlight provided a similar feature, which again illustrates how HTML5 is implementing features that required plug-ins in the past.

Get on the Wave Sooner than Later

The HTML5 wave has been gathering strength for a few years now, and is starting to hit the point where browser adoption and maturity have made many features valid options for web development. This will continue as more and more of the HTML5 spec is finalized and more features are realized by the browser vendors. Web development is no longer about understanding how to leverage 3rd party products to fill gaps in HTML – it’s about embracing how to do things differently in the new world of HTML5.

 

Topics: Languages

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