What is HTML5?

- 31.08.11

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) forms the foundation of any website. Programmers and developers have been using HTML to structure websites since 1990. We are now in the fifth generation of HTML – HTML5.

Although HTML5 has been known to developers for years and has been ‘under construction’ since 2004, it was catapulted into the limelight in April 2010 by Apple Inc’s CEO Steve Jobs.

Jobs released a letter to the public entitled: “Thoughts on Flash” – in which he announced the death of Flash and the rise of HTML5. This sparked a huge debate amongst web developers, flash developers and the whole online community. It remains a hot topic for discussion today.

The new generation of HTML brings structure to web development and allows developers to write less and do more. With the introduction of new syntactical elements – including video, audio, canvas and SVG this allows developers to handle graphical and multimedia elements that would otherwise rely on external plug-ins and APIs – such as Flash.

Other structural elements – in the form of section, article, header and nav – have been introduced. These are elements that developers have been using to structure web layouts for years. But never before have web browsers recognised any of these elements.

HTML5 sets out to change this. These elements are now giving meaning to web browsers; the browsers now know what each element’s purpose is. Having a browser that is able to read a page in the way it was intended is a huge benefit: the browser understands what the main sections of the page are; what the side or sub sections are on a page and where the navigation is; it can read the hierarchy of content within the page. This just a snapshot of a whole host of new elements introduced within HTML5.

What browsers support HTML5?

It’s important to note that not all web browsers support HTML5, legacy browsers such as IE6, 7 and 8 don’t support the tags – they simply don’t know what the new tags mean.

In order for a browser to support HTML5 it needs to be a ‘webkit’ browser. The browsers that can support HTML5 are: Firefox, IE9 and 10, Chrome and Opera. However, it’s not all plain sailing. Some still don’t support all HTML5 tags.

Luckily for mobile users, smartphone and tablet browsers are based on the ‘webkit’ layout, so creating a HTML5 mobile website or web app means we can make use of some fantastic features to create a rich and engaging end user experience.

What HTML5 isn’t

Be careful, HTML5 is in danger of becoming a buzzword. When people refer to HTML5 they may not know it, but they are probably referring to HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript. When all three are utilised within a website, it can create a powerful, interactive and rich experience.

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