HTML5 – Next Generation of Hypertext

Before we dive into the discussion of the new features and capabilities of the fifth generation of the truly fundamental hypertext markup language, first we need to mention a piece of bad news about HTML5. Unfortunately (though quite justified in terms of the scale of the project and volume of the work to be done), as of January 2011 the official specification of HTML5 is still under construction, which means it has not yet achieved the status of the finalized project and most of its features are still under development. Though, to be unbiased enough, it is necessary to admit that some tags and principles of the upcoming HTML5 have already been experimentally implemented by most of the modern web browsers in their latest versions.

HTML5 Timeline

The question “when” is perhaps the most important one about HTML5, because as long as it is not officially published, the hands of web designers, urging to make practical use of all the superb features and already declared groundbreaking capabilities of HTML5, remain tied. As we know, the work on HTML5 was officially started in 2004, and the first public draft of the language specification was published in 2008. According to the World Wide Web Consortium, the current draft of HTML5 specification is dated January 25, 2011. Ian Hickson, who is the Editor of HTML5, could definitely shed some light as to the terms of work completion. However, his time estimate, given in the interview with TechRepublic, was far away from what most of us would expect. According to the work schedule, the specification of HTML5 will be finalized by 2022. Yep, it is not a typo – year 2022 is named as the year, when HTML5 will be finalized and thus recommended for wide practical use. Well, there is obviously a good reason for such a long time of development. We only hope that another dozen of years for the language development will not make it too outdated again…

Moving from Sad to Fun

OK, since you are reading this paragraph, it means you have already swallowed the bitter pill of HTML5 timeline, but, happily, it has not caused the side effect of lost interest to the theme. That is good, because in the following part of the article we are going to focus mainly on the novelties and delicacies, promised by HTML5. Some of them, again according to the words of Ian-the-Chef, are pretty well-prepared and could be served right now, while others still remain on the stage of a recipe, waiting for their turn to be transformed into real working things. So, let’s have a look what’s going on in the kitchen, where HTML5 is prepared.

New Tags Expected

A number of new tags will be introduced in the upcoming version of HTML. Among them there are new substitutes for previously used < div > and < span > block elements. Instead of these, HTML5 will offer the so-called semantic tags, which are called to ensure better content differentiation.

For example, in order to define a navigation block, a new tag < nav > will be used in HTML5. Similarly, such tags as < header > and < footer > are going to be used for defining head and bottom sections of a webpage. < article > and < section > are the other examples of semantic blocks, used for particular and relevant portions of the textual content. A new separate tag < address > is also introduced to present contact information on a web page.

HTML4 sample structure:


HTML5 sample structure:

Working with multimedia objects will also be enhanced in HTML5 – instead of generally used < object > tag, developers will have an option to choose among < video > and < audio > tags in order to define the nature of the object more specifically.

Speaking about multimedia and its tight integration with HTML5, it is impossible not to mention another tag making its debut in HTML5, which is < canvas >. This element will actually create a canvas or area with specified height and width at a web page for the appropriate JavaScript to draw bitmap images, graphs, animation, etc. on the go. This functionality has something in common with SVG technology, but the latter is considered to be the higher level protocol, thus allowing < canvas > to fill in the gap of the lower level protocol for simple 2D drawing.

Rediscovering Web Forms

Web forms have always been an important part when speaking about interaction between a user and a web site. Contact forms and order forms – these are the simplest and the most common ways to use web forms. However, the functionality of web forms in HTML4 was pretty much limited to only simple form types, such as text box, radio button, drop-down list, and submit button. With the introduction of HTML5, web developers will get the whole bunch of new handy types of web forms, including but not limited to email, URL address, telephone number, date and color pickers, and more… Yep, this part of HTML5 is definitely worthy of fanfare.

Going Deeper with APIs


HTML5 offers a lot of cool stuff for those who want something more than just playing with tags. The library of APIs is being developed for HTML5, and support of many of them has already been implemented into the latest web browsers even without the official HTML5 specification published. For example, local storage allows developers to store data locally in a user’s browser application (it works like cookie files but much more improved in terms of performance and security of information). Another cool function allows detecting geographic location of a user (of course, only in case if such user grants the appropriate level of permission to the requesting web site). Furthermore, the editors announced offline applications supported and realized in HTML5.

Distinct Parsing Procedure – Improved Browsers Support

We all know that one of the weak points of HTML4 is that while coding a web page you cannot always be 100% sure that the page will be displayed in different browsers properly. The problem is that currently there is no commonly accepted procedure for web page parsing. As the result, different browsers may display the same page in a slightly different way. Developers of HTML5 promise to create a distinct and well-regulated parsing procedure, which will ensure the same results of web page parsing in different browsers. This procedure will also include unified browsers’ responses to errors, such as forgetting the closing tag, like < /a >, < /td >, etc.

Instead of the Epilogue

While it is time to put a full stop in this article, the story of HTML5 is somewhere in the middle of its progress. The specification is still under development, which means more new tags, elements, attributes, and functions may be introduced in the future. Editors of HTML5 took a very ambitious goal – to consider and realize in the upcoming version of the hypertext markup language as many already accumulated ideas, suggestions, and expectations as possible and, at the same time, to produce the document with the ultimate level of all the included features elaboration, testing, and cross-platform support. In order to succeed they really need to outstrip the current pace of web design technologies development, and we hope they’ll manage to do it…

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Mykola Stepanyuk

After trying myself in multiple spheres, I have decided that the bigger part of my soul clearly votes for the humanitarian sciences and art. Thus, following the call of my soul and mind I received the University education and now I am fully involved in multiple web activities. I am deeply interested in the novel web technologies, design, content development and management, optimization and marketing.