By now everyone has at least heard the term HTML5. Some may even remember the back-and-forth between Apple and Adobe as it pertains to Apple’s adoption of HTML5 and subsequent panning of Adobe Flash from all their iOS devices. Steve Jobs even penned a lengthy letter as to the what’s and why’s of moving towards HTML5. So what’s the big deal? What should you know about HTML5 and why should you care? I’ll touch on a few aspects I think affects everyone.
The Boring Part
Let’s get this out of the way. By definition HTML5 is “the newest hyper text markup language for websites from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It’s a set of standards, a variety of SGML, used to tag the elements of a hypertext document. It is the standard protocol for formatting and displaying documents on the World Wide Web.” Asleep yet? Your average person may not realize that at it’s core, a website is just a bunch of code. Words. Numbers. Symbols. Well, with HTML5, the code got an upgrade to reflect both WHAT people look at on the internet and HOW. HTML4 was introduced 1999, and in 2011 the next version (v5) was released. As you can imagine, a lot changed over the course of 12 years.
Now I can go deeper and talk about tags and elements and attributes and all the developer mumbo-jumbo that goes along with the upgrade, but I don’t think you really care. Nor should you. That’s for us to worry about, but if you want some more detail, go here.
In The Palm of Your Hand
The big word around these parts is content, content, content. If you read this blog-o-thing, you may notice it’s kind of a big deal. And in todays world of mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and even the mythical phablet, the way we consume content and the types of content we want is always in flux. From screen sizes to battery life to connection type (wireless/cellular/land-line) to data plans, it all must somehow play nice together. Because you, the user and consumer, demand it without knowing it. And HTML5 is what is leading the way in doing so with it’s partner in crime CSS3, via responsive web design.
Again without going into the techy flim-flam, with the two working together a website can conform to your preferred device to give you the optimal viewing experience you want. Through fluid grid concept calls, flexible images and media queries, the experience you have on a phone, will be similar across all other types of devices. Even if visually speaking, it is different. Items like navigation or image sizes will shift, change and reorganize themselves depending on device. It’s this use of responsive web design that has kept HTML5 at the forefront of the web design conversation. People love their technology. But not everyone loves the same type of technology. And nobody wants to build a separate site for every device. It’s one of the main reasons why HTML5 is so important as the “behind-the-scenes” leader in getting you what you want, where and how you want it. Efficiently. Faster. And Easier. Without it, responsive design would be way more clunky. It’s like starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together when you have a lighter in your pocket. Can you? Of course. But why would you? You have better tools available that would do a much better job.
The Rule of Three
So HTML5 helps get you the content you want in a much more efficient way, but what exactly is that content and how does it benefit you? Well when I think of “types” of content, I see 3: the written word, audio and video. Words are words on websites. HTML handles text (like the text you are reading) pretty much the same across all browsers, but the latter 2 always required a bit more trickery. Typically that meant embedding a YouTube file or a SoundCloud track to get the video or song or podcast you wanted on your website. Not necessarily a big deal, but it meant the need to rely on someone else and their service. With HTML5, that is no more. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is.
One of the benefits of HTML is “Local Storage” of video and audio files. You throw a video file or an audio file into folder like any image file and have it appear and play on your site with a simple tag that is no more complex than an image. Most video relies on some sort of player or specific file type that’s converted to be viewed. Even popular sites like YouTube would convert video to be played using Adobe Flash. But with the introduction and adoption of HTML5, that has begun to wane. Starting in 2010, you could opt-in to a beta version of YouTube that runs solely on HTML5. Eventually (And I mean eventually), this will be the only version.
People have begun to expect more audio or visual experiences on their phones or tablets. Sometimes even more than reading posts or articles like these. It’s the biggest benefit to a digital display with a set of speakers – you don’t have to read anything (but at least try and finish this if you’ve gotten this far, of course.) And HTML5 just makes it easy.
A Case of Hiccups
Has everything been smooth? Of course not. Not every “standard” is the “standard” for everyone else. Even HTML5 itself is still a “work in progress” that has yet to be completed and officially sanctioned by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). There is still some finalizing of file types for video and audio, but it will get there. And of course, there is always the trick of browser support. Most modern browsers already support most HTML5 features, but there are always people holding onto their old browsers or operating systems. I’m looking at you WindowsXP and Internet Explorer 8. And this can cause issues as well. But like with everything, over time people will move into the light.
Are You Compatible?
So are you ready for the HTML5 jump? Do you think you’ve already made the leap by just upgrading your browser? If so, kudos to you. If you would like to check, you can even visit a site to test your browsers HTML5 support score. It’s pretty handy to see just how up-to-date you are. I’m only sitting with a score of 410 out of 500. Not too shabby. But for someone “in the biz,” not great either.