What is HTML5?

If you want to see what the future of the Web is today, then it’s worth knowing about HTML5.

Like the name suggests, HTML5 is the fifth version of the HyperText Markup Language, which is the heart of the World Wide Web. The new standard, which is still being worked out, will supplant the current HTML 4.01 and XHTML standards currently in use.


HTML5 Logo



Even though the standard is unifinished, Web developers are currently experimenting with some new features. The <video>,<audio>, and <canvas> tags let you add powerful multimedia features to webpages. The most popular solution to building websites like YouTube or interactive games is to build them in Flash. But Flash belongs to one company: Adobe.

HTML5, on the other hand, is being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3) a vendor-neutral organization dedicated to creating Web standards. With HTML5, which even as a draft standard is still supported by every major Web browser, including the latest versions of Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer, the modern Web will be a fair playing field. Steve Jobs was a booster of the standard, even to the point of disallowing Flash on iOS devices (though more cynical people might think that it was less about support for open standards than it was about Flash being a competitor to his own tight control of his platform).

Of the new features, the “Canvas” seems to be the most distinctive of the new standard. The Canvas allows Web developers to have interactive animations, much like Flash does, but implemented in an open way instead of Flash’s exclusive proprietary status. This lessens the chance of the Web developing according to the whim of one company. People who remember the “browser wars” of the late ’90s between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator might find the above scenario all to familiar.

In addition to the nifty multimedia features, HTML5-based Web apps can store data offline and support drag-and-drop natively, behaving like apps developed on the desktop. If you want a taste of what HTML5 can do, you can visit Mozilla’s Demo Studio, though these demos will probably work best with Firefox. Technically inclined readers can check out the W3’s specification, which is still in development. Another impressive demo we covered was a version of the classic NES game “Duck Hunt.”

You might also enjoy our explanations of HDMI and Apple TV.