HTML5 is Dead. Long Live HTML.

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The Web Hypertext Applications Technology Working Group (WHATWG) — the organization which instigated HTML5 — has announced they are dropping version numbers. HTML5 is complete. The new standard is simply “HTML.” The announcement was made by specification editor Ian Hickson. His blog post states that the HTML standard has become a living document:

  1. The specification will be known as “HTML” with the URL
  2. The WHATWG HTML specification can now be considered a “living standard.” It’s more mature than any version of the HTML specification to date, so it makes little sense to refer to it as a “draft.” The snapshot model of specification development has been abandoned.

What About the W3C?

The WHATWG announcement came two days after the W3C launched their HTML5 logo. The term “HTML5” is unlikely to disappear since the W3C standards approval process is structured around a progression of version-numbered technology specifications. Currently, the W3C remains committed to HTML5 and they won’t necessarily follow WHATWG’s lead. However, the new logo has muddied the waters, and the W3C appears to be lumping CSS3, SVG and JavaScript APIs under the HTML5 “brand.” Although they’ve backtracked a little on their logo FAQ, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to refer to HTML5 as a specific technology when its own standards body has jumped on the marketing bandwagon.

Do We Need Version Numbers?

Many developers expressed their surprise and horror at the WHATWG’s notion. IT revolves around versioning. Development will descend in chaos without those digits. How will we know when a browser reaches compliance? How can we test code against a specific version of HTML? Don’t panic. Dropping version numbers may feel unnatural, but web development always has and always will be based around a disparate set of ambiguous technologies. There’s a widespread misconception that the W3C writes specifications for vendors to follow. This leads many developers to the conclusion that HTML5 won’t be ready while those documents are labeled “draft.” In reality, browsers are continually updated. HTML features are added and, if they’re considered good enough, they’re shared with or copied by other vendors. It will only be documented in the specification once two or more vendors have implemented the same feature. In the majority of cases, a feature will be usable before it’s documented. HTML version numbers contribute to the confusion. It feels wrong to write code based on a “draft” HTML v5.0 specification. But consider this: XHTML 1.0 is “final,” yet it won’t be supported in Internet Explorer until version 9. Similarly, CSS2.1 is complete, yet no browser offers a full bug-free implementation. Finally, if you’re using stable CSS3 features such as rounded corners, why is HTML(5) any different? Today, all the browser vendors claim HTML5 compatibility. However, it’s to wildly differing levels and no one supports everything. There are numerous browsers on desktop, tablet, mobile, gaming and other platforms. Each has a different set of features and evolves along its own path. You’re free to wait for the magical day when the specifications are complete and have been fully implemented by all vendors, but you’ll be waiting a long time. Even when that day arrives, browsers will have moved to the next technological level. It’s controversial, but I agree with the WHATWG. All-encompassing version-numbered specifications have become too large and unwieldy to be practical. Fortunately:
  • No vendor has a browser monopoly nor can they (easily) sway standards in their own direction.
  • The main browser vendors are working with each other. They are innovating individually but must share ideas with others to ensure a feature becomes an accepted standard.
  • HTML evolution is (mostly) backward compatible. For example, all browsers accept the new <input type="email"> tag but older editions will revert to <input type="text">.
  • Vendors rarely remove technologies from their browsers. Google is ripping H.264 video support from Chrome but, in general, HTML code will remain operable in the browsers in which it originally worked.
  • We’ll always require feature detection. You can never depend on the availability of every HTML tag, CSS, JavaScript, SVG, Canvas, Flash or any other technology. Where necessary, you can detect its presence and provide alternative content. That situation won’t change — even when the HTML5 specification is complete.
A living HTML specification reflects the current state of web technologies today. Do you agree? Will it work? Comments welcome…

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HTML5

Is HTML5 still relevant in today’s web development?

Absolutely, HTML5 is still very much relevant and is a crucial part of web development. It is the latest version of HTML (HyperText Markup Language), which is the standard language for creating web pages. HTML5 introduced many new features and improvements over its predecessors, such as support for video and audio elements, drawing graphics on screen without the need for plugins, and better support for mobile devices. These features make it a powerful tool for creating modern, interactive, and responsive websites.

What are the advantages of using HTML5 over older versions?

HTML5 offers several advantages over older versions. It provides better support for multimedia elements, such as video and audio, without the need for external plugins. It also introduces new elements and attributes that allow for more semantic and structured markup, making it easier for search engines to understand the content of web pages. Additionally, HTML5 includes features for creating offline web applications and storing data on the client-side, improving the user experience of web applications.

Is HTML5 compatible with all browsers?

HTML5 is designed to be backward compatible with older browsers, meaning that web pages created with HTML5 should still function in older browsers. However, not all HTML5 features are supported by all browsers, especially older ones. Therefore, it’s important to use feature detection techniques and provide fallbacks for unsupported features to ensure that your web pages work across different browsers.

Can I use HTML5 for mobile app development?

Yes, HTML5 can be used for mobile app development. In fact, one of the goals of HTML5 was to provide better support for mobile devices. With HTML5, you can create responsive websites that adapt to different screen sizes, as well as offline web applications that can be used without an internet connection. There are also frameworks and tools that allow you to create hybrid mobile apps using HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.

What is the future of HTML5?

The future of HTML5 looks promising. It is continuously being updated and improved by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the organization responsible for developing web standards. New features and improvements are being added to HTML5 to keep up with the evolving needs of web development. Furthermore, the widespread adoption of HTML5 by web developers and browser vendors ensures its relevance in the foreseeable future.

Is HTML5 difficult to learn?

HTML5 is not particularly difficult to learn, especially if you already have some knowledge of HTML. The syntax of HTML5 is very similar to that of older versions of HTML, so if you’re familiar with HTML, you should be able to pick up HTML5 fairly quickly. There are also many resources available online, including tutorials, guides, and documentation, to help you learn HTML5.

What are some of the best resources for learning HTML5?

There are many great resources for learning HTML5. The Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) provides comprehensive documentation on HTML5, including tutorials and guides. W3Schools also offers a wide range of tutorials on HTML5, covering everything from the basics to more advanced topics. Other resources include online courses on platforms like Coursera and Udemy, as well as books like “HTML5: The Missing Manual” by Matthew MacDonald.

Can I use HTML5 without knowing JavaScript?

While it’s possible to create simple web pages using only HTML5 and CSS, many of the advanced features of HTML5, such as interactivity and animation, require JavaScript. Therefore, if you want to fully utilize the capabilities of HTML5, it’s recommended to learn JavaScript as well.

What is the relationship between HTML5 and CSS3?

HTML5 and CSS3 are two separate technologies that are often used together in web development. HTML5 is used to structure and present content on the web, while CSS3 is used to style and layout that content. Together, they allow you to create visually appealing and interactive web pages.

Are there any alternatives to HTML5 for web development?

While HTML5 is the standard language for creating web pages, there are other technologies that can be used for web development. These include server-side languages like PHP, Python, and Ruby, as well as JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue.js. However, these technologies are often used in conjunction with HTML5, rather than as alternatives to it.

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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