Getting Started with HTML5

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HTML5 is a group of standards that was developed to succeed HTML 4.  The HTML 4.0 spec was finalized in 1998 and since then the web has evolved to require many features that HTML 4 was not designed to support.  To address these limitations, companies like Adobe and Microsoft have released browser plugins that allow developers to create applications that live on the web but act like native applications.  HTML5 contains numerous new features that let HTML and Javascript work similarly to these plugin platforms while not requiring users to install even more software on their computer.

What’s New in HTML5?

New Inputs

The HTML5 specification includes a number of new input types designed to make forms and browsers smarter about how they process input.  These include numeric types like Number and Range and date types like Date, Time, and Month.  There are also types defined for common text scenarios including telephone numbers, URLs, and email addresses.  These types will help with validation and help define what keyboard to show on devices without hardware keyboards.  For example, a user that clicks on an “email” field on their phone would see their phone’s built-in keyboard that includes the @ symbol.  All of the inputs will also support placeholder (watermark) text and an autofocus attribute.

SVG and Canvas

The SVG and Canvas controls will allow developers and designers to draw complex shapes on the screen.  These shapes can then be altered with JavaScript.  These controls have limitless possibilities from simple animations to complex 3D games.

Web Sockets

The Web Sockets part of the HTML 5 specification allows the browser to have 2-way communication with a remote socket server.    The most exciting feature is to allow a server to send data to the browser in real time, making applications requiring real time data, such as stock trading, possible.

Native Audio and Video Tags

The HTML5 specification also includes native audio and video tags for embedding multimedia into a web site.  These tags drastically reduce the complexity involved with publishing media on a site because the browser handles the playback interface.

Geolocation

Another new feature in HTML5 is a specification for the application to retrieve a user’s physical location without having to estimate it from their IP address.  This feature opens up the possibility for websites like the Weather Channel to automatically show the weather in your location without you having to input it manually.  This is also an exciting feature on the mobile front for HTML web applications to work on phones and provide users with an immersive experience based on their location.

Web Workers

Web workers are a way for JavaScript to execute on background threads.  This will help make web sites feel faster to the end user because complex code will not have to work on the same thread as the interface.

Typography

HTML5 brings about new interfaces for designers to use custom Typography within their web applications.  This will help websites define their brand further through their own custom fonts.

Web Storage

Web storage is a specification that allows a web application to store data in a user’s browser (similar to cookies) with a simple API.  This capability will let web sites work better in the event a user’s internet connection drops.  Facebook has already implemented this feature in their messaging platform.  If you lose your internet connection while writing a message that message will not be lost.  It will be saved and sent the next time you have an available connection.

The Future of the Web

There is no doubt that the future of the web is HTML5.  HTML5 has all of the capabilities that most web applications will need for the foreseeable future.   This is a very good thing as long as browsers can support those features in a standard way.  One of the considerable draws to using Silverlight or Flash is that you do not have to write different code to handle different browsers.  All browsers with that plugin will give the same user experience.  To address this the community will continue to come up with JavaScript libraries that mask the differences between browsers.  I believe that we will slowly see less and less Flash and Silverlight on the web.  Silverlight will live on for Microsoft on their phone platform (and Xbox maybe?).  I do not know what the future of Flash holds other than it has a considerable development community that will continue to use their skills.  The HTML5 specification is still evolving and there will always be a need to support users whose browsers are not up to date.  The transition to HTML5 will not happen overnight.  What I do know is that the future of the Internet will be very exciting and I am glad to be a part of it.

Resources

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Well written post.

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