Updates from QA Training

What is HTML5?

If you do web you need to know about HTML5! Whether a struggling techy or confused manager I hope to make things a little clearer for you.

David Walker | 24 April 2012

If you do web you need to know about HTML5! Whether a struggling techy or confused manager I hope to make things a little clearer for you.

OK when I hear someone mention HTML5 my mind immediately wanders to the awesome Zoolander, HTML5, it's so hot right now!
It is but like WEB2.0 and DHTML before it is often not understood. With that scope set let's clear up some common misconceptions.

Firstly HTML5 is a group of related technologies and it certainly is not just markup. It represents a technology set and the evolution of the web as we know it. It includes new HTML markup, new ways of doing CSS and plugin free native video and animation. The HTML5 space is a set of many related technologies to evolve the web and it is not finished yet, in fact it will not be until 2022!

So why are we worrying about a technology that is not ready yet? Well parts of it are (well sort of), and are supported in many different browsers today. HTML5 is being built as an iterative model in a series of related but separate working groups.  This means a core of functionality is starting to shape up nicely and begin to come together now. Nowhere is this clearer than the mobile space where these browsers being built from the core up are keen to leverage this new technology. If you, like me, believe the post-pc reality is a world of micro content delivery e big players want liberation from the Adobe Flash model.

To understand HTML5 you need to explore what technologies  have found a home in its nebulous border, so follow this link to start with and look at HTML5 in all its amazing vastness. I love that picture, it fills me with a warm giddiness of how the world is changing and how brilliant the web will be!

Now lets understand what those colours and acronyms actually mean. Within the W3C A Recommendation progresses through five maturity levels:

  1. Working Draft (WD)
  2. Last Call Working Draft
  3. Candidate Recommendation (CR)
  4. Proposed Recommendation (PR)
  5. W3C Recommendation (REC)
You will notice only two parts are actually REC, and SVG was actually a recommendation from 2001! What this means is you can engage in development in HTML5 today and find its deprecated tomorrow (WebSQL we hardly knew you!) but and a big but here is that the core of HTML5 and CSS3 is now settling down nicely. In a follow up blog I will talk about the importance of the new clearer and crisper semantic web.

This means we can start using HTML5 now, and realistically we should, there are some easy wins out there like adding the spell-check attribute to a input element and letting Chrome or Firefox's application dictionaries leap into action when a user spells something wrong. There is also a lot of fallback work and defence that needs to be done for the browsers that fail to support some of the more advanced stuff by the way. I'll be following up this blog with a couple of those easy wins in a few tutorials over coming weeks.

HTML5's core aims are to document the document and provide a universal level of functionality across browsers without the need of plugin technology to get there. So yeah this mean cheerio Flash in the long term (Flash and I broke up a long time ago, it just wasn't working out and HTML5 Canvas and I, well we kind of hit it off!).

For someone about to embark down this development path they need three separate skills, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Yes JAVASCRIPT, and no a bit of jQuery just is not going to cut it any more. If I am sure of one thing in my crystal ball is that wonderfully chaotic and insanely powerful JavaScript is going to be the most important programming language in the next decade and that means it is a skill as a web developer you can no longer ignore.

As a oddly contradictory extension to my previous statement you will write less JavaScript for common tasks. Form validation is going to be done through HTML. Animated menus, accordion panels even photo galaxies can be done through pure CSS3.

Whilst your CSS, that will lower their tightly bound dependency on IDs and class markup that the DIVitus horror of XHTML lead us to. the hierarchy of your code and semantic meaning matters. Not in the way Tim Bernard-Lee intended but in a progressive way more amazing than XHTML2 ever was going to be.


David Walker

Portfolio Director - Digital Transformation and Emerging Technology

David is a change-driven technologist who works closely with organisations and industry experts to understand the opportunities and threats posed by new technology. David has designed multiple learning solutions that have helped organisations redefine their business strategy and culture – creating new business models that view IT as a strategic competency rather than a support function.
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