Coding the future: HTML5 takes the internet by storm
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It's hard to imagine now, but original sites on the world wide web, written in HTML code or hypertext mark-up language, were made up of little more than text.
Corporate web designers were well aware that most of their customers had slow connections and would not tolerate much of a wait.Even a simple black and white image could irritate a user, as it gradually appeared on the screen revealing itself one painful line at a time.
That began to change as modem speeds gradually crept up and content makers used more sophisticated methods to encode their multimedia content.
Macromedia's Flash, now an Adobe product, made all the difference when it arrived in the mid-nineties. Animations, video sequences and graphics became more sophisticated.
But since its invention in the early 1990s HTML has not supported video natively.
That is why HTML5 is being received so enthusiastically by businesses in particular. The latest version can perform all kinds of dynamic tasks and visual tricks. The web is progressing faster now than it has in a long time.
Going native Application developers, like Kevin Sweeney who works at Vimeo, a video-sharing website based in New York, have already embraced the new tools that are built in to HTML5.
"We've needed to rely on third parties like Adobe Flash or QuickTime and had to embed this inside web pages. What HTML5 will do is remove them from the equation so this stuff is supported natively," he says.
Put simply it means that there's now much less chance that customers visiting a website will come across a black hole in the middle of the page, or get endless prompts to "download a plug-in" which may take several minutes to install.
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Aaron Gustafson AuthorPeople will know what ingredients they have in their refrigerator and keep track of it using an HTML5 app on the screen”
By then it is often too late. The consumer has already clicked on a competitor's website.The iPod Touch, iPhone and lately the iPad have been especially good at leaving black holes on the screen, because the former boss of Apple, Steve Jobs, would not allow Flash to run on any of his iOS devices from the start.
The success of these products globally means many companies cannot ignore the need to re-code their entire websites in HTML5, especially the multimedia content.
A lot of companies are not waiting for the HTML5 specs to be finalised and approved in a multi-year process. They have jumped right in, using early "unofficial" versions of the code to deliver a complete web page to every customer.
New horizons Aaron Gustafson, author of the book Adaptive Web Design, says the versatility and dynamic nature of HTML5 means it can be used in new ways in different environments including the office and kitchen.
"We are starting to see devices that are not traditionally web devices becoming more web-enabled," he says.
"If you are a recipe curator with a website, all of a sudden you can build pages that work on a touchpad that's built into a refrigerator. People will know what ingredients they have in their refrigerator and keep track of it using an HTML5 app on the screen."
Google is pushing HTML5 hard, not surprising since the greater impact that web pages and apps have, the more advertising it can sell.
Its search homepage is traditionally sparse but many of the doodles, including the Jules Verne-inspired interactive submarine, are now being designed to take advantage of the newest code.
Jeff Harris, product manager for Google Docs, says HTML5 will change the way its services operate from the ground up.
"A simple example would be taking an attachment from your desktop and dragging it into the compose window in Gmail. That's a basic capability that you couldn't do five years ago because web browsers didn't support it."
HTML5 also represents another step to the "semantic web", a web structure championed by Tim Berners-Lee that cross-references, reacts to and displays multiple information sources from the internet in real time.
HTML5 is partly responsible for the browser wars in the past few years.
A decade ago Chrome, Firefox and Safari didn't exist, and browser updates for Internet Explorer were only occasional.
Today desktop and mobile browsers update frequently as new HTML5 functions get incorporated.
Companies favour HTML5 because it can also replicate experiences previously only available inside an app, on the web. This is especially true for the mobile environment.
And a lot of brand names don't like being part of someone else's ecosystem because they lose control of pricing and subscribers. The Financial Times recently announced it will shut off its iPad app completely following the success of its HTML5 web page.
This is a trend that is likely to snowball within months.
Flash forward But where does this leave Adobe Flash?
The company has already stopped supporting it on mobile devices.
Danny Winokur, the general manager of the Interactive Development Business at Adobe, says the future of Flash is not in doubt, especially since protecting high quality assets with DRM (Digital Rights Management) is not yet possible in HTML5.
"Flash is allowing things like 3D immersive gaming that you would normally see on an Xbox or Playstation to come into a web browser," he says.
"That's something that HTML may eventually be able to do but it has a long way to go. Flash will pioneer those most advanced cases like HD feature-rich cinema graphic content that needs to be copy-protected."
Ideally of course the end user will not notice, or even care, that the web is being powered by a new updated set of code.
If HTML5 does its job properly, no-one outside the web development community will ever know about it!
HTML5 is a markup language for structuring and presenting content for the World Wide Web, and is a core technology of the Internet originally proposed by Opera Software. It is the fifth revision of the HTML standard (created in 1990 and standardized as HTML4 as of 1997) and, as of May 2012, is still under development. Its core aims have been to improve the language with support for the latest multimedia while keeping it easily readable by humans and consistently understood by computers and devices (web browsers, parsers, etc.). HTML5 is intended to subsume not only HTML 4, but XHTML 1 and DOM Level 2 HTML as well.
Following its immediate predecessors HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.1, HTML5 is a response to the observation that the HTML and XHTML in common use on the World Wide Web are a mixture of features introduced by various specifications, along with those introduced by software products such as web browsers, those established by common practice, and the many syntax errors in existing web documents. It is also an attempt to define a single markup language that can be written in either HTML or XHTML syntax. It includes detailed processing models to encourage more interoperable implementations; it extends, improves and rationalises the markup available for documents, and introduces markup and application programming interfaces (APIs) for complex web applications. For the same reasons, HTML5 is also a potential candidate for cross-platform mobile applications. Many features of HTML5 have been built with the consideration of being able to run on low-powered devices such as smartphones and tablets. In December 2011 research firm Strategy Analytics forecast sales of HTML5 compatible phones will top 1 billion in 2013.
In particular, HTML5 adds many new syntactical features. These include the new
elements, as well as the integration of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) content that replaces the uses of generic