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HTML5 – is it time yet?

HTML is one of the core languages of the Internet and is for presenting content on websites. The first version of the language was created in 1991 and has been used and developed since then. Today’s standard is HTML4, but in a couple of months this may change as the next version – HTML5 – has been under heavy development for some time now.

The first draft of HTML5 was published during the first quarter of 2008. Most of its features were not supported by Internet browsers at that time, so it was more of a curiosity and a hope for a better future than an actual, useful language.  It was revised about three times a year; the first revision for 2012 was published a few months ago. Some time has passed, so it is a good time to start thinking about implementing its more advanced features on our websites.

First of all, consider what HTML5 could possibly give us and our clients. The most obvious difference from previous HTML versions are the new tags. With the introduction of tags such as section, article, footer and nav, HTML5 brings the semantics into the language. What does it mean for clients? Better website positioning. Algorithms used by Google, Bing or Yahoo for website positioning are a secret, but it is obvious that web search engines value websites with well-written, semantic code, so even if they do not take new HTML5 tags into account now (no one can know for sure), they will do so in the future. Better rankings mean more visitors on the website and that means better sales.

Another great feature of HTML5 is that it eases developers’ work. There are some things that are hard to achieve without HTML5 or require additional technologies, such as Flash. A good example here would be The Onion. Last year, they launched an iPad version of their website based on HTML5. They were able to develop it in about 6 weeks. It would have taken much longer had they used older technologies. With HTML5 features like video and audio tags, developers are able to develop content-rich applications while still conforming to the “eight-seconds rule” that requires the content to load swiftly, before a visitor gets bored and goes and finds another website.

But do not get overexcited with all this. A good developer knows what new features can be used on websites and what should not be. Keep in mind that HTML5 is a draft;  a working one, but still a draft. While some of its features are well-discussed by WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group – a body responsible for developing this standard) and implemented in Internet browsers, other ones are still being discussed and subject to changes.  Moreover, not every HTML5 feature is supported by all modern browsers. Which features are available by your browser can be easily checked by visiting http://html5test.com/. Because of the changing nature or HTML5 we have to be wise when using it – we do not want our website users not to be able to see some of the features.

Summarizing – although some of its features are still under heavy development and some are unimplemented in major Internet browsers, HTML5 has reached a state where we can start using some of it on our websites. It would mean better developers’ work, lower costs for our clients, and more content-rich web applications and websites for Internet users. Everyone would be happy.

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