If you’re an active designer or developer you’ve undoubtedly heard the term “HTML5” being thrown around almost as frequently as Apple, Google or Twitter. “HTML” stands for “Hyper Text Markup Language” and can be found in nearly every website on the web. HTML4 was released in 1997 and has been updated to handle the increasing demands modern technology has for the Internet. While HTML4 has been ‘tweaked’ to provide higher levels of interactivity and multimedia to webpages, it has its drawbacks and could not always keep up with the rich, dynamic content found online.
Because HTML4 relies heavily on plugins such as Flash, Silverlight and Java to integrate media to a site, browsers (and technology for that matter) must be able to support it to load properly. Some manufacturers such as Apple have stopped supporting some of these plugins entirely on mobile devices to provide a better user-experience and longer battery life. Unfortunately this means some of the media-heavy Internet using this technology is inaccessible from iPads and iPhones.
HTML5 combats this issue head-on by adding several new features and streamlining functionality so that users aren’t required to install another plugin just to play to an embedded song or video. Now, HTML5 allows media to be directly embedded into the coding of a webpage using simple HTML tags only—no plugins required!
One of the major downfalls of traditional desktop applications is that most are web-based and useless without an Internet connection. HTML5 also provides websites the ability to store offline data for applications. For example, users are now able to create a file in Google Docs or draft a message in Gmail even when disconnected from the Internet. HTML5 makes this process even easier by automatically syncing your offline drafts the next time you’re connected—that way work is never lost, regardless if an web connection is present or not.
If you’re worried about how to take advantage of the benefits offered by HTML5, fear not, you’re more than likely already using HTML5 without even knowing it. Popular browsers such as Safari, Chrome and Firefox support at least some HTML5’s elements, if not all.
Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean the end of Flash. It’s still commonly used and supported across the web, particularly through the Flash based games we all love to play online during work. ;-) However, it is important for all web users to know the meaning of HTML5 as it’s not just a passing phase, but instead, the next evolutionary stage for structuring and presenting content for the Internet.