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HTML 5: don’t get too excited yet

Yes, it’s finally coming.  The last official release of HTML was in 1999 (yes, you read that right, 10 years ago) at version 4.01.  At long last, the W3C* is almost finished with the specifications for a new version.  Pay attention, because it’s a doozy of a revision!

What will HTML5 do that old HTML can’t?

  • Mostly what HTML5 will do (and this is really in the future and will not happen entirely upon release) is reduce the need for proprietary software plugins.    Silverlight?  Flash?  Java?  Don’t worry, the browser will figure it out.
  • New elements are being introduced to make markup more semantic, such as <nav> and <footer>.
  • New APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that will enable drag-and-drop, offline storage , timed media playback and more.
  • New form controls and elements to handle dates, times, emails and more.

Anything going away?

You bet.  Kiss <center>, <font>, <strike> and <frameset> goodbye.  About darn time, too!

Sounds cool.  When did you say this was all coming?

It’s going to be a while; it won’t reach W3C official recommendation status until likely around 2012.  However, a few elements are already stable and supported by some current browsers.

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • If you haven’t already updated your web skills from HTML to XHTML/CSS, you’d better do so before the advent of HTML5; otherwise, the learning curve will only get steeper.  Not having a full grasp of CSS and proper semantic markup will make the new HTML5 standard much harder to learn.
  • Even if you’re raring to go on HTML5’s currently available features, I recommend taking a deep breath and a long walk first.  Not all browsers are ready to support them.  Feel free to play, but use caution when using on your library’s web site.

*World Wide Web Consortium.  The official international body responsible for approving web standards.