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The HTML 5 Specification and You

You know that feeling that you sometimes get when you’re using a rotary phone to update your Facebook status?  Me neither–but I think I can imagine.  Our usage of the Web has advanced aggressively over the past decade, pushing its limits as a development platform.  And it’s getting a touch awkward for those of us still using <blink>, <font>, and <center> tags to really punch up our table-based layouts.

Enter HTML 5. The latest version of the Hypertext specification from our friends at the World Wide Web Consortium defines features and elements that take into account blogs, rich apps, mobile browsing, and some of the other shiny new ways the Web has been used since version 4 was defined at the close of the Twentieth Century. Here are some of the headliners that caught my eye:

  • Offline Storage Site-scoped client-side storage that obsoletes Google Gears.
  • Native Multimedia Support <audio> and <video> tags, to match your well-worn <img> tag. Makes third party media plugins a la Flash, Windows Media Player, and Quicktime a bit redundant.
  • Geolocation HTML 5 knows where you live (and browse). This will become particularly meaningful in the mobile arena.  It is also probably bad news if you are being stalked by a website.
  • New Document Elements designed for sectioning content, including <article>, <header>, <footer>, <aside>, and (of course) <section>.
  • Editable Content By marking any containing element with the contenteditable attribute, the user can freely alter the content contained therein.

To demonastrate this last item, if you are viewing this post in an HTML 5-compliant browser (read Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and sometimes Opera), you can click and edit this paragraph to say anything you want it to. Seriously, go ahead. My personal inclination would be to append a little blurb on how it’s pretty marvy that the Muppets have done their own version of Bohemian Rhapsody, and that it’s probably good that they left Sweetums out because, well, he’s a little disturbing. But listen to me go on without letting you get a word in edgewise. So how is your day going?

A word of warning before you draw that drool-clearing breath and upgrade all of your pet web code, though. The spec is just a recommendation as of this writing, and while many geek-favored browsers do support HTML 5, the elephant in the room answering to the name Internet Explorer may not even pick it up in version 9. Barring this caveat, I’m fairly psyched about 5, and I’m going to dive in to see how I can get these new features to work for me.  And maybe also to see what technologies from ten years hence I can ham-fistedly approximate.

Further relevant reading here, here, and here.

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