The W3C, like, OWNS the Web, man. Work continues there on drafting specifications for the next version of HTML, and the working group charged with this task has just released a new editor's draft detailing progress. While the process is far from finished, the new browsers are already recognizing some new elements of the updated standard, so we thought we'd take a look at how HTML 5 is shaping up.
Why do we need a new HTML?
Because the old one has been knocking around since the mid-1990's. HTML 4 was officially recommended by the WC3 back in 1997. Things have moved on since then, as you may have noticed. Gas got dearer and America got meaner. More to the point, the Web got asynchronous, embraced embedded multimedia, and the browser morphed into the desktop. HTML 5 is all about getting up to date in the era of dynamic applications.Or, in W3C's words, 'The main area that has not been adequately addressed by HTML is a vague subject referred to as Web Applications. This specification attempts to rectify this, while at the same time updating the HTML specifications to address issues raised in the past few years.'Incidentally, an alternate title being used for HTML 5 is Web Applications 1.0.
So They've Gone Nuts and are Trying to Horn in on the AJAX/Flash/Silverlight Racket?
No, don't be silly.'For sophisticated cross-platform applications, there already exist several proprietary solutions (such as Mozilla's XUL, Adobe's Flash, or Microsoft's Silverlight). These solutions are evolving faster than any standards process could follow, and the requirements are evolving even faster. These systems are also significantly more complicated to specify, and are orders of magnitude more difficult to achieve interoperability with, than the solutions described in this document.'
Controversies, Setbacks, Reversals...?
No more than is usual. In July of last year Roger Johansson quit the HTML 5 working group, later branding it a 'Circus'. His disquiet stemmed from a 'hostile' atmosphere, where 'people were being ridiculed, ignored or dismissed when they asked questions, voiced objections, or otherwise tried to contribute.' What's more, the whole editing process was '...less than ideal'. A short while later, he rejoined the flock and buried the hatchetwith his old chums. And into his old chums. Meanwhile, Johansson pointedly remarks in his 'About' that his site is built on a 'built on a solid foundation of valid HTML 4.01 Strict'
Who's drafting HTML 5?
WHATWG and the W3C HTML Working Group. And who or what is WHATWG, you ask? The Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, an independent body which looks at HTML development from the perspective of the Web developer and browser deliverables. It's focus is 'limited to technologies that will need to be directly implemented in Web browsers.' You can follow them on Twitter.
Legacy Browser Support?
What about the millions of home machines running ancient browsers? Will Hotmail and Altavista crawl to a halt for the un-upgrading masses?HTML 5 is designed to work fine in legacy browsers, so there shouldn't be a problem. New elements which the browser doesn't understand are ignored, and the old ones are treated as per usual.
New HTML 5 Elements, Tags