HTML 5 Primer

Courtesy: CIO Dashboard

Last year, Apple formally announced it would not be supporting Adobe’s Flash on its mobile platform and instead would focus on CSS, Javascript, and the new HTML5 standard as a complete replacement. So what is all the hoopla surrounding HTML5?

HTML5, simply put (special thanks to diveintohtml5.org), is a set of updated standards for publishing web content built on top of the current standard, HTML4. It’s still a work in progress with a final review and request-for-comments to begin in 2012, but this doesn’t mean you should wait until 2012 to figure out how it may impact your organization and its customers.

The biggest improvements to the existing HTML specification focus on:

  • Native handling of media streaming and playback
  • Better page semantics for describing web content
  • Additional tools for bringing web applications closer to a desktop experience

New in-line media tags will allow media streaming without the need of proprietary browser plug-ins such as Flash or Windows Media Player. This is a big step towards supporting mobile devices by allowing browsers to use native hardware decoding instead of relying on software decoding provided through plug-ins which aren’t updated as quickly within the mobile browser space.

Semantically-rich tags such as <article>, <header>, <footer>, <summary>, and <nav> have been added to better describe web content and minimize redundancies. This should improve overall search as web content will be easier to index and summarize.

New tag attributes such as autofocus and email form fields may seem trivial, but together they can be used to improve the overall user experience. For example, on the iPhone, you may notice the keyboard changes when typing in the URL field of the browser – it has a .com key. With the email form field, browsers which support HTML 5 are now aware when a particular field is looking for an email address and can adjust the experience accordingly.

HTML5 also provides new tools to bring the web closer to a desktop experience such as:

  • Native geo-location support – providers can now incorporate localization features for a more customized user experience
  • Built-in offline storage – designed for larger quantities of data than cookies, it allows storage and retrieval of data without using precious bandwidth
  • Web workers – think background threads for the browser which can be used for accessing local storage or processing mathematical equations without blocking user interactions

This is just the tip of the iceberg and there’s no reason to wait until HTML5 is officially ratified as the standard. Many browsers currently support the majority of HTML5 (e.g. Chrome, Safari) while other browsers will do so in the near future (e.g. IE9, Firefox 4) and HTML5 is backwards compatible so legacy browsers will simply ignore the new features.

As with any new standard, early adopters may encounter bumps along the road, but building for the present while designing for the future is always a sound strategy. Don’t wait until you’re entirely comfortable before thinking about the implications of HTML5 to your current distribution or channel strategy. It opens many possibilities to your existing web and mobile channels.

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