HTML5. What is it, and what can it do?

Saviour of the internet.

HTML5. Everyone’s talking about it, everyone wants to use it. Bugger all people know what it is or what it can do, so let’s break it down.

HTML5 is the latest version of HTML - the code used by web developers to create web pages. Think of it as the newest model Holden Commodore. It’s got 24” wheels, 10 reversing sensors and automatic wipers - all as standard features, and all in all, an improvement on the previous model. In much the same respect, HTML5 picks up a handful of extremely useful elements that both simplify web development and enhance a user’s online experience.

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is an international body responsible for maintaining web standards and have been developing HTML5 over the course of the last few years.

HTML5’s predecessor, HTML4, was introduced in 1997 - over fifteen years ago. The online environment has changed significantly during this time. Faster internet access has led to the online deployment of rich media, including music and video. Faster processors and larger displays allow us to view this content. Wireless technology has seen the introduction of smart phones and tablet devices that enable us to access this information and content on the go - away from our desks.

To handle and deliver this content, plugins had to be developed. Flash, Silverlight, Java and so on facilitated this media integration - but this has come at a cost. Delivering a consistent online experience across web browsers - and now desktop, smart phones and tablet devices - has been a nightmare for developers and is not an ideal situation for our modern, connected lives.

Cue HTML5 - the so-called saviour of the internet.

HTML5 includes new features and streamlines functionality by allowing content to be deployed in a cleaner, native format. It allows for better structure, better form handling, drawing, and for media content. In effect, the need for many plugins is negated by the inclusion of native elements in HTML5. The main elements to take note of include canvas, audio and video.

The canvas element allows for dynamic rendering of 2D shapes and bitmap images via scripting - usually Javascript. It will not, and it not intended to replace Flash.

The audio and video tags serve a similar purpose. Until now, there has not been a standard for delivering audio and video via a web page. As mentioned earlier, plugins have been responsible for allowing this in the past. HTML5 will allow this content to be deployed - and experienced identically across browsers (that support HTML5) and respective devices.

The other major addition is the ability to store offline data for web apps. Until now, this has been one of the benefits of traditional apps, and one that has rendered web apps useless without an internet connection. As an example, Google Drive allows you to create documents in an offline environment. These documents are then synced when this state changes to online. This ability alone is going to change the nature and future of app development - and enhance the power of the internet.

Developers and users alike are winners, thanks to HTML5. The future of the internet, and all it can deliver is looking bright. All of us at Vivo Group are very excited by the opportunities that lie ahead of us - and perhaps we’ll even come to like Internet Explorer through its support of HTML5.

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