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Since the dawn of the World Wide Web in 1989, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) has evolved exponentially in the last two decades. The foundation for HTML 5 was laid back in 2004 as the aged HTML4 was struggling for relevancy amongst developers. HTML4 was standardised in 1997 and the world had begun to expect more from web technology.
The Worldwide Wide Web Consortium(W3C) had focused its resources on the development of Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) 2.0 at the time. Founded in 2004, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) had identified the relevancy and the potential of a new HTML standard and HTML5 was born.
In 2009, the W3C abandoned much of its work pertaining to XHTML 2.0 and joined forces with WHATWG to bring the world a new standard of HTML5. With that said, let’s look at some of the new features afforded by HTML 5 and how it has evolved over the last few years since the introduction of smartphones and tablets.
HTML5, A New Standard Going Forward
HTML5 reached official recommendation stage on October 28th 2014, meaning the W3C had officially endorsed HTML5 as a new standard. This was by no means a surprise as HTML5 technology has been embedded in modern browsers months preceding the announcement.
HTML5 was several years in the making and the project was close to many developers’ hearts. This marked a milestone for a new open web platform across the world. The time lag between HTML versions had lengthened between each iteration as each version goes through excessive debugging and testing. To put things in perspective, it was only two years between HTML 2.0 and HTML 3.2.
This was due to the fact that the online community was minute back then as the W3C had just been established. There were much less regulatory measures in place. Fast forward to 2014, HTML was in development for close to 10 years before it went global. HTML4 proved to be stable build on launch therefore HTML5 development was not a necessity. Judging by history, HTML5 will be with us for years to come before we even receive an inkling of HTML 6.
New Features To Change The Face Of Web Development
With every new edition of HTML comes a new standard of features and elements. This includes both application programming interfaces (APIs) and element tags. The advancement of web technology has allowed websites to offer new interfaces and become more dynamic. This includes brand new elements and html tags. Many elements that were present in HTML4 have now fallen away due to the mass adoption of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
Is HTML5 Backwards Compatible?
HTML 5 has been criticized for the lack of focus in backwards compatibility. Many elements have been abandoned in favour of CSS and older webpages are required to be modified to be
fully HTML5 compliant. The term graceful degradation comes to mind, as HTML 5 focuses on alternate functionalities by making developers aware of its shortcomings to ensure the software build is stable. To achieve this, such elements had to be dropped to ensure HTML5 was simpler, easier and more functional to use.
HTML5: A New Era Of Standards Compliance
HTML5 is a global open web platform. Therefore, like HTML4, it is imperative that it remains standards compliant. The success of HTML5 as a web technology is wholly dependent on support by third party developers and industry partners. The following standards will have to be met for the internet community to accept HTML5 as the new norm.
Websites are now designed to appeal to the global community by providing translation functions and region free toolkits. Privacy will also be further prioritised as more and more sensitive data is being exchanged over the internet. This includes classified information and transactions. The internet community can expect new privacy developments to stem from HTML5.
HTML5 is focused on delivering internet access anytime and anywhere. There is a wide range of devices that are internet enabled, such as tablets and smartphones. W3C has included the “one web” standard by offering a single unified web experience across all platforms. Multimodal access will also be enhanced for those with disabilities as it allows the web interface to be controlled via voice, gestures and even eye movements.
Semantic web is a relative new standard introduced into the HTML. The goal is to deliver a global, interconnected network of linked data to create databases on the web. Query languages and semantic web go hand in hand as queries are required to index and process such data.
Is HTML Necessary For Modern Web Development?
Plugins fill in the gaps of HTML5. Plugins such as JQuery and Flash are overlaid on to HTML source code to provide the end user with a more dynamic experience. There are no alternatives to HTML, other languages such as Microsoft Silverlight and XML simply exist to compliment the user experience. Additionally, HTML is continuously being updated with new iterations to improve its functionality. In its present form it provides a simple yet streamlined experience. With that said, it negates the need for an alternative language as programmers are experts in its source code. The term “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” comes to mind here, as HTML has no other in terms of web development.
HTML5 Mobile Device Support
In 2008, an analyst predicted mobile browsers would take over fixed internet access by 2014. The prophecy was fulfilled as 2 billion people around the world are accessing internet on their mobile device whereas 1.8-billion primarily use the internet on their computer. The surge in mobile users can be attributed various factors, such as declining data costs, affordability of mobile devices and the invention of the tablet computer. Therefore, it was imperative that HTML5 was engineered for mobile use with the following features.
Offline browsing has now been introduced to store and preload data on the device. This is known as caching, where webpages will save static pages on a local database to allow for offline access. This saves data costs as such pages do not need to be constantly reloaded.
Location data is important for businesses and companies to understand the location, movement and whereabouts of their target market. This is regulated of course, yet it benefits the mobile user as well. Geolocation API was developed for HTML5 in which the browser can communicate geographic coordinates with web servers around the world. This feature is entirely optional as the user is obligated to provide such permissions.
Finally, is there a need for HTML 6?
However, we can expect an even wider range of pluggable languages within HTML6. Python is one of fast growing languages in the world, its adoption
rate would definitely boom if HTML 6 supported basic python scripting. The addition of such languages will make web development much more accessible to the masses. Most important of all, HTML6 is required to provide better security and encryption. Advanced security APIs would bring about another dimension of protection from hackers and malware. Better encryption of web cookies shall protect device contents and a user’s browsing habits.
In conclusion, HTML has been at the forefront of technological revolution. Why, you may ask?
Moving to a new standard does indeed come with a cost of change. Millions of man hours and dollars are shed whenever the world migrates to a new platform. However, the benefits of such advancement cannot be quantified and any cost of change is declared irrelevant in the long term. With that said, HTML laid the foundation for the internet offering infinite possibilities and HTML5 is taking us even closer to that goal.
Correction: This article originally stated that video and audio streaming is integrated within HTML5 but only accessible by using flash and media plugins. This statement has been removed for the sake of accuracy.