HTML5 works with CSS3 and is still in development. W3C plans to release a stable version next year, but it still looks like this is a long shot. Since its release, HTML5 has been in continuous development, with the W3C adding more and more impressive features, therefore it seems quite unlikely that HTML5′s development will end soon, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
HTML5 is the successor of HTML 4.01, released for the first time in 1999. The internet has changed significantly since 1999 and it seemed like the creation of HTML5 was necessary. The new markup language was developed based on pre-set standards:
The need for external plugins (like Flash) needs to be reduced.
Error handling should be easier than in previous versions.
Scripting has to be replaced by more markup.
HTML5 should be device-independent.
The development process should be visible to the public.
HTML5 was created to make the coding process easier and more logical. You will see a bit later that many syntaxes are now deprecated and soon to be kicked out through the back door. The unique and impressive features HTML5 comes with are in the multimedia department. Many of the features it comes with have been created with the consideration that users should be able to run heavy content on low-powered devices. The syntactic features include the new <video>, <audio> and <canvas> elements, but also integration of vector graphics content (what we knew before as being the <object> tags). This means that multimedia and graphic content on the web will be handled and executed easier and faster, without the need of plugins or APIs.
There are a bunchload of new syntaxes added, but below I will name and describe the most important. The rest of them can always be found in W3C’s HTML5 section.
<article> – this tag defines an article, a user comment or a post, so an independent item of content
<aside> – the aside tag marks content aside from the page content, which for example could be a lateral sidebar
<header>, <footer> – you won’t need to manually name IDs for headers and footers, as now you have a pre-defined tag for them
<nav> – the navigation can now be placed in the markup in between the nav tags, which will automatically make your lists act like navigation
<section> – this is another important new syntax, as it can define any kind of sections in your document. It works pretty much like a div which separates different sections.
<audio>, <video> – these two obviously mark sound or video content, which will now be easier to run by devices.
<embed> – this new tag defines a container for interactive content (plugin) or external application
What is important to remember is that the new HTML5 tags do not always work as the ones before. For example, the header and footer tags will not only mark the start and the end of a page, but also the start and the end of each section you have. This means that these two tags are likely to be used more than once in the whole page. In the illustration below can you see what I mean.
html5 code example
Example of how HTML5 code looks like
Oh yes, and the DOCTYPE declaration finally makes some sense. Or, at least, this time it is much simpler than before and it is very easy for us to remember and we won’t have to search for it on the web or copy it from site to site. <!DOCTYPE html> closed by </html> at the end of the page is something we waited for for a long time to come and now it finally is here.
Moreover, complex XHTML declarations many of us used before can now be replaced with <html lang=”en”> and long encoding declarations can simply be written in this way: <meta charset=”utf-8″>. Can it get simpler than that? It most definitely can’t.
The following tags from HTML 4.01 are now removed from HTML5, therefore browsers do not offer support for them anymore. This means that it is a good idea to go back to your HTML pages and check for them, as they might disrupt the design in the latest browsers.
Things to know about HTML5
It is crucial to remember that HTML5 is built on the success of its previous version, HTML 4.01, which is undoubtedly the best version ever. In order to be better at using HTML5 you do not need to forget everything about the previous version. You are not learning a totally new language here. Keep your beloved syntaxes and keep the way you used to format your code, only remember that now you need to build upon the coding skills you already have.
In case you have absolutely no knowledge of HTML and you want to start now, I advise you to start with HTML 4.01 and only when you master it move onto HTML5. Starting with the latest version is like learning to run before learning to walk – which is impossible as far as I know. HTML 4.01 still contains the basics of HTML5, therefore in my opinion you should have strong knowledge of former HTML versions in order to be able to master HTML5.
The upside of learning HTML5 now is that the new markup language works right away. You can basically do whatever you want with it today – and it is supported in all major browsers. From video to geolocation, local storage and microdata annotations, HTML5 is something we need to start using. If you are in the design business, sticking with HTML 4.01 is a mistake, because everybody will move on while you will remain behind.
HTML5 is definitely here to stay. It is created to sustain today’s necessities and especially because it is in continuous development, it will be able to sustain the changes that will happen in the industry for quite some time. One of the reasons behind HTML5 taking so much time to develop is because the W3C had to analyze lots of factors and think of the future. They took their time and finally delivered something that can easily be labelled as a high-quality product.
Where to start?
HTML5 can’t be taught in a brief introduction. There are two ways to learn it as I see it. Either grab a good HTML5 book, or go out there and actually do it. I recommend both. I myself learned HTML and CSS from the internet, but there is some valuable information that you can get through reading a book and there is some valuable information that you can only get by practising If you already have a solid understanding of HTML 4.01, it shouldn’t take more than a week or two to grab the necessary HTML5 skills from a book. And then the world is yours, you can go out there and practice.