What is HTML5 and should I care?

HTML5 is the latest revision of the HTML standard for structuring and presenting content for the World Wide Web. For web designers and developers like me it introduces a number of exciting enhancements that will simplify pages and allow the addition of things like video and audio without having to use or rely on browser plug-ins, annoying user downloads and APIs.

But what does it mean for you if you are a clients or if you develop your own websites? Well, if your a designer or developer, you have some time to learn the new standard. Although all major browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer) continue to add new HTML 5 features to their latest releases, HTML5 is not yet an official standard and may not be before 2012.

Here are some of the new elements of HTML5:

HTML5 Video

HTML5 specifies a standard way to include video in a web page. Until now, most videos are shown through a plugin (like Adobe Flash), but this is not a standard and not every browser has the same plugins.

HTML5 Video currently supports 3 video formats: Ogg, MPEG 4, WebM. If you've used Apple iTunes then you'll be familiar with the MPEG 4 format - this is the format Apple uses to delivers it's music and video content.

HTML5 Audio

Again, in a similar way to HTML5 Video, HTML5 Audio provides a standard way for playing audio on a web page. This can be an audio file or an audio stream (such as a live broadcast).

HTML5 Audio currently supports 3 audio formats: Ogg Vorbis, MP3, Wav.

Browsers such as Firefox, Opera and Chrome already offer partial support for the new HTML5 Video and Audio tags.

HTML5 Canvas

The HTML5 Canvas element is used to draw graphics, gradients, boxes, circles and lines etc on a web page - without the need for a graphics editor such as Adobe Photoshop. The HTML5 Canvas element can also be controlled using Javascript and CSS3 and, therefore, animation techniques are available without the need to use complex code or plug-ins such as Adobe Flash.

Well that gives a brief overview of the more exciting features of HTML5. There are also enhancements to web storage and forms with HTML5:

HTML5 Web Storage

With HTML5 Web Storage it is now easy to store large amounts of data without affecting the website's performance. Currently a mixture of Cookies and a database are often used for minor web page enhancements such as personalised greetings. The HTML5 Local Storage object makes it easy for a web page to store and retrieve data.

HTML5 Forms

Amongst other enhancements to HTML forms, HTML5 Forms makes it straightforward to create advanced form validation, autocomplete and autofocus techniques that previous required Javascript or other coding techniques, or even round-trips to a web server so that validation could take place and the results returned to the user.

But should I care?

If you are a web designer or developer then HTML5 will offer some exciting enhancements that will make your job easier. It should make the development process quicker. And adding simple video, audio and animation to a web page without the need for expensive software (and the upgrades that come with it) should make it more cost-effective too.

If you are a client or if someone else is building a website for you, then HTML5 should make web development more simple, it should be quicker and it should be easier to update in the future - no more legacy coding techniques to worry about.

Well that's the idea anyway.

And I'd wait a while before introducing HTML5 to your new website, just in case the standards change between now and when the final standards are ready for release to the public. But if you are a web designer or developer why not get stuck in now and have a go.

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