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Before we began exploring HTML5 in more detail, it's worth taking a moment to discuss what HTML5 actually is, as opposed to what the current hype machine is defining it as. Now, I suspect I'm fighting a losing battle here because the current state of affairs seems to be taking any relatively new feature or a cool browser trick and slapping the HTML5 label on it. Now recently, Apple launched its HTML5 Showcase page, featuring six really cool demos of features like transitions, next-generation typography, and video support.
In a now famous post on his blog Software As She's Developed, Michael Mahemoff declared that HTML5 has now become a brand, representing a new type of web application rather than the specification itself. I think he has a point. Now in the overall scheme of things, how the term HTML5 is co-opted as a marketing tool really isn't that important. As a guide for learning HTML5, it's very important that you understand the difference. Now, it's not uncommon for example, to hear CSS transitions, web sockets geolocation, SVG and @font-face mentioned under the HTML5 banner.
Now, perhaps the most alarming trend recently has been the introduction of browser proprietary features that are then labeled under web standards. Mozilla, Opera, and WebKit, all feature proprietary CSS properties that require web designers to write much more complex code to achieve cross-browser results. While some of these are the results of specific browsers wanting to implement standards that aren't finished yet, many are motivated by the desire to gain an edge in the increasingly competitive browser field. Now this type of behavior isn't limited to CSS either.
Apple's native video support in Safari supports QuickTime movie files when QuickTime is installed and uses a proprietary technology for streaming video. Now, anybody can admire the quality of these features but Apple lists them in their support of web standards in HTML5. Although they are restricted to the Safari Browser. So what is HTML5? Well, using a strict definition, it's a continuation of previous HTML specifications in the DOM Level 2, designed to address how modern web applications are created.
There are enhancements to syntax and semantics, the deprecation of presentational elements, and formal definitions for many of the APIs that form the foundation of most web applications. Now these include video, audio, dragging and dropping, offline applications, and canvas. So if we step back a bit, it gives us a broader perspective that HTML5 is focused on creating a consistent browsing experience and in turning the browser into more of an actual application platform. If adopted by user agents, designers, and developers, it should represent a significant evolution in the future of the web.
On the other hand, if the term becomes co-opted and used to label proprietary or unrelated technology, we could find ourselves in a situation very similar to what we had in the late 90s where designers often had to create multiple versions of sites to work across multiple browsers. Now that's why understanding what HTML5 is and then supporting the resulting standards is an important part of determining how future web applications will be built.
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