The-Future-HTML5HTML5 is the first major revision of HTML, the markup language that powers the Internet, since 1997. This year the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommended HTML5 for all web developers. What is HTML, HTML5 and do you need to overhaul your existing website to implement HTML5?

I Keep Hearing About HTML5, It Must Be A Big Deal!

HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is what powers the Internet. In simple terms, HTML contains website content such as text, hyperlinks, and the instructions for accessing the resources needed to properly rendering a website, an email, or the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of an application. Before the introduction of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML also contained detailed instructions on how to properly render, or display, a website, including the color of the page background, the color of the text and the font used to display that text. Now, most HTML documents direct the browser to access the CSS file separately. HTML can also direct a browser to display multimedia such as images, audio and video files and multimedia elements such as JavaScript.

HTML Markup Loses Relevance

In the earliest days of the internet, websites were simple enough that a single HTML document could usually include most of the content and all of the instructions required to properly render a website. As the years progressed and websites and web content evolved to include more multimedia and functionality, HTML documents began to include HTML “elements”, or components, that weren’t part of the W3C’s standards. Eventually, with the introduction of CSS documents, PHP, JavaScript, ActiveX, Flash and other technologies used to create dynamic websites, HTML markup became less and less relevant in relation to how dynamic websites are rendered.

Pushing Design Standards

Over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, the increasing power of desktop and laptop computers, in addition to the dominance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) web browser, allowed web developers to design increasingly non-standard websites, often using proprietary technologies. During this period, as long as a website rendered properly using IE equipped with a few plugins on an average PC hardware configuration, the vast majority of users would be able to correctly view and interact with it. Since the 2000’s, the W3C and organizations with an interest in promoting an “open” Internet, such as the Free Software Foundation and the Mozilla Foundation, attempted to push HTML and CSS standards, but many designers felt comfortable disregarding them.

Mobile Differences

Fast forward to today, and the Internet is now vastly different. Users no longer predominantly use desktop and laptop computers to browse the Web – more and more are using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets with a wide variety of hardware configurations. While IE is still used on millions of devices, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari web browsers – especially their respective mobile versions – are becoming more and more dominant. Technologies that web developers relied heavily on in the past, like Adobe Flash, are now often completely locked out of mobile devices, especially Apple’s mobile devices running iOS.

Web Standard

With HTML5, the W3C hopes to once again standardize HTML and CSS markup so that websites render correctly for a majority of users. Simply put, HTML5 aims to streamline the process of delivering multimedia and functionality-rich websites to users, regardless of the device or browser used to access the website. Two of the most prominent features of HTML5 allow developers to embed multimedia files, such as video and audio, directly into a website without requiring a multimedia plugin and to store offline data for web apps, allowing websites to function more like applications.

The Future

HTML5 is not a perfect solution, and there are still outstanding issues to resolve such as disagreements over standard file formats. However, HTML5 has the backing of major corporations such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and the Mozilla Foundation, and many experts believe it is the future of the Internet.

Okay! Now, What Does HTML5 Mean For My Small Business?

Although HTML5 is the future of the internet, that doesn’t mean you need to drop everything and hire a web developer to recode your website in HTML5. In fact, if you use a Content Management System (CMS) or blogging platform such as WordPress to host your website, you don’t need to do anything; the developers of the CMS or blog platform will very likely incorporate HTML5 into future versions of their software and they have already developed ways to incorporate advanced interoperability into their platforms. In fact, WordPress developers have already begun designing themes and plugins that are HTML5 compatible. However, if you have a website that was built by a web designer without the use of a CMS or blogging platform, and you are experiencing issues with bandwidth usage, interoperability across devices and/or difficulties rendering your site, you may want to explore the option of redesigning your website using HTML5.