It’s 15 years in December since the specification for HTML 4 was published by the W3C. That’s a long time, and the web has changed quite a bit since then which is why in 2004, the W3C started work on the specification for HTML5, although like any community driven decision making process, it’s now 8 years since the discussion started, and there is no final specification agreed for the HTML5 technology.
Of course, it’s not like no-one is using HTML5. There are plenty of guides around to help developers through the process, and a lot of sites are now developed using the specification – not least, Google, Twitter, Facebook, as well as all users of recent WordPress implementations.
There is good support from all of the main browsers too: according to the data at HTML5test.com, the latest Chrome, and Firefox releases all score well. Although IE9 has some support, IE10 benchmarks well:
So why do we need HTML5?
Well, it really comes down to experience. The web has changed so much over the past 15 years that the functionality offered by HTML4.0 is no longer sufficient to deliver the kind of experience that users expect. Sure, Flash provided many of the same things that HTML5 will around video and interaction, but at a high cost for batteries, crashes, and inflexibility from an SEO perspective.
Not only that, but it also lacks cross device support. In 2012, we use screens interchangeably, mobile phone, laptop, tablet, TV, and this creates huge problems for developers trying to offer a coherent user experience, increasing the cost of website builds, and creating the need for native apps on mobile devices rather than simply offering website access.
The fact that HTML5 is being used by the big players online – albeit not to its full abilities – is good, and should be pushing more people towards implementation. The fact that most browsers now support HTML5 is also good, it means that user experience is converging to the point where developers will now have justification for using modern technology for websites.
While not everyone thinks they need HTML5, and right now, any investment in websites can be quite far down a business’ priorities, however the fact is that in the long run, HTML5 implementation will actually be a cost saver, as people need to reduce their investment in multiple versions of a website, and ultimately, the functionality will also reduce the need for a standalone application to provide services.
So, can we all start using HTML5 now? We probably already are.