HTML5: The Big-Picture Basics For Managers

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HTML5: The Big-Picture Basics For Managers

HTML5 has been showcased online for the last two years, from Google Doodle showcases to music videos (check out The Wilderness Downtown by Arcade Fire, created entirely in HTML5). But what is HTML5, beyond another set of neat web tools?

HTML5 is the candidate recommendation specification for the HTML language – the standard you should be migrating to right now. You might recall that HTML was segmented into HTML4 and XHTML; to do anything fancy, you needed a plugin for your browser like Flash or Silverlight. HTML5 was built from the ground-up to support most of the functionality that previously required plugins. This is done through JavaScript APIs, and requires an HTML5 compatible browser alongside custom JavaScript coding and CSS techniques to work as advertised. Below are just a few of the features in HTML5 API toolkits:

  • Canvas (a 2D drawing surface)
  • Audio and Video elements
  • Offline Web Apps
  • Drag-and-Drop
  • Geolocation
  • “Local Storage” – replaces cookies with 5-10MB of storage per domain

Given all the cool features, where does HTML5 stack up? Well, it’s not a perfect match. Silverlight and Flash could do things that HTML5 can’t – most importantly, streaming video (though great strides are being made in this area, with Netflix and YouTube being the two biggest players in developing solutions). In time, the language might fill in those gaps (the HTML5.1 specification will be drafted in 2015) and some gaps might be created or filled in, depending on the browser. Additional downfalls: there is limited support for full-screen apps with HTML5 – the browser has to do that work; file system access is a no-go through HTML5, except to upload and download files; and three languages are needed to do the work of one or two. These aren’t new, unknown, or rarely-used languages, but HTML tags, JavaScript, and CSS – languages you’re probably already using.

Here’s the upside: in addition to using structural and scripting languages you already know, you’ll have plenty of new semantics-based tags to ensure content structure makes sense. These tags include:

  • Header (replaces generic div; can be used per section)
  • Footer (replaces generic div; can be used per section)
  • Nav (replaces generic div)
  • Section (main section content)
  • Article (body content)
  • Aside (sidebar content)
  • Audio (replaces object)
  • Video (replaces object)

Not only will your sites be more developer-friendly, they’ll be more search-engine friendly: Google will know exactly how important the site content is, based on how it’s structured – even if the site is designed to look completely different. HTML5 is backed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and in 2014, will have a “stable” recommendation from the W3C. Steve Jobs bet on HTML5’s market dominance, which is why none of the iDevices run Flash. It turned out to be a good bet when Adobe retired Flash for mobile devices and when Microsoft confirmed Silverlight’s retirement. Earlier this year, Netflix switched their streaming video service from Silverlight to HTML5’s native video tag.

So, how do you decide if now is the right time to move to HTML5? Because Silverlight 5 has a 10 year support promise from Microsoft, you might not be in a hurry to upgrade, but you’ll need to decide soon. The knowledge gap will grow larger by the month – HTML5 and JavaScript will be leading the charge for interactivity on the web. Whether you make the switch now or in three years, you’ll need your team to be up to speed.

Offering a variety of options in Java, HTML5, and CSS training, DevelopIntelligence instructors can help you bridge knowledge gaps by creating customized training courses that meet your team at their current ability, and help move them to the next level. Contact a consultant today at (877) 629-5631, or email.