The dawn of HTML 5
11 June 2013

The dawn of HTML 5

The HTML 5 browser standard is going to change the internet forever. Amazing as it may sound, HTML was invented over 30 years ago. In 1980 Tim Berners-Lee, then working at CERN wrote a paper outlining the basics of the HTML specification. The standard has been refined over the decades. However all versions of the standard so far have been incomplete, there have been gaps in the specification of how HTML should be parsed and rendered in browser, with each browser manufacturer making their own assumptions 

The biggest flaw in HTML standards before HTML 5 has been in retrospect rather obvious, however like many things the problem didn't become apparent until too late. HTML specs 1-4 all explain, at least in the majority of cases, how to render valid HTML, that is HTML markup that complies with the standard. The problem is, of the billions of web pages across the internet only a tiny fraction are valid. The HTML spec is complicated, everyone makes mistakes, and browser vendors are free to decide themselves what to do if an HTML document is not 100% properly formed.

Once the specification opened the door to variation of this kind it became very difficult to ensure consistency across browsers at all. If a browser can display different output for invalid pages, and most pages fall down at least somewhere on a HTML validation, then why worry at all about valid pages. 

On top of this background of lack of conformity to standards came the monstrosity of Internet Explorer 6. This browser basically chose to tear up the standard entirely in a move which the cynical (or maybe not so cynical) amoungst us look upon as Microsofts attempt to corner the browser market by locking users into their own vision of HTML.

However that is all about to change. The HTML 5 specification is approaching ratification by all the major industry bodies. The spec is in fact already being implemented in major browsers. This specification transforms the story around consistency. For the first time it specifies in exact detail how to render any HTML, valid or invalid. In otherwords it includes very clear rules for how browsers should treat invalid documents, what they should assume, or not assume about the intent of the author.

On top of this HTML 5 adds a wide range of new and exciting features, especially around mobile device rendering, and even more so when combined with its partner specification, CSS3.

The last few years have been dark days for the internet as web developers struggle with the challenges of building the next generation of web sites, while still tied to the legacy systems of the past including IE6. That dark age will soon be drawing to a close. The bright new dawn of HTML 5 is almost here, and we at Webfuel are more than happy to see it arrive.


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