Observations on HTML

Saturday, 02 February 2013

HTML5 Logo

In December of 2012 HTML5 became feature complete according to the W3C, “meaning businesses and developers have a stable target for implementation and planning.” They continued to describe HTML5 as, “the cornerstone of the Open Web Platform, a full programming environment for cross-platform applications with access to device capabilities; video and animations; graphics; style, typography, and other tools for digital publishing; extensive network capabilities; and more.”

What a long road. Think back to the turn of the century. Shortly after HTML 4.01 was published as a W3C recommendation and XHTML 1.0 had it’s turn, it was said to be “developed to make HTML more extensible and increase interoperability with other data formats.” I remember the routine. Best practices at the time were separating form from content, moving to CSS, utilizing unobtrusive JavaScript, and practicing graceful degradation. Don’t forget to close your tags. Make it XML. Oh, and the machines are coming! 🙂

As XHTML 2 approached it became clear that it would be an entirely new way of doing things, and not just an incremental approach that preserved compatibility. In 2004, Mozilla and Opera published the “Position Paper for the W3C Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents.” Some key sections included headings like, “Backwards compatibility, clear migration path”, “Users should not be exposed to authoring errors”, and “Scripting is here to stay.” Ultimately the initiatives were voted down and in response the WHATWG was formed. Between the years of 2007 and 2009, not only did the W3C accept WHATWG’s “Proposal to Adopt HTML5“, they allowed the XHTML 2 Working Group’s charter to expire, even going on to acknowledge that HTML5 would be the standard rather than the XML variant XHTML5. Regarding the two formats they wrote, “The first such concrete syntax is the HTML syntax. This is the format suggested for most authors.”

Since then, the whole web has been marching toward HTML5 domination, steadily learning best practice and implementation. In the earlier days I recall it not being as rapid as more recent, with people discussing the semantics, along with calls to prepare, but there has been a ton of solid information on the topic for awhile now and the momentum has shifted. Not only has the WHATWG decided that HTML is a living standard while the W3C publishes regular snapshots, the working draft of HTML 5.1 has been issued.

Lastly, I find it interesting to see the various web development strategies work themselves out as the craft changes. Graceful degradation (and desktop centric) has steadily given way to a solid progressive enhancement (and mobile first) approach as the web continues to gain in mobile traffic. In addition there are quite a few ideas going around on how to best accommodate all of the client browsers, especially in the comments. Should one start with an adaptive web design, and how is that related to responsive web design? Is one really a part of the other and should we have a strategy utilizing both? Maybe that’s the future… I guess it depends.

Time flies when you are having fun. Certainly I can be sure about one thing, I still like to close my tags. 🙂

HTML5 Logo by W3C.




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