How HTML5 Will Revolutionize the Web
There's a lot going on behind all the images, video and information on the Internet.
All the things we see when browsing the Web are powered by a special coding language called HTML. This language has been the foundation of the Internet for decades, but it isn't static. The Internet is about to experience another evolution in HTML that will have benefits for everyone who uses it.
One of the main benefits of HTML5 will be ease of use. Currently, many types of media, the most obvious example being video, can't be handled in regular HTML coding. Instead, third-party software, like Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, must be installed to play videos. Without Flash, users can't watch YouTube videos, or 70 percent of other videos on the Internet, according to Adobe.
HTML5 will make the whole process much easier for site designers and users alike by making video, audio and other interactive media compatible with the code. If a site is coded in HTML5 and the user is viewing it with a compatible Web browser, no third-party plug-ins are necessary. The browser will be able to natively render the video, much like browsers can already display images without any help.
Using HTML5 for video doesn't necessarily make the video quality better, but the compatibility benefits are already helping people. Android and iPhone operating systems don't currently have Flash plug-ins, but are capable of watching YouTube videos encoded in HTML5.
A new Internet
HTML5 is widely regarded as the next standard for website design and creation. It will be the de facto language that browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, will use to render Websites. This transition to HTML5 will require many changes for Web designers, though, and some aren't sure HTML5 is the future.
Those fears are well-founded because less than a decade ago, a different standard, called XHTML, was hailed as the future of the Internet. Now, years after sites converted to XHTML, the development of XHTML 2.0 has stalled, and it's clear there is no future for the language. Some developers fear the same could happen with HTML5 and they worry they will have to again convert to a new set of code in several years.
Not surprisingly, Adobe is highly skeptical of the ability of HTML5 to replace Flash. After Apple's recent unveiling of the iPad, Adobe very publicly complained that the device could not utilize Flash.
More recently Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch wrote on the company blog: "Longer term, some point to HTML as eventually supplanting the need for Flash, particularly with the more recent developments coming in HTML with version 5. I don't see this as one replacing the other, certainly not today nor even in the foreseeable future."
Lynch noted that HTML5 currently cannot do all the things that Flash does with video, and warned that if developers cannot agree on a common video format, the Internet could "be thrown back to the dark ages of video on the Web with incompatibility issues."
Despite these concerns, many Website creators are excited about the possibilities of HTML5. The tags – bits of code that help the browser identify elements on the page – have been refined in HTML5 so that they are easier to recognize and remember. And HTML5 should have greater compatibility with many kinds of media files.
A long road ahead
Despite all the benefits, widespread adoption of HTML5 is still a long way off. Safari and Chrome are the only browsers currently compatible with HTML5.
According to Cyrus Cantrell, Fellow at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Gopal Gupta, Head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Texas at Dallas, the conversion to HTML5 won't really happen until other major browsers, like Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, follow suit.
Another obstacle they cited in the adoption of HTML5 for video and animations is streaming and runtime media encoding. HTML5 is not yet as powerful in these areas as Flash, and Adobe offers a Flash Media Server to aid in live streaming of content and media encoding.
HTML5 may only a blip on the radar, but it's fast approaching. And despite mixed feelings among developers, it's likely to be behind the scenes powering the Websites we see in the future.