HTML5 Passes a Milestone

Carl Weinschenk

Like first steps, high school graduation and marriage, life if full of milestones. Technology is the same way. There is the emergence of the concept, its development, lab test, friendly user trials and so forth. For specifications, there also is the standards-setting process, which can go on forever — or seem to.

HTML5, the next version of the Hyper Text Markup Language, passed one of those milestones this week. According to CNNMoney and other sites, HTML5 was called “feature complete” by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C). As the name implies, the step means that the creative work of adding capabilities to the markup language is over.

The site says that testing remains to be done, and that the language won’t become official until 2014. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t being used, however. Much as a college senior gets a job before he or she marches down the aisle, HTML5 already is out in the marketplace. The CNNMoney story points to some of the users:

Netflix (NFLX) and Google's YouTube are two of the most prominent HTML5 adopters, but many others have also taken the leap. The Financial Times abandoned its smartphone app last year in favor of an HTML5 mobile website. The site looked and functioned like a native app -- with the advantage that FT didn't have to make changes to multiple versions of its code on multiple smartphone platforms. (Using a mobile website instead of a native app also let FT avoid paying Apple for in-app purchases.)

CNET said that the last stop on the trip to full implementation of HTML5 is a “last call final” during the fourth quarter of 2014. The story describes a parallel effort by a group called the Web Hypertext Applications Technology Working Group (WHATWG). CNET writer Stephen Shankland describes WHATWG as backing a far more fluid approach than the W3C.

The specification train never quite slows down, however. The W3C also announced that it has released the first draft of HTML 5.1. This, according to TechCrunch, is aimed at extensions to HTML5. The effort is expected to bear fruit in 2016, which is lightning fast in the glacial world of specifications.

CNET’s Shankland quotes W3C spokesman Ian Jacobs as saying that HTML5.1 is aimed at improving video captioning and fast seeking and “better forms including input modes and autocomplete, spell checking, better image accessibility, and more powerful iframes,” said Jacobs in Shankland’s story.

It hasn’t been an entirely smooth ride for HTML5 recently, however. In September, comments by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg were mischaracterized by the media. Facebook had moved back from using the browser-based markup language because it was not mature enough. That move and an inarticulate comment by Zuckerberg was perceived to mean that the company doesn’t believe in the approach.

That is far from the truth, according to Todd Anglin, the vice president of HTML5 and mobile tools at Telerik’s Kendo UI division. Zuckerberg actually is waiting for a more mature HTML5 — which perhaps is what he will get at the end of 2014. Indeed, Anglin — whom I interviewed a few weeks ago — is greatly encouraged by the uptake of HTML5. The company recently performed a developer survey, and HTML5 proponents could find a lot to like in the results:


I think right out the gate one of most important takeaways is that HTML5 is being adopted now. Developers are working with it now and using it now. It is not in the hype bubble. It is here now and it is being used. Eighty-two percent of developers found it to be important to their jobs now or will be within the next 12 months.

Ironically, it could be argued that the step the W3C took this week on HTML5.1 is more important than locking down HTML5. The standard seems to have been all but set a while ago, or there would not have been such widespread use. HTML5.1 though, is a key move into new territory.



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