Apr 20, 2011

You Should Know Four Things About HTML5

1. HTML5 is not one big thing

You may well ask: “How can I start using HTML5 if older browsers don’t support it?” But the question itself is misleading. HTML5 is not one big thing; it is a collection of individual features. So you can’t detect “HTML5 support,” because that doesn’t make any sense. But you can detect support for individual features, like canvas, video, or geolocation.
You may think of HTML as tags and angle brackets. That’s an important part of it, but it’s not the whole story. The HTML5 specification also defines how those angle brackets interact with JavaScript, through the Document Object Model (DOM). HTML5 doesn’t just define a <video> tag; there is also a corresponding DOM API for video objects in the DOM. You can use this API to detect support for different video formats, play a video, pause, mute audio, track how much of the video has been downloaded, and everything else you need to build a rich user experience around the <video> tag itself.

2. You don’t need to throw anything away from HTML

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that HTML 4 is the most successful markup format ever. HTML5 builds on that success. Now, if you want to improve your web applications you don’t need to throw away your existing markup. You don’t need to relearn things you already know. If your web application worked yesterday in HTML 4, it will still work today in HTML5.
Now, if you want to improve your web applications, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a concrete example: HTML5 supports all the form controls from HTML 4, but it also includes new input controls. Some of these are long-overdue additions like sliders and date pickers; others are more subtle. For example, the email input type looks just like a text box, but mobile browsers will customize their onscreen keyboard to make it easier to type email addresses. Older browsers that don’t support the email input type will treat it as a regular text field, and the form still works with no markup changes or scripting hacks. This means you can start improving your web forms today, even if some of your visitors are stuck on IE 6.

3. Upgrade to HTML5

For upgrading to HTML5 can be as simple as changing your doctype. The doctype should already be on the first line of every HTML page. Previous versions of HTML defined a lot of doctypes, and choosing the right one could be tricky. In HTML5, there is only one doctype:
<!DOCTYPE html>
Upgrading to the HTML5 doctype won’t break your existing markup, because all the tags defined in HTML 4 are still supported in HTML5. But it will allow you to use — and validate — new semantic elements like <article>, <section>, <header>, and <footer>.

4. HTML5 already works

Whether you want to draw on a canvas, play video, design better forms, or build web applications that work offline, you’ll find that HTML5 is already well-supported. Firefox, Safari, Chrome, Opera, and mobile browsers already support canvas, video, geolocation, local storage, and more. Google already supports microdata annotations and Microsoft will be supporting most HTML5 features in the upcoming Internet Explorer 9.

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