Tuesday, December 18, 2012

HTML 5, a Step Closer

HTML 5, the next big web standard, has been declared feature complete. This means there is a limited amount of work remaining before HTML 5 is an officially recommended standard.

We all have already been using features of HTML 5 for three years on sites like YouTube and in mobile versions of web sites, so it is easy to forget that HTML 5 has only been a work in progress all this time. It has been slow to arrive on purpose, the committee wanting to allow plenty of time to discover flaws and unintended consequences in the new web page features before committing to a lasting standard. This is not the usual approach to publishing a standard — usually a standard is published before it is ready, with obvious flaws that have to be corrected after the fact — but perhaps it is the right approach for this situation. There is no great urgency in replacing the latest two HTML standards, HTML 4 and XHTML 1.1, both of which work nicely. It makes sense, then, to take the time to make sure that HTML 5 really is a major step forward.

The development of HTML 5 has been an orderly process. It was early in 2010 that the work of defining the elements of HTML 5 was starting to wind down, and it appeared then that HTML 5 would go final around the middle of 2013. That was when I started to use HTML 5 in my own work. I adopted the pending standard knowing there was a risk that I would have to redo some of my work if the definitions changed along the way. Now there is hardly any risk in adopting HTML 5, and it will probably be used in most redesigns going forward, so that by the time the standard is formally published, it will already have been adopted by a plurality of major web sites.