There’s a website or an app for everything, and they come in all shapes and sizes.
Whether you’re browsing a sleek app for a famous fashion brand, or a local musician’s website, they all have one thing in common: if you dig deep, you’ll probably find HTML5 at work in the background.
Firstly, what is HTML?
Before we jump into HTML5 below, let’s quickly explain what HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) is.
A web page or application (app) is made up of lots of content, like text, images and videos. HTML is the basic code that structures everything — a bit like a skeleton for the human body. It tells your web browser (e.g. Google Chrome, Internet Explorer) roughly how things should appear on the page.
For example, should the words ‘Welcome to my website’ appear as a large title or heading at the top, or in italics as part of a paragraph further down? When coding with HTML, you can indicate this, by enclosing different content with various tags and attributes.
Still confused? Think of HTML as the punctuation that gives meaning and context to your words. Without full-stops, commas, question marks etc., you’re just saying a random string of words.
HTML is considered a mark-up language, not a programming language.
The first version of HTML was created roughly 30 years ago. Technology has changed dramatically since then. Compare a website today to one from the early 90s, and you can clearly see that they’re capable of a lot more. This is why HTML had to evolve.
So, what is HTML5?
HTML5 is the latest version of HTML which developers can use to create web pages and apps. It has existed in some form since 2008. HTML5 helped simplify web development after years of technological development in the late 90s/early 00s had made things messy.
What makes HTML5 special?
When it comes to building web pages and apps, HTML5 has many advantages over previous HTML versions and other alternatives. A lot of functionality that you take for granted today wasn’t possible before HTML5 came along.
HTML5 lets you…:
- Incorporate multimedia elements like video, audio and animation seamlessly into web pages. Previously, users had to download third-party plug-ins like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Silverlight to play these.
- Detect users’ location to provide the best possible experience. Geolocation makes everyday actions much easier. Websites and apps like Google Maps and Amazon use your current location to give you the quickest route, calculate delivery costs and translate text into your local language. Users still need to give permission for their location to be used, though.
- Build websites and apps that work across all devices and browsers. Twenty years ago, accessing your email on your phone was unheard of — everything was desktop-based. But now we do this all the time (plus so much more), across a variety of devices. With HTML5, developers can build web pages and apps in a ‘responsive way’, so these adapt smoothly to whatever device or browser users are on.
You can also thank HTML5 for making it possible to drag and drop files (Dropbox), edit web-based documents (Google Docs) and access websites and apps offline (without an internet connection).
Plus, HTML5 is search-engine friendly, open-source and completely free to code in.
HTML5 vs Adobe Flash
Before HTML5 showed up, Flash was the most popular platform to play games, videos, and animations online. It was installed on most computers and played a big part in YouTube’s growth.
However, as smartphones and mobile technology got more popular, Flash proved less practical. A key moment in establishing HTML5’s dominance happened in 2010 when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously wrote an open letter pointing out many of Flash’s weaknesses; these included its security flaws, negative impact on battery life, and poor touchscreen performance.
In the following years, tech giants like YouTube and Facebook would drop Flash in favour of HTML5. Adobe finally retired Flash in 2020, marking the end of an era.
Will there be a HTML6?
In short, no.
HTML5 is maintained by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). This is a community of industry leaders and professionals, representing well-known brands like Microsoft, Apple and Google. They’re a bit like the ‘Avengers of the web’.
Rather than release a brand new version of HTML, they will simply build on the current ‘standard’ as technology evolves. So HTML5 isn’t going away anytime soon.
Why HTML5 is important to learn
Web development is a highly sought-after skill and career direction, no matter where you are in the world. Everyone uses websites and apps, so someone needs to build and maintain them. Web development opens up countless opportunities. HTML5 is the best place to begin given how widely it is used and that it’s unlikely to be replaced.