Discussing, implementing & improving HTML5

Warning This article was written over six months ago, and may contain outdated information.

I don‚Äôt think I‚Äôll be going out on a limb if I pre¬≠dict that the hot top¬≠ic of 2009 will be HTML5, the pro¬≠posed update to the markup lan¬≠guage which acts as the foun¬≠da¬≠tion to every¬≠thing we (web mon¬≠keys) do.

This week saw the pub­li­ca­tion of a few arti­cles on the sub­ject writ­ten by respect­ed mem­bers of our indus­try. While a lot has been writ­ten already about the poten­tial of the new lan­guage, these are notable for their more prac­ti­cal approach.

In the A List Apart arti­cle Seman­tics In HTML 5, Micro­for­mats doyen John All­sopp takes a look at the lim­i­ta­tions of the lan­guage and sug­gests a way to improve it; to sum­marise, he pro­pos­es that instead of intro­duc­ing a mul­ti­tude of new ele­ments, we should con­sid­er intro­duc­ing new attributes.

For exam­ple, he advo­cates the use of <div structure="header" /> over <header />. This, he says, has the advan­tage of being both back­wards- and for­wards-com­pat­i­ble, as well as pro­vid­ing much-need­ed extensibility.

Eric Mey¬≠er writes about his expe¬≠ri¬≠ence using HTML 5 for the recent redesign of An Event Apart, which seems to be pret¬≠ty well sum¬≠marised as ‚Äúit does¬≠n‚Äôt work yet‚ÄĚ. Real¬≠ly, all he did was write HTML 4.01 with an HTML 5‚ÄĎcompatible doc¬≠type (see lat¬≠er). Brows¬≠er sup¬≠port just isn‚Äôt in place for much more yet.

Jere­my Kei­th also used HTML 5 for the markup of the new UX Lon­don site, and writes about his find­ings in The Rise of HTML5. His con­clu­sions are more or less the same as Mey­er’s, although he pro­vides more prac­ti­cal detail.

The impor¬≠tant mes¬≠sage to take away from these arti¬≠cles is not the (per¬≠ceived) fail¬≠ings of HTML 5 and brows¬≠er sup¬≠port for it ‚ÄĒ after all, it‚Äôs still a rel¬≠a¬≠tive¬≠ly imma¬≠ture pro¬≠pos¬≠al ‚ÄĒ but that actu¬≠al imple¬≠men¬≠ta¬≠tions are being under¬≠tak¬≠en and report¬≠ed on. This kind of report¬≠ing ‚ÄĒ part feed¬≠back, part dis¬≠cus¬≠sion, part evan¬≠ge¬≠lism ‚ÄĒ is vital to the devel¬≠op¬≠ment of the lan¬≠guage and the future of the seman¬≠tic web.

The W3C and WHATWG, the brows¬≠er mak¬≠ers, and us, the authors, have equal respon¬≠si¬≠bil¬≠i¬≠ty to make sure that HTML 5 works for every¬≠one. After all, who knows how long we‚Äôll be using it for?

That com¬≠pat¬≠i¬≠ble doc¬≠type I men¬≠tioned ear¬≠li¬≠er, by the way, is:


It trig¬≠gers stan¬≠dards mode in (afaIk) every mod¬≠ern brows¬≠er, so you can start using it straight away ‚ÄĒ although the W3 Val¬≠ida¬≠tor will throw an error.

3 comments on
“Discussing, implementing & improving HTML5”

  1. Hi Peter

    it is pos¬≠si¬≠ble to use some HTML 5 now ‚ÄĒ see my blog post HTML 5 ele¬≠ments test in which I ref¬≠er¬≠ence my HTML 5 test page that shows you can use some of the new struc¬≠tures, even in IE 6!

  2. Hi Bruce,

    I did men­tion just over a year ago that most browsers will accept the new HTML 5 struc­tur­al ele­ments (You Can Start Using HTML 5 Right Now!), but thanks for the more com­plete update.

    How­ev­er, I would be leery of rely­ing on Javascript to make a page dis­play correctly.

  3. Here’s my prac­ti­cal: http://camendesign.com
    HTML5, no divs, no ids, no classes.

    HTML5 can be used right now, if peo­ple are only inter­est­ed. Whilst it won’t apply to all sites, in many sit­u­a­tions (like a per­son­al blog) IE sup­port isn’t nec­es­sary. Would you seri­ous­ly hold back from using HTML5 on an iPhone web app so that you had IE6 support???

    I stopped mak­ing excus­es for users and moved on. Write HTML5, use a JS hack for IE users, or even bet­ter, tell them to sim­ply get a bet­ter brows­er; Chrome, Opera, Safari, FF, whatever.