Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Preview of HTML 5 [ Blog ]


The web is constantly evolving. New and innovative websites are being created every day, pushing the boundaries of HTML in every direction. HTML 4 has been around for nearly a decade now, and publishers seeking new techniques to provide enhanced functionality are being held back by the constraints of the language and browsers.

To give authors more flexibility and interoperability, and enable more interactive and exciting websites and applications, HTML 5 introduces and enhances a wide range of features including form controls, APIs, multimedia, structure, and semantics.

Work on HTML 5, which commenced in 2004, is currently being carried out in a joint effort between the W3C HTML WG and the WHATWG. Many key players are participating in the W3C effort including representatives from the four major browser vendors: Apple, Mozilla, Opera, and Microsoft; and a range of other organisations and individuals with many diverse interests and expertise.

Note that the specification is still a work in progress and quite a long way from completion. As such, it is possible that any feature discussed in this article may change in the future. This article is intended to provide a brief introduction to some of the major features as they are in the current draft.


HTML 5 introduces a whole set of new elements that make it much easier to structure pages. Most HTML 4 pages include a variety of common structures, such as headers, footers and columns and today, it is fairly common to mark them up using div elements, giving each a descriptive id or class.

Video and Audio

In recent years, video and audio on the web has become increasingly viable and sites like YouTube, Viddler, Revver, MySpace, and dozens of others are making it easy for anyone to publish video and audio. However, since HTML currently lacks the necessary means to successfully embed and control multimedia itself, many sites are relying on Flash to provide that functionality. Although it is possible to embed multimedia using various plug-ins (such as QuickTime, Windows Media, etc.), Flash is currently the only widely deployed plugin that provides a cross-browser compatible solution with the desired APIs for developers.

As evidenced by the various Flash-based media players, authors are interested in providing their own custom-designed user interfaces, which generally allow users to play, pause, stop, seek, and adjust volume. The plan is to provide this functionality in browsers by adding native support for embedding video and audio and providing DOM APIs for scripts to control the playback.

The new video and audio elements make this really easy. Most of the APIs are shared between the two elements, with the only differences being related to the inherent differences between visual and non-visual media.

Both Opera and WebKit have released builds with partial support for the video element. You may download the experimental build of Opera or a recent nightly build of WebKit to try out these examples. Opera includes support for Ogg Theora and WebKit supports all the formats that are supported by QuickTime, including third party codecs.

The simplest way to embed a video is to use a video element and allow the browser to provide a default user interface. The controls attribute is a boolean attribute that indicates whether or not the author wants this UI on or off by default.

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