Facts and Myths of HTML5
HTML5 is simply a new set of standards, semantics and rules for coding website markup that can take advantage of several new “native” browser features such as offline storage, multi-media playback and a small level of interaction. Much of what we see on HTML5 websites that is really cool or innovative isn’t the actual markup, but a combination of CSS3 and jQuery, both themselves new and exciting standards evolving right alongside HTML5.
For now, let’s dispel some myths about HTML5 to pique your interest. There are several HTML5 resources at the bottom for those of you who want to learn more.
Myth #1: HTML5 was invented because Apple stopped supporting Flash .
Apple seems to get blamed for everything, but while HTML5 has some amazing solutions for mobile, it was not created to meet the demands of the iPhone. In fact, Opera and Mozilla got together back in 2004 to try to solve the problem of a messy web, defining seven principles for good design. Their goal was simple – propose these principles to W3C as a roadmap for a sleeker, faster, better HTML standard.
The principles covered aspects such as backwards compatibility, error handling, practicality, open development and avoiding device-specific profiling. It wasn’t until 2006 that the proposal was accepted, and in three short years a new spec was drafted, closed and made ready for use.
Myth #2: HTML5 won’t be ready till 2022.
All current browsers support HTML5. What you need to be careful of isn’t the markup, it is the CSS. Even with pre-made CSS resets intended to help out older browsers, design built around CSS3 can fall apart in older browsers unless you take care of the details.
Myth #3: HTML5 requires CSS3.
It makes the most sense to use semantic class names and CSS3 declarations when building something with HTML5, but it isn’t a requirement. HTML5 is just markup, so it gets along just fine with CSS2 styling, but what it does require is complete styling for all presentational elements of your design.
In other words, the HTML5 spec removes attributes and tags that control the look or style of any element, and is no longer tolerant of inline styling. The browser is now the supreme governor of how your site is rendered and what rules you need to abide by when creating layout with your markup. For example, in HTML5 you need a “display:block” declaration for each HTML5 element for them to be understood properly in IE8 and earlier. In short, HTML5 needs styling to look good, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be CSS3.
Myth #4: HTML5 ruins accessibility.
On the contrary, HTML5 is built around accessibility. While drafting the spec, utmost care was taken to ensure each element works with WIA ARIA landmark roles. These roles are specialized attributes added to your tags that allow accessibility devices such as screen readers to better interpret the site’s flow and content better.
Converting a site to HTML5 may ruin the accessibility if these roles aren’t understood and implemented properly, but that won’t be the fault of the markup! See font accessibility.
Myth #5: HTML5 will kill Flash.
The fact is that Flash is still used by several million websites and developers world-wide. The misconception was born, once again, from the high profile fallout between Adobe and Apple and the rapid adoption of HTML5 audio and video for application and mobile development as a result. However, though HTML5 is great for low volume video playback, full HTML5 support requires two or three times the encoding chores of Flash support and still lacks many critical features currently available in plug-in based technologies. Currently, sites like Vimeo and YouTube use HTML5 technology largely for technology’s sake, and will not be moving away from Flash too rapidly. Developer Viki Hoo points out several other reasons why Flash will be around awhile in her compelling argument here.