While much of the rest of the world enjoyed Christmas and New Year’s festivities, a last-minute present came in for developers from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C (News - Alert)). Specifically, it brought out a stable framework specification of HTML5, which should cover the waterfront for the next several years. It also has plans to start in on version 5.1, which is currently in “working draft” mode, meaning that HTML5 is continuing to shape up as a major development platform.
The specifications aren't yet W3C standards, but they are being described as “feature complete,” which means they're going to be a “stable target”-- according to the W3C itself -- for developers to use. There may be some changes down the line, especially as 5.1 is developed past the working draft level, but the specifications in place are unlikely to change much in the interim. The current version, based on word from W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe, is sufficient that developers will know just what they'll need in terms of skills to reach a wide variety of devices, from smartphones to televisions to even “devices not yet known.”
The specifications will be very welcome to the development community; a recent survey from Kendo UI of more than 4,000 software developers worldwide showed that fully 82 percent believe HTML5 will be “important to their job in the next 12 months.” This represents either a major change or a flaw in the survey, as a similar study, the Gartner (News - Alert) Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, suggested that the importance of HTML5 wouldn't be apparent for between five and 10 years.
Currently on tap in the specifications themselves is the video tag (News - Alert), designed to make the embedding of video or similar media in documents an easier process by removing the need to rely on Silverlight or Flash and instead use HTML5's own code. Though HTML5 will only work with MP4, WebM and Ogg video formats for now, that still covers much of the waterfront in terms of video available. Additionally on tap is the canvas tag, which will allow for easier rendering of visual graphics, geolocation, to allow devices to use their location for more specific purposes, the use of application caches to improve performance, autocompleted form entries, spell-checking and more.
While looking at HTML5 as a panacea, a magic-bullet solution to the Web's ails, is probably overstating things and a bit premature to boot, it's hard to deny that this is going to have a major impact on the Web as we know it. Sure, it's going to take some time to get fully up to speed, but it's quite clear nonetheless that once it gets going, it's going to be purely unstoppable. It represents changes to much of the Web as we know it, from the presentation of video to game design to even mobile apps. When a programming language can touch on that many different points of the Web, it's clear that it's a major development indeed. Only time will tell just how far HTML5 can ultimately go, but it should be impressive to watch all the same.
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Edited by Rachel Ramsey