HTML 5 Primer

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The standard for HTML5 is drafted in May-2011. It would be finalized soon. It would be interesting to see what it offers and what one need to know about it.

Introduction and background:

Many among developer fraternity have heard about HTML 5, as recently the working draft was prepared in the month of May, 2011. This is published by For the guys who don’t know about what w3c is all about, here is brief “The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community that develops standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web” and its mission is “The W3C mission is to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Below we discuss important aspects of this mission, all of which further W3C's vision of One Web”. This organization was founded in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web and introduced the term. He wrote the first version of the "Hyper Text Markup Language" (HTML). W3c is actively involved in standardization of languages and protocols like HTML, CSS, DOM, AJAX etc.

We will focus our attention on HTML for this discussion. Let’s run through the brief history of HTML and its versions (till HTML 4.0)


HTML Version




HTML 4.01

Ø  Subversion of HTML 4 - HTML 4.01 is a revision of HTML 4.0 that corrects errors and makes some changes

Ø  Supports more multimedia options, scripting languages, style sheets, better printing facilities, and documents that are more accessible to users with disabilities

Ø  Strides towards internationalization of documents


HTML 4.0

Ø  Extends HTML with mechanisms for style sheets, scripting, frames, embedding objects, improved support for right to left and mixed direction text, richer tables, and enhancements to forms, offering improved accessibility for people with disabilities.

Ø  HTML 4 is an SGML application conforming to International Standard ISO 8879

Ø  Frames for multi view

Ø  Synonymous to XHTML 1.0

Jan 1997

HTML 3.2

Ø  Replacement for 2.0

Ø  Text, multimedia, and hyperlink features

Ø  Introduction of <!DOCTYPE>, mandatory descriptive title element, colors in sRGB

Ø  Character codes


HTML 3.0

Ø  Aborted after its development


November, 1995

HTML 2.0 (RFC 1866)


Ø  Character set for user agents

Ø  Text/html media type

Ø  HTML entities



Ø  Protocol HTTP

Ø  HTML is proposed as a MIME content type.  

Ø    HTML refers to the URL specification of RFCxxxx.

Ø  Search, Sub documents

Above table gives good insights into the evolution of HTML as a standard and also gives glimpses of feature additions. The specified URL’s can be browsed for more information.


If the trend over last couple of years is watched closely, one can see the shift in the development world towards using the web technologies to develop applications even outside the web browsers (e.g. Microsoft - Silverlight, WPF and XBAP) it can be seen that there seems t be very thin line of difference in Web and desktop applications. Rather the Web technologies are eventually being cast in the role of desktop application development platforms. These happenings have reflected in HTML 5 draft. Let’s see what HTML 5 has in the offing and how it is different from its predecessors

HTML 5 Addenda

Ø  Detailed parsing rules (including "error handling") for media type text/html

Ø  Defines a text/html-sandboxed media type

Ø  XML documents must be served with an XML media type such as application/xhtml+xml or application/xml

Ø  The HTML syntax of HTML5 allows for MathML and SVG elements to be used inside a document

Ø  Many new elements specifically video, audio, track, embed, mark

Ø  The input element is extended to have different types tel, search, url, email , datetime ,date, month ,week, time, datetime-local, number, range, color.

Ø  New attributes like media, audio etc for existing elements

Ø  Introduces a number of APIs that help in creating Web applications - An API

·         for playing of video and audio which can be used with the new video and audio elements,

·         that enables offline Web applications.

·         that allows a Web application to register itself for certain protocols or media types.

·         Editing API in combination with a new global contenteditable attribute.

·         Drag & drop API in combination with a draggable attribute.

·         that exposes the history and allows pages to add to it to prevent breaking the back button.

·         Extension to HML document and HTML Elements

In a nutshell, HTML 5 looks like a game changing standard and supports the media abilities like video, audio, streaming, multithreaded and asynchronous processing, communications directly through socket (websocket protocol and API), API support for web storage, web SQL etc. This would also eliminate the need of big JavaScript frameworks and browser plugging for some trivial functionality. This might enhance HTML’s capabilities taking it closer to capabilities of technologies like Silverlight, Flash, Flex/AIR, and JavaFX for many tasks (of course it couldn’t be termed replacement or event equivalent for the sake) rather it has become conducive/complementary to these technologies.

Till date the most of the web development fraternity wasn’t needed to be much aware of existing standards as their most of the application development needs were fulfilled through the development API’s from Microsoft, Google, Java etc but HTML 5 is different new entrant on this scene which would make the development world to take a serious note of what it offers and then chalk out development strategies.

So obviously one would look forward to the areas for learning which are enlisted below (if need to one needs to remain current and keep the pace with changes)

  1. HTML 5, CSS: Though HTML 5 is not finalized as standard, it has been implemented (e.g. Internet Explorer 8) and usable. Browser support has been enhanced for CSS and CSS 3.0 is something which can’t be ignored.
  2. Client side scripting, programming (JavaScript and JQuery): The new application development paradigms, video, audio enability, socket APIS etc would necessitate developer to possess a lot more JavaScript knowledge than one would need to possess when working with ASP.Net and equivalents. Also JQuery is becoming a de facto standard for client side framework development and availability of extensive plug-ins, developer can’t miss JQuery for future development.
  3. Services paradigm: All major development frameworks have set of libraries for web services (WCF in .NET). The RESTful services and JSON outputs need to be focussed on.
  4. Browsers: It would be helpful to get acquainted with newest version of browsers and corresponding changes in line with HTML 5. This would help to understand the apps outside browser or offline apps having enhanced privileges and ability to behave more as native applications. e.g. IE 8 and 9 


We discussed the brief history of evolution of HTML standard on the onset of draft for HTML 5. The key features for different standards were enumerated to give good enough idea of evolution of features and their subsequent additions.

On the backdrop of newer technologies like Silverlight, javaFX etc, the major changes in the way web app are developed now, were mentioned and also the corresponding HTML 5 capabilities were pinpointed.

The learning needs for developers were discussed in details.


Definitely from the discussion above, HTML 5 is slated to be a game changing standard and which would further accelerate the shift in development paradigm where in there is very thin line of difference in web and desktop (native) apps. This has necessitated the developer, programmers to really become aware of such standards (like never before) and also associate technologies like CSS, services, browsers, JQuery and java-script frameworks.


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About the Author

Full Name: Vishwas Sutar
Member Level: HonoraryPlatinum
Member Status: Member,MVP
Member Since: 5/30/2011 2:13:10 AM
Country: India
Extensive and rich experience across gamut of technologies and programming languages like PB,VB,C++,VB.NET, C#, Classic ASP,ASP.NET, ASP.NET MVC.

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