HTML5 finalized, finally

PCWorld News

After nearly eight years of work, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has finalized the HTML5 standard, bringing the basic Web technology firmly into the era of mobile devices and cloud-driven rich Internet applications.

“HTML5 brings the next generation of the Web,” said W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe. “It wasn’t so long ago that the Web was about browsing static documents. Today’s Web is a much richer platform.”

Although Web and mobile developers have been using parts of the HTML5 specification for several years, the finished specification—which the W3C calls a recommendation—ensures developers that the code they develop for the Web will work going forward.

“We’re now at a stable state that everyone can build to the standard and be certain that it will be implemented in all browsers,” Jaffe said. “If we didn’t have complete interoperability, we wouldn’t have one Web.”

In 1989, physicist Tim Berners-Lee created the first version of the HTML as a way to format and link together written materials so they could be accessed over the Internet. In the years since, the resulting World Wide Web has come to serve billions of users all manner of content, from movies and music to full-fledged applications.

The HTML5 final recommendation, over 1,370 pages in length, addresses this complex environment.

HTML5 provides a way to serve multimedia content and application functionality without relying on proprietary plug-ins to the browser. It also addresses a wide range of other uses for the Web, such as delivering scalable vector graphics (SVG) and math annotations (MathML).

Today, HTML5 provides a “write-once, run-anywhere” cross-platform alternative to writing applications for multiple mobile platforms, such as Android and Apple iOS devices, Jaffe said. About 42 percent of mobile application developers are using HTML, along with JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to build their apps, according to a 2014 survey from mobile analysis firm Vision Mobile.

The W3C hopes the specification will be a cornerstone for future work in what it calls the Open Web Platform, an even richer set of standards for building cross-platform vendor neutral online applications.

Moving froward, the W3C is developing specifications for real-time communications, electronic payments and application development. It is also creating a set of safeguards for privacy and security.

Ian Hickson, now employed at Google, served as the principal architect of the HTML5 specification, and engineers at Microsoft, IBM and Apple served as co-chairs for the working group. Over 45,000 emails were exchanged when drafting the document, from representatives of 60 companies.

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