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Basic HTML5 instroduction

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 by Servage

HTML5 is actually a bundle of new methods for accomplishing tasks that previously required special programming or proprietary plug-in technology such as Flash or Silverlight. It offers a standardized, open source way to put audio, video, and interactive elements on the page as well as the ability to store data locally, work offline, take advantage of location information, and more. With HTML5 for common tasks, developers can rely on built-in browser capabilities and not need to reinvent the wheel for every application.

HTML5 offers so many promising possibilities, in fact, that it has become something of a buzzword with connotations far beyond the spec itself. When marketers and journalists use the term “HTML5,” they are sometimes referring to CSS3 techniques or any new web technology that isn’t Flash. The mainstream awareness of web standards is certainly a win and makes our job easier when communicating with clients.

Much of what’s new in HTML5 requires advanced web development skills, so it is unlikely you’ll use them right away (if ever), but as always, I think it is beneficial to everyone to have a basic familiarity with what can be done.
Hello HTML5!
In 2004, members of Apple, Mozilla, and Opera formed the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, separate from the W3C. The goal of the WHATWG was to further the development of HTML to meet new demands in a way that was consistent with real-world authoring practices and browser behaviour. Their initial documents, Web Applications 1.0 and Web Forms 1.0, were rolled together into HTML5, which is still in development under the guidance of an editor, Ian Hickson (currently of Google).

The W3C eventually established its own HTML5 Working Group (also led by Hickson) based on the work done by the WHATWG. As of this writing, work on the HTML5 specification is happening in both organizations in tandem, sometimes with conflicting results. It is not yet a formal Recommendation as of this writing, but that isn’t stopping browsers from implementing it a little at a time.

We’ll start with a look at the markup aspects of HTML5, and then we’ll move on to the APIs.
A minimal DOCTYPE
HTML documents should begin with a Document Type Declaration (DOCTYPE declaration) that identifies which version of HTML the document follows. The HTML5 declaration is short and sweet:

<! DOCTYPE html>

Why so complicated? In HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 and 1.1, the declaration must point to the public DTD (Document Type Definition), a document that defines all of the elements in a markup language as well as the rules for using them. HTML 4.01 was defined by three separate DTDs: Transitional

(including legacy elements such as font and attributes such as align that were marked as “deprecated,” or soon to be obsolete), Strict (deprecated features stripped out), and Frameset (for documents broken into individually scrolling frames, a technique that is now considered obsolete). HTML5 does not have a DTD, which is why we have the simple DOCTYPE declaration. DTDs are a remnant of SGML and proved to be less helpful on the Web than originally thought, so the authors of HTML5 simply didn’t use one.

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