Hold off! HTML5 is Ready

by graham

A lot of mixed points of view from the W3C team this week, especially from Philippe Le Hégaret following his interview on InfoWorld and his sweeping statement "I don't think it's ready for production yet," which rippled across numerous developer blogs faster than a unicorn chasing a double rainbow.  

Developers are key to furthering #HTML5 adoption. Please do experiment, and foster interop by sharing your experience with the HTML WG

To further confusion @w3c felt the need to reiterate that developers should keep experimenting with HTML5, as if everyone had just downed tools and said "thats's it then, I won't touch HTML5 until the W3C say it's ready." 

What is HTML5 anyway?

The confusion really lies around HTML5 as a term for a finished thing (whatever said thing actually is) that will single handedly kill off Flash and make the world a happier place at the same time. 

I saw a unicorn yesterday. 

And this is where the problem lies. HTML5 the term, not an out of touch remark by a W3C official. It is all too easy to pick though Philippe Le Hégaret's comments and explain, with real world examples, why what he said was complete nonsense. 

The single most important aspect of web development is the use of progressive enhancement. This way content, which is of greater importance than the technology used to display it, can be accessed by as many people on as many devices as possible. 

What I mean by this is that, as real people use real HTML5 in their projects, they are going to great lenghts to ensure people using older browsers can still view the content. 

The unicorn was fighting a narwhal. 

So by saying that it will take years for all clients to support HTML5 is, aside from being completely false with IE9 in beta and due a full release next year (note the lack of plural on year there), that is no reason to not start using the new HTML5 tags now. 

If I use a new tag, say header for example, I can add this to my markup and nothing will break. True, older browsers won't know what it is and will skip merrily past I can get them some helpful pointers with JavaScript to reconise the header tag as a page element. 

Enter document.createElement("header");

I now have an HTML5 tag working on a browser built before the element was thought up. Sprinkle a little CSS, header { display: block }, and I have the block level element recognised in newer browsers. Now this lovely semantic tag will behave as it should. Screen readers, search engines and developers will be happy. No one else will notice the difference or worry about it being ready for production.

The unicorn won and celebrated under a double rainbow.

Sure, if said user on said browser didn't have JavaScript enabled the tag wouldn't be recognised. Oh no! The layout may break a little or a background image wouldn't appear but the content, which is key, will still display and still be readable. 

HTML5 vs Flash - game abandoned before kickoff.

This is where the HTML5 myth goes crazy. HTML5 is no more a Flash killer than any other smartphone being The iPhone Killer. They are different technologies doing different things for a different end product. 

The narwhal had the best cry ever.

The unfortunate truth of HTML5 being the next big term in digital is that is isn't really that exciting. It's a doctype. A type of document that for most of everyone on the internet means absolutely nothing. 

OK, maybe there's a little more to it than that with the new tags but really, when it comes down to it, only video and audio do anything exciting for the end user. A visual result. All the others are either just mere semantics that make front end developers, search engines and screen readers happy as or only do anything with an extra helping of JavaScript or CSS. A rounded corner or bouncing blob isn't HTML5, it just looks cool.

There is absolutely no reason not to be using HTML5 right now, even if all that is being used is the video tag so iphone/pod/pad users can watch your content. There is never going to be a sudden moment when everyone stops using one set of mark-up and starts on another. It's a process, one of experimentation and of adopting new methods one at a time where it suits, and benefits, the project. 

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