Channels ▼


SD West: HTML 5

The web has moved forward in the last eight years, but no thanks to HTML standards, according to Elliotte Rusty Harold, who spoke this morning at SD West on the upcoming HTML 5 spec. Harold's point was that, until recently, the W3C had essentially made no move since 1999 to improve the HTML spec—instead, technologies like Javascript, CSS and the DOM have dominated advances on the web for most of the last decade.

But in 2004, fed up with the lack of W3C progress on this issue, Apple, the Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software formed the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, or WHATWG, to move HTML forward. The work done by WHATWG has since been brought under W3C auspices, but most of what constitutes the current state of the HTML 5 was formed outside of the W3C.

So if we've lived this long without an updated HTML standard, do we really need one? If we want to bring HTML more in line with what we actually use the web for today, then the answer is yes. According to WHATWG, some of the things for which we've been using kludgy workarounds for years really need to be brought into the HTML standard as first-class citizens.

This is the thinking behind some of the proposed new elements. For instance, the audio and video elements. Certainly, if someone were designing HTML today, they would include such tags alongside the familiar img tag. There are, however, problems. While everyone involved can agree that the audio element should support MP3, no one can quite agree on a video codec. According to Harold, the spec may be finalized without specifying a supported codec.

Much of the proposed HTML 5 standard includes things that people are already using div and span tags for. One such item is the section element, which is a generic mechanism that can be used for dividing documents into chapters or parts. Each section would have a mandatory heading (in h1 through h6 tags), and sections could of course be nested inside one another.

Also of note in the new spec is the notion of a graphics canvas, the implementation of which is lifted straight from Apple's Safari browser. It provides a mechanism for procedural graphics calls via Javascript. Javascript also plays a prominent role in some of the proposed interactive elements. Notable among these is the datagrid element, which provides for interactive data representations such as editable tables and lists.

According to Harold, finalization of HTML 5 is at least a year or two away. For more information, visit

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.