What Exactly Can Developers Do With HTML5?
HTML5 is coming. HTML5 is already available. It will kill Flash. It can't do what Flash does. There are a lot of such statements, questions, and misconceptions about what developers can do and cannot do with the emerging Web standard.
Everyone is talking about HTML5, but not everyone understands that it is simply a new set of standards and rules that take advantage of advanced capabilities being built into modern Web browsers, such as multimedia support, offline storage, and support for user interactivity.
Not everything that looks cool on a Website is HTML5 or Flash. Many interactive and innovative features are possible using a combination of CSS3 and jQuery. And while many developers say that HTML5 means having to adopt CSS3, there is no reason why developers can't stick with CSS2 styling for the time being provided they specify styles within the markup.
Businesses are predicting that adding HTML5 elements to Web sites and mobile apps would allow them to implement features to increase customer engagement, and in turn boost the bottom line. For example, Developers can use HTML5 to add geolocation capabilities to their existing applications.
One of the areas in which HTML5 can really improve Websites is in how forms are designed. For many business sites, forms are boring and require extra effort to markup and style to fit the rest of the site's look and feel. With HTML5, it is possible to style forms that are advanced and integrate seamlessly with the site. Even the humble contact form, a critical piece of any business Website, can have a major facelift.
While many sites are using HTML5 for video playback and audio, full support still requires more effort than a similar project would with Flash. So while Flash will still be around in some contexts, it's increasingly clear that other Websites will still make the switch, to move away from third-party plugins and take advantage of mobile support and faster loading times. The goal is to make it possible for a developer to code once and use everywhere, even taking into account accessibility requirements such as supporting screen readers.
Microsoft has partnered with a number of organizations recently to show off some of HTML5's amazing capabilities, such as the Website promoting the movie "The Hunger Games," trailers for videogames, and even a teaser for a music video. While there are still some things a developer would find easier to accomplish in Flash, there are plenty of features available with Web technologies, such as fancy animations, smooth video playback, and interactive applications.
Many developers are content to wait to make the shift to HTML5 because they are under the impression that it won't be ready till 2022. In actuality, waiting that long is years too late. The specification's working draft is closed, meaning no drastic changes will happen. Considering HTML5 may receive Candidate Recognition by the W3C in 2012, now is a good time to seriously look at the standard. All current browsers support HTML5, and most users can easily take advantage of some of the capabilities, if not all.
Fahmida Y. Rashid is a contributing editor for Slashdot and SourceForge.