By Meredith Barnhill
HTML5's ease-of-use and compatibility with a variety of platforms and browsers with no need for plug-ins allows developers to do some revolutionary things on the Web.
No Flash necessary
To include video or multimedia elements in the current version of HTML, designers have to use third-party codecs and "wrappers" to display the content. Interactive elements like games and even entire Web sites that use Flash require a proprietary plug-in to function. If users do not have this plug-in or don't have the latest version, they will not be able to view the content.
In HTML5, designers can customize players for multimedia elements using video, audio or canvas tags. Not only does this make the elements easier to design and edit, but it allows any platform to access the content— including Apple's mobile users. Eliminating the need for third-party applications to implement multimedia to Web sites means that the content will be presented the same for all users across all browsers without requiring users to download extra files and programs to view it.
Examples of canvas include Sketchpad, which enables users to draw in a browser window much like a desktop paint application like Microsoft Paint. A developer used canvas to recreate the classic game Asteroids.
Access to Offline Elements
A major limitation in today's Internet is the inability to access information offline. HTML5 allows caching of page elements and storing them for offline use. With caching tags, HTML5 stores versions of dynamic elements in a device's memory for later use. Users will then be able to see and edit things like emails in Thunderbird or to-do lists on Remember the Milk without an Internet connection.
Getting rid of <div>
HTML4.01 relies heavily on div tags — div stands for division and is the tag that divides a Web page into sections. HTML5 replaces the need for "div" tags by using more obvious words to describe sections of a Web site, such as the audio tag. The updated tagging in HTML5 makes Web pages much easier to design and edit. Searching through dozens of div tags looking for the one that contains an audio wrapper is far more difficult than looking for an audio tag.
About the Author
Meredith Barnhill is a multimedia journalist in Austin, Texas.