Why HTML5? Where Did It Come From?

Why HTML5? Where Did It Come From?

There is a W3C presentation that helps frame the historical reasons for HTML5. The slides are available in plain text [1] and Technicolor.[2] At the risk of confusing the facts,* I’ll try to explain why this is important and what is essential about it.

For over a decade, XHTML1/1.1, a successor to HTML4, has been the most current version of HTML. XHTML1/1.1 leveraged the strengths of XML to create well-formed Web pages. These pages could be validated against a schema to test for compliance to a standard. Perhaps most importantly, it helped fix the issue of cross-browser incompatibility.

XHTML2 was going to be the successor to XHTML1/1.1; as the name suggests. However, this ended up not being the case. HTML5 is. Here’s why: XHTML2 was a different language; a new abstract approach to HTML. In at least the immediate future, making Web pages would’ve been made more difficult. It was a departure from the trajectory of many HTML traditions:

  • IMG elements were being phased out in favor of OBJECT elements.[3]
  • The anchors, A elements, were being phased out because “all elements may now play the role of a hyperlink.“ [4]

The objections to adopting XHTML2 were compounded by the fact that XHTML2 was not reverse compatible, by design. This meant that browsers that could already read HTML4 and XHTML1/1.1 could not read XHTML2. It kinda’ seemed like an effort by a consortium of smarty-pants engineers to force an idealized hypertext markup language onto the World Wide Web; with disregard for the immediate needs – and sights set on the long run.

Fortunately, there was outrage about all of this [5] and the W3C took a different tact. The next generation of Web pages would be made using HTML5, rather than a new markup language. HTML5 would incrementally change HTML, instead of completely overhauling it. It would be a forgiving syntax, one that anticipates that there will be a deviation from standards. Instead of forcing compliance – it makes recommendations for how Web browsers should adapt. It also adds some new features.[6]

*If nothing else, read this: http://coding.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/29/misunderstanding-markup-xhtml-2-comic-strip/ Misunderstanding Markup: XHTML2/HTML5 Comic Strip by Brad Colbow.

  1. HTML5, XHTML2 – Learning from history how to drive the future of the Web: http://www.w3.org/2009/Talks/05-20-smith-html5-xhtml2/
  2. HTML5, XHTML2 – Learning from history how to drive the future of the Web: http://www.slideshare.net/sideshowbarker/html5-and-xhtml2
  3. XHTML™ 2.0 XHTML Image Module: http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml2/mod-image.html#sec_20.1.
  4. XHTML™ 2.0 XHTML Hypertext Module: http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/WD-xhtml2-20040722/mod-hypertext.html#sec_10.1.
  5. Jeffrey Zeldman Present: The Daily Report – XHTML 2 and all that (The Sky is Falling): http://www.zeldman.com/daily/0103b.shtml#skyfall
  6. HTML5 Differences from HTML4: http://www.w3.org/TR/html5-diff/
0/5 (0 Reviews)

Ready to Collaborate? Contact Us!

Recent Works

BTO Sports Case Study
Entrepreneur.com Case Study
IGN.com Case Study
Tacori Social Engagement
Oxi Fresh SEO Case Study
Vegas.com SEO Case Study
TIBCO case study
Teleflora Web Development


Get the Latest SEO News & Updates