SEO Inc. Blog

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 important 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 actually 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:

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 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: Misunderstanding Markup: XHTML2/HTML5 Comic Strip by Brad Colbow.

  1. HTML5, XHTML2 – Learning from history how to drive the future of the Web:
  2. HTML5, XHTML2 – Learning from history how to drive the future of the Web:
  3. XHTML™ 2.0 XHTML Image Module:
  4. XHTML™ 2.0 XHTML Hypertext Module:
  5. Jeffrey Zeldman Present: The Daily Report – XHTML 2 and all that (The Sky is Falling):
  6. HTML5 Differences from HTML4:

About Garry Grant

Garry Grant is a veteran expert in search engine optimization and the digital marketing industry. With nearly 20 years of experience, Garry has successfully built a multi-service operation at SEO, Inc., developing proprietary technologies through complex strategic solutions. He has extensive experience in key initiatives and operational responsibilities grounded in information technology and performance management.

Garry’s expertise and esteemed reputation, coupled with SEO Inc.’s impressive client success record has earned him such accolades as Entrepreneur Magazine's 2005 Hot List for the Hottest Internet Property, Inc. 500 2007 Honorary award for Fastest Growing Private Company in America, an Inc. 500 top 50 Company in San Diego, and interviews with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, Entrepreneur and The Huffington Post.

Garry Grant began his online career in 1993 creating strategic Web and e-business solutions for, The Rush Limbaugh Show, Premiere Radio Networks, Clear Channel Communications, EarthLink and Artisan Motion Pictures. Today, Garry and SEO Inc.’s highly skilled digital strategists develop proprietary technology and strategic digital marketing direction for Fortune 500 companies including, SC Johnson, McAfee,, Inc Magazine, IGN, Tacorri, LPL Financial, National Kidney Foundation, G4 TV, Fuel TV and Sony, just to name a few.