The question is no longer whether to migrate to HTML5, but when.
Today, virtually every business is dependent on the Web for high availability and cost-effective marketing, sales, customer service, support, human resources and a host of other critical applications and services. And as more companies use the cloud, more and more applications are becoming browser-based. At the same time, Web users are moving with astonishing speed to disparate mobile platforms, vastly increasing the number of devices, operating systems and browsers on which public and in-house Web applications have to run.
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HTML5 is the newest version of Hypertext Markup Language, the standard programming language for designing contents and appearance of Web pages. Though it's not yet the official industry standard, it has already achieved remarkable acceptance and should reach standard status by the end of the year.
Adopting the latest and greatest Web technologies has not always been the most strategic approach -- or the most successful. But if an organization hasn't yet begun the transition to HTML5, it's already behind the curve. That's because one of the greatest costs of maintaining a Web presence has always been the inordinate amount of time, effort and money involved in managing backward and cross-browser compatibility -- as users stubbornly cling to their out-of-date browsers.
Free from the platform
Today, all modern Web browsers are automatically updated regularly, and only the rare Internet user will not have access to newer, HTML5 features. Even if a user's original browser installation used HTML4, the automatic updates ensure that Web developers can rely on HTML5 features being available on his desktop and mobile device. That's why HTML5 development is a no-brainer -- not only in the near future, but right now.
HTML5 is the first version of HTML engineered from the ground up to be platform-independent. With
<canvas> tags built directly into the browser, it's designed to circumvent potentially costly issues such as media compatibility among browsers and devices -- and the use of plug-ins to bridge the differences.
HTML5 not only provides a better interactive experience for the user, it provides a better framework for developing and delivering applications. For example, with previous HTML versions, formatting text, color, size or weight was done with the popular
<font> tag, a styling tag. In HTML5, the
<font> tag and other styling tags have been deprecated, or put out of use. Using
<font> calls for embedding formatting information internally in a webpage, instead of externally in style sheets that are easily managed and maintained. Also, new tags for laying out pages, such as
<nav> make page assembly easier, and there are facilities for search engines to better understand the relative importance of sections in a given page.
That's not all. A new local storage facility in HTML5 can remove the need to plant those risky cookies on the client -- and they make offline browsing possible when a network connection may be temporarily unavailable, much like some desktop programs do.
Arguing for migration
Though there are many compelling benefits to migrating all Web development to HTML5 -- and the sooner the better -- it may soon not be an option. As the built-in markup language of all browsers, HTML is the only game in town. HTML4 features will not be around forever. At some point, they will disappear, and if an organization isn't prepared, pages and applications will quite simply break. Why risk it? Why wait for it to become an emergency when migrating development to HTML5 right now entails little cost or risk?
HTML5 is not only one of the least expensive technology migrations around -- it's also one of the most cost-effective, potentially saving an organization untold hours and grief in dealing with the cornucopia of browsers and platforms entering the Web in today's mobile world. Without HTML5, it's hard to imagine how to cope with this virtual avalanche of new, proprietary browser technology.
HTML5 is far from perfect, but it's a superbly usable work in progress. Improvements have been and are being made, such as 2014's enhancements in video, audio, drawing and animation capabilities. In a push for standardization by year's end, contributors are filling gaps in HTML's test suites and other areas. It's an excellent beginning -- marking the first time a core technology was based on the critical concepts of real-world compatibility, usability and suitability -- and it will get even better.
About the author:
Alan Arthur Katz has written for more than a dozen industry publications and developed Web applications and fund-raising applications. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.