W3C, Now Age 20, Gives Official Recommendation for HTML5

Thanks to HTML5, we think nothing of watching video and audio natively in the browser, and nothing of running a browser on a phone.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—HTML, the latest version of the Internet's markup language that has been one of the pillars of the entire Internet for a generation, celebrated a milestone in October: The 20th anniversary of its acceptance as a standard by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C.

The official date is thought to be Oct. 14, but there are some people who aren't exactly sure about that, only that it became official in October 1994. No matter; it's the IT that counts, and the latest version, HTML5—which itself was in development for seven of those 20 years—is moving packets around the globe so often that to try and come up with an estimated number of actions would be pure folly.

During the W3C's weeklong annual conference at the Computer History Museum on Oct. 28, the global standards and development organization published its official recommendation of the fifth major revision of the format used to build Web pages and applications, and the cornerstone of the organization's Open Web Platform.

Video Capabilities Proving Big for HTML5

For application developers and industry, HTML5 represents a set of features that Web and application developers will be able to rely on for years to come. HTML5 is now supported on a majority of devices, lowering the cost of creating rich applications to reach users everywhere.

"Today we think nothing of watching video and audio natively in the browser, and nothing of running a browser on a phone," W3C Director and CERN researcher Tim Berners-Lee (in picture at right with Paul Cotton of Microsoft, left, and Sam Ruby of IBM) told a small group of invited guests at the museum Oct. 28. "We expect to be able to share photos, shop, read the news, and look up information anywhere, on any device. Though they remain invisible to most users, HTML5 and the Open Web Platform are driving these growing user expectations."

HTML5 brings to the Web video and audio tracks without needing plugins; programmatic access to a resolution-dependent bitmap canvas, which is useful for rendering graphs, game graphics, or other visual images on the fly; native support for scalable vector graphics (SVG) and math (MathML); annotations important for East Asian typography (Ruby); features to enable accessibility of rich applications; and much more.

HTML5 Already Widely Deployed

HTML5 is hardly new; in fact, it has been in use for years. According to a 2014 Vision Mobile Survey, 42 percent of 10,000 developers surveyed are using the combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for all or part of their mobile applications. Gartner Research described HTML5 as one of its top 10 mobile technologies and capabilities for 2015 and 2016, saying HTML5 "will be an essential technology for organizations delivering applications across multiple platforms."

To help achieve the "write once, deploy anywhere" promise of HTML5 and the Open Web platform, during the 22 months since W3C announced the completed definition of HTML5, the W3C community has been adding to the HTML5 test suite, which includes more than 100,000 tests and continues to grow. The Test the Web Forward community effort now plays an important and ongoing part in driving Open Web Platform interoperability.

With today's publication of the recommendation, software implementers benefit from royalty-free licensing commitments from over 60 companies under W3C's Patent Policy. Enabling implementers to use Web technology without payment of royalties is critical to making the Web a platform for innovation.

What's the Future Look Like?

So where is HTML5 eventually going to go?

"I think it's going to the developing world," Microsoft engineer and W3C HTML Working Group co-chair Paul Cotton told eWEEK. "If you look at the number of users and future users emerging in countries like China, India, and Russia, those are places where there are, in fact, a large number of untapped users, and they are just going to skip to HTML5 as quickly as they can.

"You know, sometimes we just talk as if it's [only] about the browser vendors, as if it's just about Microsoft, Mozilla, and Apple. But we have to realize that because this is a royalty-free platform, I expect to see the emergence of lots of new players in the marketplace," Cotton said.

"And remember: Several of those browsers are open source, so it's reasonably easy to kickstart and fork the code. I mean, Google forked the Webkit code and went off in their own direction. I'm expecting you'll see more people do that, and then they'll start to innovate on that kind of platform going forward."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...