5 Things You Need to Know About HTML5

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The rapid adoption of HTML5 - the successor to the now long-in-the-tooth HTML4 - is allowing programmers to create some impressive websites.

It seems like HTML5 has been around forever, but it’s technically not even a standard (the specification recommendation is scheduled for 2016, so it will be years before it’s officially approved). Because most browsers already support many of its features, smart developers and programmers are taking advantage of the myriad ways that it improves their coding and enriches many popular websites.

Whether you’re a programmer or someone who enjoys the wonders that HTML5 lets website designers create, the new markup language has a lot to offer. Here are five cool features of HTML5:

Geolocation Is Where It’s At

"Would Like To Use Your Current Location?" How many times have you seen that on your phone in the last few years? It’s HTML5’s convenient yet possibly intrusive geolocation feature, and you’re going to be seeing it even more. With an increasing percentage of traffic coming from mobile devices (the United States is at 12 percent, while India is more than 60 percent), it’s no wonder that many websites are using HTML5’s geolocation feature to hyper-localize a user’s Web or app experience. This site should pinpoint your position extremely well on a smartphone and surprisingly well on a desktop.

HTML5 Will Improve Your SEO

Want to improve your Google page rank? Use HTML5. According to searchengineland.com, using HTML5 is a "godsend" for SEO, especially for sites that use a lot of Flash, since "searchbots will be able to crawl your site and index your content. All of the content that is currently embedded in animations will be readable to search engines. In basic SEO theory, this one aspect of HTML5 will do wonders for your website’s ability to drive organic search traffic." HTML5 also makes it easier for programmers to use audio and video on their sites, and search engines favor media-rich pages.

It’s a Blank <Canvas> for Gaming

Programmer Josh Goldberg faithfully recreated Super Mario Brothers, a cherished childhood game, by using HTML5 and the <canvas> element. His impressive piece of programming went viral, attracting more than 300,000 unique, Mario-loving visitors per day. Unfortunately, he didn’t check with Nintendo before undertaking the year-long task of recreating the game. Mario’s owner, Nintendo, stated that the game was "illegal" and should be taken down immediately, as it violated their copyright. The site was taken down on November 1, 2013 – but not before nearly 2.7 million visitors had a chance to play the game. WebdesignerDepot.com has a list of 25 "incredibly addictive," legal HTML5 games. HexGL, a futuristic racing game, has stunning graphics for a browser-based game.

Local Storage Means No More Cookies

Cookies have worked (reasonably) well for programmers since Netscape invented them in 1994, but they have significant drawbacks, including the need to be sent with every HTTP request, lack of encryption and size limitation (about 4k). While technically not part of the HTML5 standard (it was split off from HTML5 a couple of years ago), local storage overcomes the cookie’s limitations by storing data locally in the browser. The data is never sent to the server; no third-party plugins are required and the 5MB size limit is more robust. IBM has a cool goes deep on local storage.


Create a Garage Band Using Jam With Chrome

Invite some friends and form a band with Jam with Chrome, an HTML5 Web app with 19 different instruments, amazing graphics (the vibrating guitar string effect is mesmerizing) and surprisingly good sound. This Chrome-only game takes full advantage of HTML5 features, like Web Audio (which creates better sound from the browser), Websockets (to let band members interact in real time) and the Canvas feature, which allows for better graphics (including the aforementioned vibrating string effect).

Web developers don’t seem to care that HTML5 is not a standard. In fact, the entire Web community is benefiting while developers happily use its rich new features to develop amazing websites and games.


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Robert Springer

Robert Springer is a freelance writer based in the small mountain town of Sisters, Oregon. He has written articles for national magazines, online publications, websites and newspapers. Before freelancing, he worked in the banking, television and information technology industries. In addition to writing, he enjoys being delightfully distracted by his school-age twins.