The World Wide Web has come along ways since the early days of silent, frozen, simple text based pages with low quality graphics. The days when we were amazed if a company even had a website are long gone. And the advent of Web 2.0 brought entire demographics of new people to the world of the internet.
But there were some bumps along the way, as different browsers wrote their own custom code to display content, tidal waves of change and broken websites swept across cyberspace. Through scripting and tricky coding the web has now reached a mostly stable place at the cost of higher bandwidth and higher development costs for web masters.
On the horizon is the next step in the evolution of the internet, HTML5. HTML5 will update the basic language of the online world, and takes many steps in the right direction. There are certain expectations of website interface today and modern web pages usually end up rehashing a lot of the same code to do navigation, searches and other functionality that every website has. HTML5 abstracts much of this functionality to save us time and bandwidth. New features include integration of video and audio without any java scripting or fancy tricks. You can also now pull off tricks like drag and drop interfaces, online document editing and much more without costly custom coding that may not be compatible across the board.
HTML5 also simplifies the myriad of customized bits and pieces that exist to keep early generation browsers working with modern websites. It also contains new features such as pre-fetching of pages and data that the user is likely to access after the page they are on. For instance, if you are reading an article, the next page’s content can be downloaded as you read, without you having to do anything. The impact on the world of SEO remains to be seen but new features like pingback – allowing you to capture information about who is linking to your site, and from where – should open a whole new world of marketing strategy and tracking that takes custom applications to do today.
Possibly the biggest step forward is that HTML5 will be truly semantic, meaning that the markup will help computerized systems to understand the context and content of our pages, rather than just the layout. New tags for that identify parts of our article as main points, separate blog posts, quotes or advertising will help the next generation of web crawling search engine tools to filter thru data and help optimize search results.
When will we see HTML5? Currently, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group estimates the end of 2010. HTML5 will of course be backwards compatible with HTML4 and all web pages are expected to work as normal. HTML5 integration will not happen overnight. Browsers are expected to be ready to handle it upon its release, and some intrepid developers have already started bulking up their HTML code with HTML5 codes that don’t affect anything currently visible to the user.
Where will the next twenty years take the internet? No one can say for sure, but HTML5’s unifying of many costly customizations will surely be a step in the right direction.