The buzzword “HTML5” came and went a few years ago, but the standard itself wasn't made final until the end of 2014. In the five-plus years it took the “second coming of this Web stuff” to be fully realized and ratified, we got deep into the changes, examined how early adopters pushed HTML5 to its limits, and surfaced more than a few hard truths about the limitations of the spec.
Of course, the lag time is to be expected. For all the talk about the pace of innovation on the Web, we’re still dependent on several aging protocols that could cripple the Internet. When any misstep could break the Web, or at least more than a few websites, you have to move slowly. Thus, this is the perfect time to start thinking about the next iteration of the HTML spec.
Granted, many of the ideas in HTML5 are still new and are slowly making their way into websites, but anyone who has worked with HTML5 can already see room for improvement. Consider this a call to action: What do you want to see in HTML6? Which new tags and features could make developing for the Web simpler, quicker, and less error-prone? What new features would make websites better, faster, slicker, or simply more fun?
Here are 10 proposals for a better HTML6. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.
HTML6 proposal No. 1: More control over the video object
We may never resolve the battle over the compression codec, but we can live with it. Different compression algorithms may take more work to implement, but they offer competition. What would be nice would be more control over how the video frames are painted on page. The current version fills a rectangle with a sequence of frames from a video and gives us control over a text track with annotations, subtitles, and whatnot. Some clever people have started using this to sync the annotations with the other DOM objects. But how about better callback hooks and synchronization mechanisms? How about the ability to mix DOM with video, for instance?
HTML6 proposal No. 2: Browser-sizing of imagery
How many pixels does a photo need to look good on a screen? It varies from mobile to laptop to desktop. Even the size of the window changes the minimum resolution. But the HTML standard
<img> tags get only one SRC, which points to one image file that may have too many or too few pixels for efficient rendering. If it has too many, the browser must downgrade the image to display it, wasting all that network bandwidth and time. If it has too few, it looks cruddy. A better HTML protocol could suggest a desired width or height for the image, and the server could deliver the optimal resolution.
HTML6 proposal No. 3: Pluggable languages
The HTML4 recommendations suggest that someone might use types like
text/vbscript, but does anyone actually use these? Microsoft has deprecated
text/vbscript with IE11, and it’s doubtful many people at what used to be Sun have worked with tcl in recent years.
It doesn't need to be this way. Google is pushing Dart slowly, and the Web page for the version of Chromium with a real version of Dart includes this ominous warning: “Do not use Dartium as your primary browser, and do not distribute Dartium to users!”
HTML6 proposal No. 4: Pluggable preprocessors
HTML6 proposal No. 5: Guaranteed libraries
Some websites use standard cacheable versions of the certain libraries hosted by companies like Google or Yahoo, and this can save bandwidth, but the next standard of HTML should do better than this. If a significant number of designers approve a library, it could be distributed with the browser. This would save even more time refreshing the cached version of jQuery 1.9 yet again.
HTML6 proposal No. 6: Guarded access to contact information
HTML6 proposal No. 7: Camera integration
Between Web cameras and the multiple cameras on cellphones, it's rare for a user to interact with a browser that doesn't have a camera and microphone connected. The W3C is already exploring a way to add photo or a video capture to forms, and some browsers support their own version like
webkitGetUserMedia. It's easy to imagine more. The form element could also access the stash of photos stored in the device, and the device could offer better control of the camera and the rate of capture. This would let websites compete with specialized apps.
HTML6 proposal No. 8: Hardened authentication
It may be possible to offer much in the way of hard and fast authentication given how difficult it is to build trusted hardware, but the browser could offer more than it does. Instead of cookies, the browser could offer to sign tokens with embedded keys. These could be stored off the device in hardened chips to prevent people from extracting the secret key. Adding an API to the browser would allow websites to request better digital signatures. This could be dangerous if too much faith is placed in it, but it would be a step up from cookies and session authentication.
HTML6 proposal No. 9: Better annotation
The comment sections at the base of articles are only the beginning of how we can annotate articles, but a standard structure can add annotations tied to paragraphs, sentences, or even words. A sophisticated version might even allow annotations to images or moments inside video. Some websites are starting to offer these, but there could be some advantage in standardizing the API so that all websites and browsers treat basic annotations in the same way. The W3C has a group studying the area and offering basic standards.
HTML6 proposal No. 10: Stronger microformats
HTML tags differentiate between the headlines, the paragraphs, and maybe the footers, but not much more. Why not create a standard way for specifying other common details, such as the parts of an address or a phone number? Sure, a standard tag for delineating email addresses would make life easier for spammers, but a standard set of tags would speed up Web crawlers and search engines, which would benefit us all. The W3C has been exploring microformats for marking up bits of data for some time, and some consider them to be part of HTML5, though they aren't. We can use more comprehensive markups for locations, times, dates, items for sale, bibliographies, and all forms of standard data.
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