HTML5 finally reaches official status

W3C endorses the Web development specification as an official standard

HTML5 rocket

At long last, HTML5 today reached the official Recommendation stage, meaning the World Wide Web Consortium finally endorsed it as an official standard, even as the technology already is in use in browsers. But there is more work to be done, with the "Open Web Platform" expected to focus on security, streaming, and push notifications.

Formal ratification by W3C builds more confidence in HTML5. "It's a milestone to mark seven years of work that a lot of people have put into getting a standard at W3C published for HTML," says Michael Smith, who has been involved in development of HTML5 at W3C. "For a lot of people, it is important to have a stable version of the specification that's ratified in some way by a standards organization," he said.

Smith expects HTML5 to soon become an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard as well. He and other dignitaries gathered at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley on Monday evening to mark the release of HTML5.

HTML5 has provided standards-based development technologies for "modern" Web applications with highly visual effects. Proprietary plug-in technologies, such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight, have seen their importance dwindle in the face of the HTML5 juggernaut. Apple famously barred Flash from its iOS devices, relying on HTML5 instead.

Tim Berners-Lee, recognized as the founder of the Web, cited the evolution to programmable Web pages as a key development in recent years. Now, HTML and JavaScript can run on devices ranging from phones to watches, wide screens, and even cars, he said. "The fact that it's interoperable is very, very neat."

Technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) have been lumped in with HTML5 as part of the so-called Open Web platform. But today's specification covers only HTML5, with features such as the canvas element for graphics rendering as well as video and audio tracks and native support for SVG (scalable vector graphics).

With HTML5, the Web has moved from static Web pages to being a fully distributed platform running on all kinds of devices, W3C CEO Jeffrey Jaffe said. "Where our focus needs to move right now more strongly than ever before is the developer," Jaffe said.

Ideas are being floated pertaining to application foundations for the Open Web platform. The group is pondering security, including work on crypto APIs; streaming; real-time communications; and the application lifecycle as next directions for standards-based Web development. Smith, meanwhile, said he expects push notifications to be added to the platform.

HTML5, of course, has been the subject of a raging native-versus-Web debate in the mobile space, with developers having to choose native or Web technologies or a hybrid of these two. In one particularly noteworthy instance, Facebook moved its iOS application from HTML5 to a native implementation.

HTML5 will not meet everybody's needs, acknowledged Sam Ruby a co-chair of the W3C HTML5 working group. "There are plenty of people using HTML even if Facebook defects, etc," said Ruby, a senior technical staff member at IBM.

Berners-Lee said he sees a convergence between native and Web apps.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform