HTML5 shoot-out: How Chrome, Safari, Firefox, IE, and Opera measure up

Chrome and Opera lead in compliance with the latest Web features, but the differences among browsers may be smaller than they appear

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Has it really been four years since the buzzword “HTML5” came screaming across the sky and gave us every reason to believe in the power of JavaScript in the browser? Time flies when you're writing code.

HTML5 is back on the tips of our tongues because the W3C committee finally decided it's time to stop fiddling with the HTML 5.0 spec and move on to HTML 5.1. This marks a historic occasion because the HTML4 document was finalized in 1997. Time drags when you're working on a committee.

What's the world been doing? Certainly not waiting for a final draft. Websites that take advantage of the standards in HTML5 are everywhere. The browsers support many of the HTML5 features, and they're getting better with each rev. The differences between the websites and the native apps are smaller than ever, and complex, interactive websites that behave like native apps are more feasible than ever.

Now is a good time to revisit the browsers and see how they're adopting the recommendations of the HTML5 standards committee. The new form elements, tags, attributes, and background features in the proposal are no good to the world if they're merely ideas on virtual paper. The browsers are where the dreams of the committee turn into the reality that all of us experience when we write code or visit a website.

The good news is that the browsers are converging on the standard. The scores on the automated checklist, HTML5Test.com, are getting closer and closer to perfect, although there's still a big difference between some browsers.

It's worth noting that HTML5Test boils all of the standards compliance down to one number (from 0 to 555) that's simple to read, easy to compare, and devoid of all nuance. The automated test checks only whether a feature is supported, by creating some DOM objects. It can't tell whether the feature is implemented correctly, elegantly, or without horrible bugs. To make matters worse, everyone will want to argue with the number of points given (or not given) to particular features.

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