HTML 5 Support by Browser: Opera Continues to Lead the Pack

The future of the web is fast approaching. The specifications for HTML 5, the successor to today’s HTML 4, are still in the draft phase, but already forward-looking browsers are starting to add limited support for HTML 5 elements.

The web has grown and changed in remarkable ways since the release of HTML 4 in 1997. No longer are sites just a loose collection static pages joined together by some hyperlinks. The web is now Ajax-powered and full of video, audio and interactive widgets.

HTML 5 is an attempt to give developers a way to create pages which harness the newest technologies but still work in any browser on any platform — be it a traditional desktop, a mobile phone, a game console or (one day) even your toaster. For more background on HTML 5, check out our earlier coverage or have a look at the draft specification.

However, until browsers begin to support the new version of HTML, developers won’t be able to take advantage of the new capabilities. Thankfully, that support is beginning to arrive.

So far Opera is the clear leader. The browser supports the following HTML 5 components:

  • The Canvas element
  • contentEditable
  • Cross-document messaging
  • Element.tabindex attribute and the Element, {blur, focus} methods
  • getElementsByClassName
  • Embed and Video
  • Navigator.onLine attribute and the Window, {online,offline} events
  • Server-sent events
  • Web Forms 2.0

Most of those elements have been available since Opera 9.2, though the <video> element is new in the Opera 9.5 beta.

Safari is also no slouch when it comes to HTML 5 support. With the recent release of version 3.1, Safari introduced support for the <video> and <audio> tags, which make it much easier to embed media in a page.

Safari 3.1 also supports the offline data storage API, which will be a boon for web developers looking to build offline apps.

Internet Explorer 8, currently in beta, supports the embed element and the contentEditable attribute (which was actually dreamed up by the IE team). However, a Microsoft spokesperson tells that the IE team “isn’t adding specific elements over what is in HTML 4.01.”

Although that’s disappointing for web developers, Microsoft does plan to support some of the new APIs in HTML 5, including the offline storage capabilities.

IE 8 will also support the cross-document messaging framework which allows documents from different domains to communicate with each other in a safe manner.

HTML 5 support in Firefox 3 will include the offline storage mechanisms and partial support for the canvas element. The next version of Gecko, the engine that powers Firefox, is also slated to add some more support for some of the APIs and the contentEditable attribute.

As you can see there’s quite a ways to go before HTML 5 enjoys wide-spread support, but the groundwork is being laid. Once the HTML 5 specification is final, expect to see all the browsers step up their efforts.

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