File Under: Browsers, HTML5, Web Standards

Damn the W3C, HTML5 Is Already Here

The W3C says HTML5 still needs its training wheels. Horse pucky, we say.

According to the web’s governing body, you shouldn’t be using HTML5, CSS3 or any of the HTML5-related APIs just yet. At least that’s the spin InfoWorld’s Paul Krill took from his sit-down with Philippe Le Hegaret, the interaction domain leader of the W3C.

In the InfoWorld article, Le Hegaret says, “The problem we’re facing right now is there is already a lot of excitement for HTML5, but it’s a little too early to deploy it because we’re running into interoperability issues.”

Of course, we’d argue otherwise.

Asking the W3C what code you should use is like asking the FCC to recommend some new music. The W3C is a standards organization, and it is careful to a fault. Le Hegaret is apparently unmoved by the amazing creativity already being displayed by developers around the world who are embracing these new methods to extend their web apps — in fact, he made the same “we’re not ready” argument to us last year.

You should in fact be using HTML5 and the technologies surrounding it — like CSS 3, or the various associated APIs like WebSockets — because it’s the future of the web and a good portion of the future is already here. After all, web leaders like Google, Apple and Microsoft are already backing HTML5, using it in their own websites and building extensive support into their browsers. The W3C may not be done with HTML5, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t all over the web.

I suspect Le Hegaret is being quoted rather selectively in the InfoWorld piece. He is certainly aware that “interoperability issues” are nothing new and don’t make a good litmus test of whether or not to adopt a new technology. If a lack of full browser support means avoiding technologies, then no one should be using CSS 2.1 either, since older versions of Internet Explorer don’t support it. But of course, CSS 2.1 is all over the web and has been for years.

The fact is HTML5 is here and you can use it today, you just need to use shims, fallbacks and workarounds for older browsers. Yes, that’s unfortunate, but that situation isn’t going to change any time soon. If IE8 — which lacks support for most of HTML5′s features — has even half the longevity of IE6, we’ll still need fallbacks even when 2022 rolls around and HTML5 is, in the W3C’s opinion, finally ready.

Fortunately, the web does not move at the pace of standards bodies, it moves at the pace of web browsers and innovative developers.

Part of the problem with the InfoWorld article is that it makes two big faulty assumptions: that HTML5 is a single thing and that it’s an all or nothing package.

What most people refer to as “HTML5″ is in fact many things. The HTML5 markup language tends to get lumped in with CSS 3, JavaScript and a bunch of APIs into a single, easily-digestible buzz term. Developers need not embrace all of these components to take advantage of the features they need. As developer Remy Sharp points out in a response to Krill’s article, “HTML5 should not be considered as a whole… you should cherry pick the technology that suits the solution to your problem.”

You should also make sure that you provide a fallback for browsers that don’t support the features you cherry pick. That’s why all of the shims and fallback tools exist. The web is not perfect, and browsers are not always what they should be. Developers have to find the middle ground.

So don’t worry, just because the W3C doesn’t think HTML5 is ready for prime time doesn’t mean the web doesn’t have an entirely different story to tell.

Photo by weighn/Flickr/CC

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