HTML5 Gains Logo, Loses Meaning

The W3C's new HTML5 logo

What’s that thing flailing awkwardly over the mouth of a mechanical shark? Why that’s HTML5 in its dashing new logo. Yes, the W3C, the standards body that oversees the development of the HTML5 spec, has blessed HTML5 with a snazzy new logo.

Naturally there are badges you can add to your site and t-shirts and stickers are already on sale (a portion of the proceeds go to the development of the W3C’s HTML5 Test Suite). The only thing left to do is figure out what “HTML5″ actually means, and that’s where the W3C has has thrown “HTML5″ over the shark.

HTML5 already enjoys more buzz that a web developer left alone in the back of a Mountain Dew truck (it even has it’s own posse), the only problem is that the buzz makers conflate just about every emerging web technology under the HTML5 umbrella. Purists have long decried headlines proclaiming the glory of HTML5 above an article about JavaScript and CSS 3, but now the one group that ought to know best appears to throwing in the towel and embracing the HTML5 hype.

While the new HTML5 logo looks good, the FAQ that accompanies it is troubling. According to the W3C, the logo is “a general-purpose visual identity for a broad set of open web technologies, including HTML5, CSS, SVG, WOFF, and others.”

It doesn’t really matter if the New York Times thinks CSS 3 or SVG are HTML5, but we’d like to think that at least the organization in charge of describing what is, and is not, HTML5 would make some effort to distinguish between tools. Lumping everything together is as silly as a carpenter referring to every tool in their toolkit as “a hammer.”

As web developer Jeremy Keith quips, “the term HTML5 has, with the support of the W3C, been pushed into the linguistic sewer of buzzwordland.” We had high hopes that Bruce Lawson’s acronym NEWT — New Exciting Web Technologies — would catch on and save HTML5 from buzzwordland, but alas, that appears unlikely.

With the blessing of those who oversee it, HTML5 now apparently means just about anything new and cool on the web. The new HTML5 logo is pretty sharp and the t-shirts look nice, but if we can’t have precise terms and linguistic clarity could we at least get a unitard with belt and cape?

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