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The Zen of HTML 5 by Bruce Lawson of Opera #londonweb Meetup

January 24th, 2011 @ 22:40 GMT by Richard Stowey

Bruce Lawson from Opera at #londonweb

I recently attended a talk by Bruce Lawson from Opera at the London Web meetup group. It proved to be an interesting insight into HTML 5 and the future of the web, including some interesting audience questions near the end.

Bruce likened the situation we are in with HTML 5 to a Temple he had visited in northern Thailand. The temple had been built in a modern way for the future, and yet it took into account historical needs. The temple won’t be finished for another 75 years, but will evolve into the changing needs of society.

So, HTML 5… It’s modern, future proof and it’s backwards compatible with our current needs, all at the same time. The arguement for HTML doesn’t end there, though. It contains other advancements which will be present in newer and modern browsers when they are released.

Here are the main goodies I learned from Bruce Lawson’s talk:

HTML 5 Wins

HTML 5 introduces a number of features and makes advancements possible in lots of ways.

It improves error handling. It’s parsing algorithm will attempt to fix errors in the code before displaying the page. HTML 5 acknowledges and embraces JavaScript by including some basic transitions and tools within the basic code. Even though the HTML 5 spec is currently 700 pages long, it aims to follow convention, and include frequently used tools into the standard code. Users are always considered first and foremost in the decision as to whether something gets added to the spec.

New HTML tags

In order to put together the tags to be used within the new spec, loads of websites were surveyed. The most popular classes and ID’s within existing HTML were collated and analysed to find those that should make up the next set of tags.

New HTML tools

HTML 5 opens up some basic tools which will become the standard for web development. These include things like drag and drop, canvas, sockets, storage, web workers and more. These will give web designers and developers much more as standard, and allow them to concentrate on moving beyond creating the basics every time.

Improved webforms

The built-in date picker, range slider, calendar and standard validation code means that coding up forms will be much easier in the future. It will also mean that it’s easier to acheive a higher standard and basic functionality which has come to be expected from most websites.

Better accessibility

By introducing additional tags and establishing standardised naming conventions, this paves the way for better accessibility within websites. Headers, navigation, articles and footers will all be better identifiable and recognisable to screen readers like NonVisual Desktop Access.

Simple, high quality video

Whilst the actual format which will be supported best in the future is still under debate, the ease at which HTML 5 can incorporate video into the web is excellent. Whether it’s MP4, webM or OGG, the video will be clean, fast and high definition in quality.

Video players can be easily styled and subtitles and language support can be implemented quickly and easily.


Although the final list of element tags is yet to be decided, HTML 5 is available to start implementing now. Elaborate hacks may be needed for some elements to gain backwards compatibilty and some parts are subject to change.

If there is one thing that I have learned from this, it’s that HTML 5 has been well considered, defined using empirical evidence and is based with growth in mind. It’s a way forward for a better web with standardised elements and better accessibility. Overall, it sounds like a web which has been considered for the user.

Bruce Lawson’s talk can be viewed below, and the podcast is available here: http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/london-web/id383234921

The Zen of HTML5 by Bruce Lawson from Opera from Nathan O'Hanlon on Vimeo.

Photo: Bruce Lawson from Opera at #londonweb by Richard Stowey, on Flickr

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