What will Web 3.0 look like? Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, insists it will be the Semantic Web – a personalized web of information resting upon a smart sea of standardized resources. This ideal may be years off by Berners-Lee’s own admission, but HTML5 is a step in that direction.
Berners-Lee created HyperText Markup Language in 1990, establishing the basis on which the Internet functions to this day, four generations later. Browsers like Internet Explorer read HTML documents and translate angle-bracketed tags into elements, like text, images and most of everything you see or use online.
In 2004, the Web HyperText Application Technology Working Group (or WHAT), and later the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), began work on a revision of HTML, which had not been updated since 2000. WHAT member Ian Hickson wrote and released the first draft of HTML5 in 2008. The Firefox 3 browser adapted to the new language within a year, with Chrome and Safari not far behind.
But the story doesn’t end there. Far from it. As of this writing, HTML5 is still under development. Last year, W3C invited outside sources to scrutinize and critique its interoperability, with final recommendation and standardization slotted for 2014.
But HTML5 already brings new features for early adopters. For example, new video and audio tags allow easy integration of streaming services into web pages without third-party plugins like Adobe Flash. A canvas tag provides white space for users to create in-browser vector drawings, again without any plugins.
Big names like Apple and Google heralded HTML’s fifth coming as a momentous event – Steve Jobs even wrote an open letter in 2010 claiming Flash’s days were numbered. And while HTML5 has made Flash obsolete, that’s only a small part of a bigger picture.
Mashable has already noted HTML5 utilizes services like geolocation to streamline a personalized web experience, as well as enhancing online advertising and potentially refocusing development on web applications instead of gaming and mobile. Mobile won’t be untouched, though: Sales of HTML5-compatible phones are expected to exceed 1 billion in 2013.
Rely on tech innovators to find creative uses for HTML5′s power. Filmmaker Chris Milk has produced interactive music videos for The Arcade Fire and Danger Mouse. YouTube’s “ideas incubator,” TestTube, provides an experimental trial of HTML5′s video player, and Pandora too has switched to an HTML5 audio player.
For now, these creative uses are something like a game, but the full extent of changes HTML5 will bring remains to be seen. Like the applets created by the new drawing tag, the future of the web is still largely a blank canvas.