What is HTML5? A very brief introduction for technophobes.

HTML5 is starting to show up everywhere these days. While most of the demonstrations I’ve seen are used for fun I much prefer something that’s actually useful.  Like showing live updating time zones in a way you might not have ever seen before.

What is HTML5? Basically, it’s the fifth major revision of the core language of the World Wide Web — and it’s still in draft phase. Right now most websites use HTML4, which became the standard in 1997. HTML5 is designed to be leaner, faster, shorter — and it’s got four main upgrades. So hang in there technophobes, I’m going to make this as painless as possible.

1. The Canvas Element. This technology, initially introduced by Apple, allows for some low-level animation. It can primarily be used for 2D graphics like charts and simple animations. See examples at canvasdemos.com

2. The Video Element. With HTML5 video can play, without the need for any plug-ins. No more “your player is out of date” warnings. See examples at html5video.org

3. Geolocation. Perhaps this can be useful, perhaps this can be creepy. But HTML5 can use cell towers and Wi-Fi routers to precisely determine your location — way more accurate than using an IP address.

4. No Internet Needed. It may be rare that you’re without Internet access in one form or another, but one of the great things about HTML5 is that it doesn’t need constant access to complete tasks like working with e-mail.

HTML5 is not ready for prime time. Ian “Hixie” Hickson, an editor of the HTML5 Specification for WC3, expects HTML5 reach the Candidate Recommendation stage about two years from now, sometime in 2012. But don’t get too excited. According to Hickson, while parts of HTML5 (like Canvas) could be seen sooner it won’t be until 2022 or later that it all of HTML5 would be fully approved as a WC3 Recommendation.