Once upon a time, there was a web site called Yahoo! In the olden days, Yahoo! had a place to type your search. It also had, on the same page, more than 120 blue, underlined words that were links to content. There were links for the arts and humanities, business and economy, computers and Internet, etc., all you had to do was find which content you were looking to find and click. And we loved that. Today, of course, times are different with portals of customizable information. But wait – the next major change is around the corner, and if you have a web team, everyone needs to be ready.
As technology grows there is the need to standardize coding to make web content easier and more flexible. Not just for people, but for the growing list of devices like computers, phones, tablets, and even cars. Enter HTML5, a new standard, that will take text, images, video, audio, maps and other content elements and open a million more possibilities of how to share and interact with content.
This will be a more significant change for the average user than going from the underlined words to the news portals of today.
HTML5 was developed, as earlier versions were, by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international community that develops standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web.
The key (but less technical) features of the new standard will include:
The ability to drop and drag on-screen items within the browser. For example, think of dragging items into a shopping cart – or out of it, instead of going through 3 screens to remove an item.
Major changes in audio and video – from interacting with the video (even controlling people’s actions on screen); not needing to download a plug in, and smoothly zoom in or out while the video is running – and without it “glitching.” Think of a watching a learning video with the ability zoom into objects to learn how to use them safely.
Geolocation. This is the scary-cool part. Because more mobile devices will be able to identify your location and provide relevant information to you, this becomes a strong new feature. A new family of “augmented reality” or AR sites will be based around your phone, computer or camera’s GPS. These apps will be able to help you tour an area, find a restaurant, shop and learn wherever you are. (See my article on Augmented Reality: When Real Isn’t Real Enough). Additional learning apps will have the potential to change learning within ten years by interacting with what students are learning. Some early mobile apps are already available for iPhone and Android phones.
Web apps are little programs. HTML5 gives the browser the ability to cache (or store) these programs. They can work offline as well as when connected to the Internet. What do the apps do? Just use your imagination. To start, they will be able to add collaboration and concurrent use to documents, photo albums and almost anything else.
Let me put this to you as if you were a CEO: The new standard will make us money, not changing will cost us – we’ll look like the archaic sites if we don’t make the jump to HTML5. What we get is an increase in customer engagement, responsiveness and loyalty while capturing better metrics in our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Offers can be personalized so they are more relevant to the individual: We won’t waste money and we won’t waste our customer’s time.
Either way, planning and budgeting needs to start soon.
Sure, YouTube, Facebook, Google and yes, Yahoo! lead the many companies already developing and are already demonstrating solutions using HTML5 (generally using Firefox 3.5 browser or later). There are many others just waiting for the browsers to be mainstream – but that may take a little while longer. The benefits to the user are huge that the public might accept the new browsers quickly. With the number of “cloud-based” business applications available may quickly push these browsers into the workplace – once security can be demonstrated.
Firefox and Opera generally lead the implementation of new standards. Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 has some HTML5 features, but with the reinvention of e-mail as a collaborative communications platform, Google Wave, now in beta, already takes advantage of a lot of these features. With that reasoning, expect the Google Chrome browser to seriously leverage the new magical powers of HTML5.
With Google Docs, Microsoft Office 2010 and competitors like ZOHO all driving their applications to web browsers (no software need be loaded), it’s going to be an interesting two years until the HTML5 browsers become the commonplace.
But please – start planning now.