Heidi Custers

Download vCard

Heidi Custers

Johannesburg, South Africa
Heidi Custers

HTML 5, the darling of the Open Web

28 October, 2011, by Heidi, category My Job, That internet stuff

The Tech stream of day 2 of Tech4Africa kicked off with a mind-expanding session on the one thing on everyone’s lips (and some people’s t-shirts); HTML5. The new messiah of markup languages was described by MC, Toby Shapshak, as; ‘a handy thing with which to build the Internet”.

Our speaker was Robert Nyman, who works with Mozilla in Sweden. Mozilla are the champions of the open web and have recently launched innovations like BrowserID, a single sign-on that will work on all modern browsers, including recent versions of IE, and on mobile browsers.

Despite the fact that I’m more of a ‘mouth’ than a coder, Nyman managed to teach even me more about HTML5. He explained that it is spilt into:

1. Semantics
In this version of markup, the tags are more specific, simplifying code and cutting out elements which are not needed to streamline the way browsers render pages.
HTML5 aims to become the ‘one language to rule them all’ by offering standard code for common elements that previously relied on complicated Javascript, things like sliders, calendars etc.

HTML5, at it’s core, is making the web easier, faster and

If you want to know more, go to http://HTML5doctor.com, it lists all the elements within the specification.

2. APIs
According to Nyman, there are over 100 specifications already, and growing by the second.

It was at this point of the presentation that my brain started short-circuiting. Nyman is just too smart. So, I Googled it. Wikipedia says some of the APIs available are:

  • The canvas element for immediate mode 2D drawing
  • Timed media playback
  • Offline storage database (offline web applications)
  • Document editing
  • Drag-and-drop
  • Cross-document messaging
  • Browser history management
  • MIME type and protocol handler registration
  • Microdata

Since HTML5 is the new darling of the web, there are already hundreds of thousands of resources online. So, who should you trust? According to Nyman, these are the ‘daddies’ of sites to learn about HTML5:


And for the lovers of Flash? Well, don’t worry, you’re not dinosaurs, doomed to extinction just yet. Nyman explains that HTML5 supporters who say “Flash must die!” are shortsighted, we should look to Flash for inspiration, rather thinking that one technology should replace each other.

Despite the fact that the session made me feel a bit stupid, it inspired me and made me think about the possibilities HTML5 offers. I almost want to tell all the devs I work with to rebuild all our sites in it. I must remember the words of Nyman though; “HTML5 is about being pragmatic, about building on top of the things we already have, rather than reinventing the wheel over and over again… what’s important is that you dare to do anything, failing is OK.


  1. Shaun O'Connell |

    Hey Heidi,

    It’s worth noting (as Robert did in his talk) that the new HTML5 elements, such as <section>, <aside> etc don’t work natively in IE6, 7 and 8.
    You’d need to use JavaScript (such as the HTML5shim plugin) to trick said browsers into rendering these elements correctly.
    So, adding the ‘extra semantic value’ comes at a cost.

    It’s also worth noting that a lot of the JavaScript APIs, such as the History API (Which frankly, have nothing to do with HTML5) require ‘polyfills’ to create the same functionality in B-Grade browsers such as IE6 to 8.

    Pick carefully – HTML5 and the new vogue-ish JS APIS are not for everyone. You also shouldn’t just re-write a site because of the new shiny elements and JS APIs – weigh up the costs first.


  2. Heidi |

    Thanks – I’m certainly no developer so my post was written from the perspective of a fan, your comments are a good grounding though.

    Was great to see you there! 🙂