HTML5 specification needs to be simplified: Developer

Latest markup language specification requires simplification to gain ground among developers

The HTML5 Web development specification needs to be simplified in order to foster adoption across the industry, a developer has warned.

Speaking at the Web Directions South 2010 conference in Sydney, Melbourne-based designer, Ben Schwarz, said while the Web is generally developing at a rapid rate, HTML5 has often been left behind.

“In putting together this talk, I realised one really poignant point, and that was I have been using the same version of HTML in my entire career,” he said. “For all of this period of time, we’ve all had multiple laptops and browsers, and we get to 2008 and don’t have a new way of publishing content.”

Addressing a group of Web designers, Schwarz said Web standards organisation, The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), lack an understanding of HTML5.

“The W3C can’t rule the world of the Web, it’s up to you as designers,” he said. “The W3C aren’t people who build websites every day and they don’t have clients with deadlines, [but] they’re trying to document the tools we use [as designers].

“We have an organisation that doesn’t build websites, yet they are building tools for us.”

While Schwarz said alternative organisations like the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) have been formed in an attempt to analyse the HTML5 specification with a “fine-toothed comb”, most developers have given up on trying to simplify development of the standard.

“If you try and read the spec, it’s very hard,” he said. “Many words are hard to understand and that’s a bit of a problem. The specs are made for browser vendors and is written for a couple of a hundred people instead of a couple of hundred thousand”

The slow pace of change from official Web consortium has largely grated on the developer community over the years, due to its inability to quickly integrate and implement new markup to meet their changing needs. This pace has largely led to the popularisation of proprietary Web-based standards and applications such as Adobe's Flash, the video capability of which is only now supported by the HTML language.

While Schwarz was critical of HTML5, he did say that its use on mobile devices is increasing due to user demand; a trend companies are attempting to capitalise on through frameworks developed for the platform

“Mobile is the quickest moving area of HTML5,” he said. “We get new phones more often than we do laptops.

“People are expecting a much different experience than we’ve ever had before... and after 10 years of nothing really happening, my only message for you is to go and make the world again.”

Schwarz developed his own simplified version of HTML5 specs using Firefox add-on Greasemonkey to follow in the footsteps of fellow designer, Michael Smith.

“This version of the spec is about 50 per cent of the size, which feels much more palatable to me,” he said.

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