HTML 5.1 is the gold standard

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A couple weeks ago the W3C Web Platform Working Group published HTML 5.1 as a Standard. It was merely days after the second anniversary of the advent of the 5th major version of the core language of the World Wide Web (you may read the press release we put out when HTML 5 became a W3C recommendation). Thank you to the co-chairs of the group, the editors and the group, the public for this accomplishment. I am pleased to return to this achievement with praise for our agility and insight about new functions.

It took over a decade for HTML 5 to become a standard —we turned HTML 5.1 in two years! We had intended rapid cycles and are aiming for publishing regular incremental updates and stable versions of HTML as a W3C Recommendation about once a year. The specification is now on Github where anyone who can make a Pull Request can propose changes, or file issues. We have fruitfully geared the group and editors for agility and fulfilling one of the core goals of HTML specifications: matching reality better, being a specification that authors and implementors can use with ease and confidence. We continue to update it on cycle. Work on HTML 5.2 already started, to include changes that reflect features pending shipping, to fix bugs.

The Working Group, the W3C Membership, and Director Tim Berners-Lee agreed that HTML 5.1 is better than HTML 5, and I invite you to read about the substantive changes between the two. There are changes that make this dot release important.

Features about responsive webapps:

  • The picture and srcset attributes allow responsive image selection. That means the user agent may select images between different resolutions.
  • The requestAnimationFrame API allows for more efficient animation, allowing the user agent to better determine the ideal animation rate based on whether the page is currently in a foreground or background tab, what the current load on the CPU is, and so on.

Features that improve readability:

  • The details and summary elements enable authors to provide extended information that remain hidden until users choose to view the content.

Features that improve navigation and integration of the Web page into the user environment:

  • The menuitem and type="context" attribute value enable authors to add functionality to the browser's context menu.

The editors omitted to include a very important feature in the list of changes, most likely as it has been implemented experimentally in at least two browsers since 2009: drag and drop, one of the flagship ‘user interaction’ features.

I will note as well that appCache, a feature originally designed for web applications to operate offline by ensuring everything it needs is stored locally, was moved to the obsolete section since the future of offline webapps lies in Service Workers. We encourage the community at large to experience with this new way for event-driven background processing for progressive web apps.

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