Why I'm Going to Keep Calling it HTML5

Recently some people have gotten themselves in a tizzy about using the term HTML5 to refer to more than just the spec. I acknowledge that this is a noble quest, kind of like those who want to get the whole world to speak Esperanto.

Frankly it's an impossible task at this point. Language doesn't respect who came up with a term; it takes on a life of its own, and when a term has grown beyond one person you have to embrace and run with it.

I originally thought the term Open Web would become how people referred to these things. "Oh, CSS3, Geolocation, etc.? Those are Open Web technologies!" I was even part of a group here at Google called the Open Web Advocacy team that was all about pushing things like HTML5, CSS3, SVG, and more forward. You know what? The term Open Web never really took off; I would say the term "Open Web" and people would give me a quizzical look. I even tried boiling it down to a succinct set of bullet points about what makes something an "Open Web Technology," but no dice.

I was surprised when the term HTML5 ended up becoming the marketing brand -- I thought no one is going to use a technology term to refer to these things, but that is what happened.

We saw the same thing with the technical term Ajax and the more generic term Rich Internet Applications (RIA). Ajax took off, while the term Rich Internet Applications never went beyond being a somewhat awkward term. People like to use the specific (Ajax) versus the generic (RIA), so the term Ajax stuck and ended up growing to refer to any rich internet application (see?) that involved the use of JavaScript, JSON, dynamic page updates, and more.

The reason we are seeing the term HTML5 growing into our new generic term for the next wave of web technologies is because HTML5 is the real show here. Lots of ancillary technologies are riding the wave and opening HTML5 is making possible, including CSS3, SVG, and more.

In addition, most people in the industry, even the vast majority of web developers, don't really want to know about the specific sausage making behind HTML5. Do they really care that things like Local and SQL Storage were broken out of the main HTML5 spec? Do they care that the Web Socket protocol actually lives with the IETF now rather than being inside the HTML5 spec itself, as it originally was? Do they care about the "how many angels fit on the head of a pin" battles between HTML5 Microdata, RDFa, and Microformats? They don't. They just want to come up to speed on the newest developments and apply them to their jobs.

Sometimes when I want to be a bit more exact I will use the phrase "the HTML5 family of technologies" or "HTML5++", but both of those are a bit awkward and a mouth full.

Here's a challenge for you: if you can come up with a better term, AND actually get the mass of developers and industry to use it, then more power to you. Throw it out there and maybe it will take off. I doubt that will happen though. The language train has left the situation, and it looks like HTML5 is the new nom de guerre for a new iteration of the web.

As they say in Esperanto:

"Ne far monto el papulo monteto."


Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill.

[Disclosure: I work for Google, but this is no way an official statement from Google and is merely my own personal ramblings on the topic.]


Schill said…
"DHTML5", of course! (see dhtml5.com for further amusement.)
Marin said…
Being in the internet for a long time, I'd rather call that DHTML5 in reference to the old D(ynamic)HTML which consisted in HTML+JavaScript.

Joe Walker said…
I'm with you when we're talking about things like Canvas3D getting marked as HTML5 because those things are fairly clearly part of the current trajectory.

I'm not with you when we're talking about things like AAC/H264/SQLite, particularly SQLite which are very debatable. It seems likely to me that the current trajectory will pass SQLite by, and it will never see widespread use.

It seems a shame when Firefox 4 which has a very good HTML5 score according to http://caniuse.com/ gets dinged by http://html5test.com/ for lack of AAC/H264/SQLite/etc.

Disclosure: I work for Mozilla, but not on Firefox.
David Recordon said…
I'm happy with the term "HTML5", just want someone to define what is actually meant by it at a given time.
Sean said…
Maybe you can help me.
I've been trying to use web-sockets on my site and I can't find the markup for it anywhere.

I've tried "socket" and "web-socket" tags but no luck. Is it something more obtuse?

And how can I support browsers that don't have a web-socket implementation? Is there a "nosocket" tag or similar?
pepelsbey said…
This is just sounds unprofessional for the real web developer.

You can call it whatever you like in interview, public speech and so on. But if you're doing “Introduction to HTML 5” (http://vimeo.com/6691519) for the web developers, you're just spreading the wrong information.

It's also good for poor marketing, like “Apple HTML5 demos” with only two real HTML5 demos of seven.

Again, keyword “unprofessional”.
Unknown said…
Allow me. Web++.

Or WWW++.

If it worked for the C++ guys... ;)
Chris Petersen said…
Web 2.0b?
Anonymous said…
Apparently you don't get it.. Open web is a web strategy and high level grassroots effort to make the web available and open using standards and break down the walled gardens. HTML5 is improvement of the HTML4 specs and anyone with a half a brain should not perpetually lead people down the wrong path. DHTML was too proprietary, Web2.0 is reference to what we can with the web with interaction and functionality since web1.0 was just about static web pages and getting information. As a long time follower of Mozilla, you sound like an old IE guy. Sure there are people who don't care about the logistics of all the technology and think HTML5 covers a lot. These people are the non technical and don't get it, don't care.
Boris said…
From my perspective, you may be right at this point, but pretending like this just happened is a bit disingenuous. Both Google and Apple have spent a lot of money confusing the issue as to what's actually part of HTML5 and what isn't as part of their marketing; both have been pushing heavily to make technologies they came up with that have nothing to do with HTML5 be considered as part of HTML5 in the public's mind.

All your blog post is saying is that these marketing campaigns succeeded, as marketing campaigns backed by lots of money tend to do.