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I think it’s important that we discuss and understand the technologies we talk about on a day to day basis.  Towards that end, and for this week’s current events, I’ve put together a quick rundown on HTML5; namely, what distinguishes it from older versions of HTML, and why it has become increasingly prevalent in the technology world.

What it is

HTML is a markup language that enables web browsers to interpret and display the content contained within web pages. HTML5 is the fifth iteration of that language. It contains added features that make easier the embedding and presentation of multimedia files, e.g., audio and video.

Why it’s better

These added features make HTML5 exceedingly convenient in the increasingly “rich media” laden world that is the World Wide Web. And when something is convenient it tends to attract attention. Early on, companies like Apple and Google threw their weight, and money, behind HTML5, designing their operating systems and browsers to support it. Brett McGlaughlin, writing for the O’reilly Radar, references “Steve Jobs and his near-militant campaign against Flash” as a motivating factor in this respect, and the web solutions blog Dharne similarly credits this support from large companies with adding to its credibility: “Several leading companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft have committed their support to the development of HTML5. This has made it possible to bring about positive changes in the web design field. Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs has declared support for HTML5 across all devices developed by the company. Google too is promoting HTML5 as the designing technology it prefers for all future websites designed.”

Why it’s important

The argument is as follows: Because it is so comprehensive—and in turn because companies like Apple and Google recognized it as such—HTML5 is supported by the browsers that have gone on to dominate mobile platforms (In McGlaughlin’s words, “The iPhone came with Safari, Safari had HTML5 support, so suddenly iPhone users were giddy and talkative. Now almost all modern smartphones have an HTML5-capable browser”). Because we increasingly interact with the web on mobile devices (smart phones, tablets), the tool that overwhelmingly allows us to do so is obviously of significant importance. Native mobile apps get most of the attention when we speak of “mobile development”, but they aren’t necessarily the mechanisms by which we interact with the web on mobile devices most often. According to research published by Emarketer, in 2011 Americans used mobile web browsers, as opposed to native apps, for 73% of all shopping related activity, 63% of all search activity, and 60% of all activity pertaining to “entertainment”. HTML5, then, which provides the markup on all of those mobile web documents, is hugely important to all of us simply due to its sheer versatility, in that it is used across all platforms on which we access the web.

Why it’s important to us as recruiters

On a basic level, it’s important for us to understand what it is that our candidates do. It might be good enough to know to ask whether a developer has experience with HTML5 as opposed to previous iterations. Similarly, it might be good enough to know that most clients will look for that experience. But to really relate to the people we work with, we should know why our clients seek that experience, and why our candidates have that experience. In an ideal world we would do this with every technology we encounter on a day to day basis. But HTML5 is undoubtedly a good place to start. At the end of 2011, Peter Cashmore, Founder/CEO of Mashable, was asked by CNN to list the 10 trends that would dominate the tech world in 2012. He put the emergence of HTML5 on that list. It’s important that we understand why.

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