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Introduction to HTML5: The New Wave

HTML5 is here.
It is the new lingua franca for the Web. 
So what is it? HTML5 is the new version of HTML 4, XHTML1, and DOM Level 2 HTML. 

It has moved HTML from being a relatively simple document markup language to being a sophisticated platform for web applications with a host of new, rich application programming interfaces (APIs).

As with all major changes in life, the transition might not be smooth. Such a major shift that adds a host of new elements and attributes presents particular challenges for you as an author as well as, potentially, for the consumer.

HTML 4 was readily understood and offered features that could be used in imaginative ways. By leveraging these features in combination with other languages like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript, developers could do things that were increasingly complex, pushing the models of user interaction.

With the advent of Web 2.0–type content such as AJAX, dynamic content updating, and more clientside processing, we saw a variety of terrific, sophisticated applications being developed out of what were often semantically limited markup languages.

This new wave of glossy widgets—and sometimes bizarre interaction models—often present many challenges to the user. If the user has a disability, the challenge is greater, because that user might not be able to access important widget functionality from the keyboard or content updates might be lost on the screen-reader user. 

Long before HTML5, many web designers started to really care about accessibility and look for ways to ensure their web sites and applications were usable by the widest audience. So grassroots movements like the Web Standards Project were born. An active and vibrant community arose that saw the challenges of improving the user experience and quality of design as a call to arms.

If you are reading this, chances are you are a web designer or developer and you would like to know more about HTML5 and how it relates to accessibility. 

HTML5 Syntax
In terms of syntax, HTML5 is a language that wears two hats. It can be written as both HTML and XML (also known as XHTML, which is an XML serialization of HTML—or put another way, an XML-like version of HTML that brings some of the rules of XML syntax to HTML).

Depending on your own requirements, you might need to serve more strictly well-formed XML-type documents to your users. Doing that will require the use of an XML parser, which is used to process XML documents. Alternatively, content comprised of HTML that is syntactically more lax HTML might suffice for your needs, in which case you can use an HTML parser. “More lax HTML” refers to code that might be a little sloppy but still works.

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