HTML vs HTML5 – what’s the difference between HTML and HTML5?

13 minutes to read • Last updated 16 September 2021 • Published 13 September 2021 • Web development

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    If you have any involvement with the internet in your business (which you undoubtedly do!) you’re sure to have encountered HTML, or at least heard of the acronym. You probably know that HTML is a language used to build web pages. It’s also used in email newsletters, advertising banners, and other digital assets.

    HTML is a fundamental building block in the online world, but what does it do? Perhaps more importantly, how does the latest version – HTML5 – differ from what came before? Why is HTML5 important? These questions, and more, will be answered throughout this guide.

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    Contents

    What is HTML?

    HyperText Markup Language, better known as HTML, is a language used in coding websites. Essentially, HTML is a series of commands that send instructions to a computer. These commands are actioned before the contents of a website reach a screen, ensuring users see the finished result.

    What is HTML5?

    Updates to HTML were launched in 1995 (HTML2), 1997 (HTML3 and 4), and most recently in 2015 with HTML5. At the time of writing, the current incarnation is HTML5.2, last updated in December 2017.

    What are the differences between HTML and HTML5?

    HTML5 has many more features that older HTML. Perhaps the most significant differences, though, are in simplicity. While HTML5 offers many more services than standard HTML, it is often considered a little more intuitive. Of course, HTML5 is also much likelier to be compatible with the latest and greatest technology. OG HTML will struggle to keep up with the demands of a 21st Century web browser.

    Which browser is best for HTML5?

    Overall, Mozilla’s Firefox is considered the most HTML5-friendly web browser, though most Chrome, Edge, and Safari users will do just fine. Be aware that HTML5 is complicated, though, and some hardware will struggle to support it. Video, in particular, can be temperamental with HTML5. 

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    HTML vs HTML5 – what’s best to use?

    To be honest, it’s hard to put forward a compelling case for anybody to use HTML over HTML5 in 2021. It’s like asking, “Nokia 3210 or Galaxy S, which is the best phone to use?”

    Should you learn HTML or HTML5 as a developer?

    It’s possible to learn HTML5 without first studying HTML. Much like it’s possible to learn French words and phrases without really grasping what they mean. That’s the fundamental difference, though. Learning HTML before HTML5 will give you a grounding and understanding of why HTML works the way it does. 

    Can you convert from HTML to HTML5?

    You can convert from an older version of HTML to HTML5, but it is not necessarily advisable. The likelihood is that you’ll need to go through each line of code and adjust them manually to meet the needs of HTML5.

    What is HTML?

    HyperText Markup Language, better known as HTML, is a language used in coding websites. Essentially, HTML is a series of commands that send instructions to a computer. These commands are actioned before the contents of a website reach a screen, ensuring users see the finished result.

    The purpose of HTML is clear. Without using this language, an internet browser will not understand how a web page should appear. When you bring in a web designer to work on your site, they do so within the confines of HTML to ensure that the page has structure.

    This structure means keeping any logos, colour schemes, banner ads and images or videos clear and distinct from your all-important body copy. From here, Cascading Style Sheets – aka CCS – add the bells and whistles of aesthetics. If HTML is the pencil sketch of a website, CCS provides the ink and colour.

    HTML is considered the default, primary language for coding websites across the world. This is, at least in part, because HTML is so rigid. Unless commands are issued precisely, without spelling or formatting errors, instructions will not work on-screen. 

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    This may sound restrictive, and to some designers, it is! However, such rigidity can also make it easier to pick through code pages and identify the fault preventing a website from displaying as it should. As discussed, though, some use cases lend themselves to alternatives such as Extensible Markup Language, aka XML, as this language allows coders to set their own shortcuts.

    There is an HTML tag for just about any feature that a user could wish for. Anybody that harbours ambitions of creating their own websites should master HTML as a matter of priority. Better yet, pay attention to HTML 5 – the latest version of this particular language.

    What is HTML5?

    Like most online tools, HTML has undergone a range of evolutions since its launch. As expectations as to what can be displayed on a website grow, so do the demands placed on HTML. 

    Updates to HTML were launched in 1995 (HTML2), 1997 (HTML3 and 4), and most recently in 2015 with HTML5. At the time of writing, the current incarnation is HTML5.2, last updated in December 2017.

    So, we’ve established that HTML5 is the latest and greatest version of HTML. In many respects, it is more than that. It has also replaced Adobe’s Flash, especially for iOS users. Flash was systematically phased out by Apple over the years, mainly because Apple blamed it for crashes in iOS apps and Safari-browsed websites. 

    This means that HTML5 can handle any request a coder may throw at it, without requiring expensive third-party software or external plug-ins. HTML5 can cope with animation, playing movie or audio files, and even creating progressive web apps

    HTML5 is also completely cross-platform, so it yields the same results on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, watch or smart TV. That is increasingly important as consumers continue finding new and unique ways to visit their favourite websites.  

    What are the differences between HTML and HTML5?

    We have discussed HTML5 as an evolution of HTML, but it’s more of a revolution. The internet has come a long way in the last 25 years. Comparing the original HTML to the current incarnation is akin to placing an analogue grandfather clock next to a cutting-edge smartwatch.

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    All the same, let’s review the core differences between HTML and HTML5.

    At launch, HTML was completely static code. It was capable of nothing more complex than flat, stationery text. HTML5, however, can produce all-singing, all-dancing animation, video and audio, as well as drawing shapes
    HTML5 can be used in conjunction with JavaScript, another hugely popular coding language. The original HTML does not permit the use of JS coding 
    HTML relies on written instructions for any coding or feature. HTML5, on the other hand, has embraced drag-and-drop features
    HTML5 language keeps mobile devices in mind. Smartphones and tablets will struggle to display a site written in HTML
    One mistake in HTML can derail an entire coding project. HTML5 can cope with minor syntax errors
    HTML is reliant on web cookies to store data from visitors. HTML5, on the other hand, utilises SQL databases and an application cache. As a result, HTML5 stores user data offline
    Comparison: HTML vs HTML5

    Perhaps the most significant differences, though, are in simplicity. While HTML5 offers many more services than standard HTML, it is often considered a little more intuitive. Of course, HTML5 is also much likelier to be compatible with the latest and greatest technology. OG HTML will struggle to keep up with the demands of a 21st Century web browser.

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    Which browser is best for HTML5?

    As previously touched upon, all significant browsers support and run HTML5. Some browsers cope a little better with the many and varied features provided by this language, though.

    Overall, Mozilla’s Firefox is considered the most HTML5-friendly web browser, though most Chrome, Edge, and Safari users will do just fine. Be aware that HTML5 is complicated, though, and some hardware will struggle to support it. Video, in particular, can be temperamental with HTML5. 

    All the major desktop browsers will now play MP4 videos using a H.264 codec as standard, but this wasn’t always the case. Not long ago, if you wanted to watch a video on Safari, you may have needed to install Theora manually. Chrome, Edge and Firefox already had this format installed as standard.

    We advise retaining access to at least two browsers, especially if you use iOS hardware. For example, between Safari and Chrome you can overcome any of HTML5’s quirks and foibles.

    HTML vs HTML5 – what’s best to use?

    To be honest, it’s hard to put forward a compelling case for anybody to use HTML over HTML5 in 2021. It’s like asking, “Nokia 3210 or Galaxy S, which is the best phone to use?” 

    Both will make calls and send text messages, and some hipsters may claim an undying preference for the 3210. Overall, though, the additional features – and wide availability of support and advice in the event of a problem – makes the Galaxy vastly superior to most.

    Overall, we strongly recommend using HTML5 wherever possible for the following reasons.

    HTML5 is the most secure version of HTML yet. Like any website, skilled and determined hackers can still gain access. It’s certainly safer than traditional HTML, though
    It is much easier to apply additional attributes to HTML5 than ever before. In older versions, predominantly traditional HTML, this ran the risk of sending an entire string of code awry
    By using the command <canvas>, HTML5 allows the addition and drawing of a wide array of different shapes to add visual flair to a website
    HTML5 is geared up to work with and support mobile browsing. That could not be further from the truth when it comes to straightforward HTML. As mobile browsing now outweighs traditional desktop or laptop computer use, this is especially important
    HTML5 can be used to create web-based apps. HTML cannot, and neither can most previous versions

    Finally, we’ll repeat a point that we made previously. HTML5 will react to errors made in creating code, saving significant amounts of time and money spent picking apart work to find the flaw. Errors in traditional HTML are akin to a house of cards. If one falls, the rest will tumble in record time.

    There may be a time and place for using traditional HTML in a website. It may be appropriate if you’re looking for an elementary site to be used exclusively on desktop or laptop computers. Just remember that the site will look and feel dated and must consist solely of plain text. If you’re aiming for a retro approach, HTML will deliver, but the limitations of the code will likely deter visitors – and impact your Google page ranking.

    Should you learn HTML or HTML5 as a developer?

    Imagine that you are planning to emigrate to the south of France and live in Nice. A lovely part of the world, but few of the locals will be inclined to speak English. You’re going to need to parlez-vous Francais to get along with your neighbours. Should you learn some French words or attempt to become fluent in the language?

    The answer is, of course, both – but the basics need to come first. The same applies to learning HTML5. If you plan to work as a developer, seek training in how to use HTML5. There is little point in attempting this without first learning the fundamentals of HTML, though. That’s like enrolling in an advanced French literacy course when you have yet to complete a foundation-level GCSE class.

    It’s possible to learn HTML5 without first studying HTML. Much like it’s possible to learn French words and phrases without really grasping what they mean. That’s the fundamental difference, though. Learning HTML before HTML5 will give you a grounding and understanding of why HTML works the way it does. 

    This effort will make all the difference between being a developer-for-hire, going through the motions and completing a workmanlike job on a task, or being a skilled and creative designer that is highly sought-after by exciting clients. Which of those career paths appeals to you more?

    Some developers and experts also recommend learning the fundamentals of JavaScript before tackling HTML5. For others, though, this is a chicken-and-egg scenario – they suggest learning HTML5 before JavaScript. You are not obligated to tackle this second language at all, but it’s advisable to do so. JS plays a significant role in any coding activity, and it often goes hand in hand with HTML5.

    How to learn HTML5

    There is an abundance of online training courses, free and paid alike, that specialise in HTML5. Mozilla offers some insights into the fundamentals of HTML if that’s what you need. Equally, you can find a range of HTML5 demos online.

    If you’re looking for a more root-and-branch learning opportunity, consider the following:

    Alternatively, just take yourself over to YouTube. You’ll find plenty of peer-to-peer advice, tutorials and support among the videos on the site.

    Can you convert from HTML to HTML5?

    You can convert from an older version of HTML to HTML5, but it is not necessarily advisable. Let’s return to our example of speaking French from earlier. 

    Google Translate is available to you, and you’ll be fine if you try to convert basic terms like, “hello, how are you?” Enter the complete works of Shakespeare for translation, however, and you’re going to start finding errors arising. The same applies to HTML. The more complex the coding, the likelier things are to go awry in the conversion.

    Bear in mind that HTML5 has a lot of different commands from HTML. Actions you requested in an older version may no longer be relevant. The likelihood is that you’ll need to go through each line of code and adjust them manually to meet the needs of HTML5. That can be time-consuming, so you may be better off rewriting the code exclusively for the most recent update.

    You may have a little more joy if you’re using a more recent, but still outdated, version of HTML, such as HTML4. You’ll still need to make manual adjustments, though, as HTML5 has been a substantial step forward. 

    We’re not trying to make extra work for you by advising starting over. The fact is, you’ll likely save time that could be wasted trying to rectify any errors that arose in the translation.

    If you would like further assistance with any online concerns related to HTML or HTML5, do not hesitate to reach out to Creative.onl. Our experienced team will be delighted to lend a hand, ensuring that your website does not suffer from any confusion.

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