How is HTML5 different from HTML

Differences Between HTML and HTML 5: Fundamental New Features


HTML5 is currently the foundation of the Internet. That may sound simple at first - but it isn't necessarily. The internet is now a lot cooler and more dynamic than it used to be.

To make this possible in the first place, it was first necessary to improve HTML. In this tutorial, we want to take a look at the main differences between the HTML of yesteryear and HTML5.

But first let's start by describing what HTML is all about.

What is HTML anyway?

To answer the question "What is HTML", let's begin by breaking down the acronym HTML. HTML stands for HyperText M.arkup L.anguage. But if you're not already doing cool things on the internet, it probably won't help you too much now.

The first big mistake many people make with HTML is thinking of HTML as a programming language. But it's not. Instead, it's a way of writing directives for the browser. These directives describe what the skeleton of the page should look like.

The difference between HTML and a real programming language is that HTML can't handle logic - and that's what makes a real programming language, after all. HTML does not allow you to react to conditions like a classic programming language.

This is the short version of the answer to the question “What is HTML” and thus also the first step in understanding the differences between HTML and HTML5.

Ok, so how does HTML work now?

Learning to understand HTML is a huge help in understanding the differences between HTML and HTML5. HTML5 looks back on a long history in the overall context of web development, which is not least due to the enormous technical development in this sector.

Now let's learn to understand what HTML is and how it works.

Your entire HTML code describes to the browser what is displayed in which order on your website. If you're just using HTML, your page is unlikely to look very pretty. That's because you use CSS for styling. HTML only describes which elements are on the page and uses them to create the appropriate structure for the browser. That's why it's so essential for web development. You could even say that HTML IS the Internet.

Simply put, HTML works by defining various elements between what are called Tags, namely <> (opening tags) and (closing tags). These tags define what an element represents and where it is located.

Some examples:

  • <p> stands for a so-called paragraph, a text element
  • <h2> stands for Heading 2, a (sub) heading
  • Both elements would be closed with the appropriate tag, with

    for the paragraph and for the heading

If you want to get to know more tags, we can provide you with a list.

These are just the basics and things can get more complicated than that. Basically, however, HTML is just a string of elements. How, where and with what day these elements are presented is a question the answer to which has changed over the years. Hence, the syntax is one of the main differences between HTML and HTML5. It has to be said that HTML5 has changed for the better over the years. The syntax became more intuitive and less complicated.

What is html5

We have now learned together what HTML is. But what is HTML5?

You have to know that the people who came up with HTML in 1995 had no idea how much the internet would change in the next 20 years.

In order to do justice to these changes, the language of the Internet also had to adapt to the new requirements. HTML5 is the latest evolution of HTML. Its job is to make all websites compatible with all browsers that are in use (... even if it doesn't always work perfectly and we sometimes still have to take care of it ourselves).

Of course, you can also use the previous HTML versions to build a website. It would just not be as good and technically less in line with current requirements. Probably the most serious change to HTML is the way it handles modern websites, for example to cater to users who are using mobile devices (tablets and cell phones). This type of access is still increasing. Overall, it can be said that there is no way around HTML5 for a new website in 2019.

HTML and HTML5: The Differences

We now know what HTML and HTML5 are. Now let's look at how HTML and HTML5 differ, and specifically what makes HTML5 better than its predecessor.

Do you remember when the web looked like this? in 2004

The first, rudimentary version of HTML was introduced in 1993. Its successor, HTML 2.0 came out in 1995. Try to remember the first website you saw (or alternatively, look again carefully at the picture above). Now open a new tab on your browser and compare the picture with a current, dynamic and responsive website.

Do you realize how advanced the new sites are compared to the old '90s sites?

The differences are literally gigantic. Creating a modern website with the HTML of yesteryear would be very difficult if not impossible. The technologies required for this simply did not exist back then and when they did exist, they were either not supported or insufficiently supported.

As the capabilities of computers and the Internet increased, HTML was rewritten by developers around the world with one goal: to render more modern, better web pages with far more capabilities.

HTML 3.0 was introduced in January 1997, but was only for a short time (about 11 months)

HTML 4 was created in 1997 at the suggestion of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and was the bedrock of the Internet for 17 years, much longer than any of its predecessors. HTML 5 was created in 2014 and it wasn't long before developers started using it. Another difference between HTML and HTML5 is that HTML 5 will have no successors. HTML5 will no doubt receive some updates, but there won't be an official successor, at least none are planned as of now.

Now let's see how HTML5 has been adapted to meet the modern demands of the Internet.

Better error handling

One of the main differences between HTML (HTML4 and all of its previous versions are hereinafter abbreviated as HTML) and HTML5 is improved error handling. The reason for this is simple:

No developer, no matter how good, manages to write code that has no bugs - at least not until now.

One of the main goals of HTML5 was to enable browser developers to describe better parsers. The parser is the part of the browser that interprets HTML code and returns an error if it finds errors.

To enable consistent error handling, error handling in HTML5 was designed so that errors can be handled consistently. This makes the development of a browser easier and therefore cheaper.

In addition, HTML5 is also more robust: Not every small mistake leads to the fact that a website is no longer displayed at all.

Support for modern web applications

Another difference between HTML and HTML5 is support for much more advanced web applications. The reason why such improved support was needed is very simple:

Imagine a website from the 90s. Now think of the Netflix site (see screenshot below). Modern websites are structured more like standalone applications that run in the browser. HTML5 is one of the reasons why such applications are possible.

Netflix login screen - Modern HTML5

When HTML4 was the gold standard for web development, many developers had to find alternatives to overcome the limitations of HTML4. Examples are JavaScript, Flash, Active-X and other browser extensions.

HTML5 comes with many of these extensions out of the box, which saves developers a lot of time.

Improved semantics

Another difference between HTML and HTML5 is improved semantics, or in other words, simplified syntax.

The code on a complicated website quickly becomes complex, and that complexity can seem terrifying. Hundreds and thousands or even hundreds of thousands of elements mean that even experienced developers lose track of things.

HTML5 was designed to adapt HTML to twenty-first century standards. In addition, the HTML syntax has been made more intuitive. For example, there are now tags like