HTML5 is currently the building block of the Internet. That sounds simple but it’s not. At least not really. You see, the Internet is a much cooler thing now than it used to be. To allow for these cooler features, HTML had to be improved.
In this tutorial, we will go over the difference between HTML and HTML5. But first, let’s start by describing what HTML.
What Is HTML?
The first part of answering the question “What is HTML?” and telling you about the difference between HTML and HTML5 is deciphering the acronym. HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. But unless you’ve been making cool stuff on the Internet for a while, that probably doesn’t help, does it?
First of all, the biggest mistake people make is considering HTML to be a programming language. It’s not. Instead, it’s a way to write directions for the web browser. These directions tell it what the frame of the website should be.
The difference between HTML and HTML5 vs. a proper programming language is that HTML can’t handle logic. And that’s what programming languages are all about. You can’t make HTML do one thing under some conditions and something else in a different situation like you can with full programming languages.
And that’s the short version of the answer to the “What is HTML?” question and the first step to properly explaining the difference between HTML and HTML5.
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So, how does HTML work?
Figuring out how HTML works also informs the answer about the difference between HTML and HTML5. You see, the fifth iteration of the language is built on a long history of web development and deals with an enormously different tech landscape.
With that said, what is HTML and how does it work?
Everything you write using HTML tells the browser what you want on the page and in what order. If you make a website using simple HTML, it will look extremely simplified because this markup language isn’t meant to style the look of your website (use CSS for that). It only puts in the elements you want and creates the proper website structure (that’s why it’s so crucial to know it for web development). Nonetheless, some might even argue that HTML is the web.
To put it simply, HTML works by defining different elements in < > (opening) and </ > (closing) tags. They tell the web browser what the element is supposed to be and where it should be placed.
- <p>The p in the tags tells the browser that this is a paragraph text element.
- <h2> would tell it that it’s Heading 2.
- You close the paragraph with </p> or </h2> if you want it to be Heading 2.
If you want to know more tags, we have a full HTML tag reference list right here.
Of course, this is the base and it can get more complicated than this, but in the end, HTML is just putting one element after another. Now, HOW and WHERE you put that element and which tag would best represent it is another question that evolved over the years. That is why one of the many differences between HTML and HTML5 is the syntax. As HTML evolved and the concept and capabilities of web development evolved, HTML changed for the better, becoming less complicated and more… intuitive for human eyes.
What is HTML5?
OK, we have a good idea of HTML. Now, what is HTML5?
The people who created HTML back in 1995 had no clue that the Internet would change so much.
Naturally, the web markup language also had to evolve together with the web. HTML5 is the most recent evolution of the HyperText Markup Language. Its purpose is to allow websites to be as compatible with any browser as it’s humanly possible (let’s face it, sometimes we still ensure that).
While you technically could write the frame of a website using HTML’s previous versions, it would not be as good or technically accurate. Probably the clearest difference between HTML and HTML5 is how they handle some modern website properties, one of them is being adapted to mobile users whose base is growing every day. And the hard truth is that if you’re making a website from scratch in 2019, you must use HTML5.
The Difference Between HTML and HTML5
Now that we know what is HTML and what is HTML5, we can look at how the most recent version evolved from its predecessor.
The first rudimentary version of HTML was “created” in 1993, with HTML 2.0 coming in 1995. Try to remember the first website you’ve ever seen (if you can’t remember, the example above will help you). Now open a new tab and go to any modern responsive website.
Do you see how advanced the new websites are compared to the ancient ones?
It’s staggering. Creating something modern using the rudimentary versions of HTML would be extremely hard, if not impossible. The technology to do it simply wasn’t there in the old days, so support for it was similarly lagging.
As the capabilities of computers and the Internet grew, developers all over the world continuously reworked HTML with a single goal. To make sure that they can improve website capabilities.
After HTML 2.0 came HTML 3.0 in January 1997, but it stayed only a short while (around 11 months), HTML4 came to life.
HTML4 was created in 1997 by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommendation and stayed as the foundation of the Internet for more than 17 years (much longer than its predecessors). In 2014, HTML5 was created and developers started to develop websites using it soon after. Another difference between HTML and HTML5 is that it has been decided not to have any more versions. That is HTML5 is here to stay and will have only some features updated along the way, but there will not be HTML6 (at least there are no plans for it now).