HTML5 is not CSS3 is not Javascript.

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there about what HTML5 is. Your average web user seems to think that HTML5, by itself, creates all these fancy effects, similar to flash, and it’s just not true. Perhaps the most egregious example of which hailed the Google Doodle in which balls fly away from the user’s mouse as a great example of HTML5, but no, sorry, it’s not. They received so much criticism from the tech community that they changed their example to point to, which while a much better example of the use of HTML5, still relies heavily on other technologies such as JavaScript. (They really should of pointed to Lost Worlds Fairs but that’s another story…)

For those of you not on the tech side of things, here’s a brief breakdown:

  • HTML5 – HTML is a markup language. It declares the structure of our content. HTML5 is a new version of HTML, adding new tags that allow us to define the parts of our HTML page. Much like a outline, the HTML defines the content of the page. HTML5 has added new tags such as video, header, and section, that better allow us to describe our HTML pages.
  • CSS3 – Just as HTML5 is the latest iteration of HTML, CSS3 is the latest iteration of CSS. CSS stands for “Cascaiding Style Sheets” and defines the style (a.k.a. the design of the page). An HTML page viewed without it’s CSS should theoretically still be perfectly legible and usable, just boring looking.
  • JavaScript – The magic behind the webpage. It’s what makes things move, defines complex svg shapes, creates motion, adds and removes parts of the page on demand, loads dynamic content, etc.

However, I understand why web users are confused. There’s not really a clear label for this type of development, at least not one that’s quick and easy to use. Sites use terms like “HTML5 and related technologies” ( or “HTML5 and web standards” ( which easily becomes abbreviated to HTML5, confusing less technical web users. I think we need a clear term to describe this new type of web development, one that doesn’t lump JavaScript in with CSS3 and HTML5.

I’m not sure what this new term should be. I’ve seen some suggestions, some calling it Web 3.0 (confusing, as Web 2.0 is more of a reference to a visual style than a programming style), but most are some variant of HTML5… and some other stuff. We need a nice simple term like DHTML (that’s Dynamic HTML for you young’ns), so here are some suggestions: iHTML (inspired by Apple, who are really pushing for a richer HTML experience), fHTML (after all, it’s the “future of web development” – also what one may be saying when trying to convince IE7 to degrade gracefully), but these names still put the focus on the HTML component of this type of development. Maybe we should just call it “super awesome new internet stuff” (SAWIS for short)? What are your suggestions?

//Update: After a brief, unscientific survey of twitter, it seems we should just use DHTML. I think it works!

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6 Responses to HTML5 is not CSS3 is not Javascript.

  1. Justin Reidy says:

    Web 3.0 just doesn’t work. That term is forever stuck with the semantic web… which may never really happen. Maybe as xAuth takes off and we start to see a more service-enabled web will “Web 3.0″ become a reality.

    I think “HTML5″ is just the modern day “AJAX” – a term applied to websites that didn’t make a single asynchronous call.

    In short: SAWIS +1

  2. How about we just call it HTML5?

  3. Mark says:

    Good post. Agreed that the language around these web technologies is getting messy. I vote for some sort of variation of this for official DHTML logo.

  4. worth pointing out, though, that HTML5 – the spec itself – defines a whole bunch of new APIs to be used in JavaScript, so the distinction between JS and HTML5 gets more blurry…

  5. drr says:

    What would be great is if tech recruiters had a clue to what these things mean. I’m still hearing things like “Great you’re a senior front-end developer, that’s what we’re looking for! But do you know HTML? Our client said that’s a total must-have. They want someone who knows CSS too.”

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