HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is the computer language that made the World Wide Web possible. HTML uses a set of tags that instructs your web browser how to display content on a web page. If you're really curious, here's where to learn more about it. HTML4, the current standard in use since 1997, is showing its age. Now under development is the next evolution, HTML5.
You may be wondering why you should care about this. Here's why:
Let's say you want to play an online animation. You need a plug-in for your browser, typically Flash. You also need plug-ins if you want to watch a movie or listen to music. HTML5 eliminates this. For instance, by using an <audio> tag, a song plays directly on a web page, no plug-in required. This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of new capabilities, many of which are still incubating. For a peek at what's in store, watch the above video that demonstrates an HTML5 prototype for Sports Illustrated Magazine.
But HTML5 has a potential dark side too, one that's just being discussed.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could run Web applications even when you aren't online? HTML5 will have that capability. It will cache the application files on your hard drive so you can work offline. Once you go online, it synchronizes and updates the files. The problem is that by allowing Web applications to store data locally, it opens the door to storing tracking software on your computer.
According to a recent article in the New York Times “…advertisers and others could, experts say, see weeks or even months of personal data. That could include a userâ€™s location, time zone, photographs, text from blogs, shopping cart contents, e-mails and a history of the Web pages visited.” Yikes! And unlike cookies, with HTML5, it will be much harder to detect and eliminate the tracking software.
Fortunately, HTML5 is at least a year away. Now that this security issue has come to light, there's plenty of time to fix it.