html5 logoThe Web is getting a makeover. HTML5, the not-yet-ratified update of digital media’s standard language, is poised to become a game-changer for publishing, advertising, marketing, video, mobile platforms and search. The industry big guns: Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple, are all over the new format. While it may not yet be the moment to convert to this yet-embryonic platform, it certainly is time for anyone doing business on the Web to get up to speed on what HTML5 is, and why it may soon be changing digital media, commerce, publishing and advertising.

Those cool bouncing Google homepage balls everyone was talking about
last week were an example of HTML5, but if
If you want to see an example
of what the format can really do, in action, take a look at this.

HTML5 is the forthcoming standard that can incorporate features directly into a Web site’s code, such as video, audio, gallery displays and drag-and-drop. Such features were formerly reliant on third-party plug-ins like Adobe’s Flash or Microsoft’s Silverlight. You know, the formats that: 1). Are pretty much the antithesis of search engine optimization and 2). Don’t work on mobile platforms such as the iPhone or iPad., iPad or Android devices.

With smartphones proliferating, it’s a small wonder that AOL this year rolled out an HTML5 mobile portal, as did YouTube’s mobile site (YouTube is also running an HTML5 beta site for standard web browsers).

What’s the big deal?

HTML5 offers cutting edge levels of interactivity, such as the ability to edit the content on a page, or to drag and drop objects from one window to another. Certainly, the ability to run video on mobile platforms is not to be sneezed at. Another area in which HTML5 gets interesting is with audio and video, which can be integrated into a site’s code. Whereas Flash content is all but invisible to search engines, HTML5 allows for more accurate indexing and tagging of multimedia content.

Will web sites that don’t migrate to HTML5 lag behind in search results as the format’s early adopters climb the ranks in organic listings? Very possibly.

Who will those early adoptors be? Publishers, for starters. As publishers migrate to mobile platforms such as the iPad, HTML5 will provide a way for them to push out and to monetize multimedia content with platform-compliant advertising. (Here’s a link to a mobile HTML5 ad for Tuborg beer in which you can open a beer bottle and watch it empty – It’s only viewable a mobile device, of course: http://wap.moblin.com/tuborg)

Fast on the heels of publishers – well, faster, really, are the vendors who provide mobile and digital ads. The major ones already have offerings to enable HTML5 advertising – which the IAB UK is staunchly supporting:

“The programming language HTML5 used by most new browsers, can do almost
as much as Flash without the power drain. Advertisers simply need to
start creating ads in HTML5, rather than Flash. Many brands have already
done this successfully on the iPad with fantastic results.”

Brands, too, will be among the first on the bandwagon in a rush to leverage the newer, cooler, more interactive features of this still-in-development format on sites and microsites. It’s likely – but still uncertain – e-commerce functionality might eventually become part of the new language.

Currently, HTML5 is very much wait and see. The emphasis now is on the “see” – seeing how it develops, and assessing how it will become part of your digital strategy.

This post was updated on Sept. 15 to correct technical inaccuracies.