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HTML5 in the Web browser: Geolocation, JavaScript, and HTML5 extras

Peter Wayner | March 23, 2011
Geolocation, Web Workers, History manipulation, iFrame sandboxes, and other HTML5 specs laying the groundwork for a safer and smarter Web

Saying that a tag is "supported" here is not as straightforward as with other HTML5 features -- the semantics require more specification. It's one thing to write down requirements to store data, but it's another to specify just what a browser should do when laying out blocks of text. Even after the browsers start recognizing these tags, the browsers will probably choose to display the information inside the tags in slightly different ways.

Many of the ideas that ended up in this collection seem tiny or inconsequential, but underestimating them would be a mistake. Although they are often just patches or fixes to ideas that date from the beginning of the Web, they open the door for many of the newest, savviest Web crawlers to extract more information from the pages.

While the first effect of these rules will be to improve the display and layout, they could also unlock deeper features by making it easier for computers to understand exactly what is going on. The newer tags do a better job of indicating the role of the text in the document, and this may aid artificial intelligence in making better sense of the text between the tags.

Smoothing the developer's job and doing a better job of segregating the DOM-level manipulation from the background tasks will open up another possibility: Automatic crawlers will be able to make some sense of the JavaScript running. While there are deep theoretical barriers, better parsing and a strict separation between the display-level work and the real processing may help crawlers suss out what the JavaScript is trying to do. This is a long way off, but it's one tiny method where the HTML5 may bring us closer to smart search engines and some of the predictions for artificial intelligence from the far-flung realms of science fiction.


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