The Differences Between HTML and HTML5

The Differences Between HTML and HTML5

HTML is the most commonly used markup language – a system designed to process, define, and present text by embedding tag and text annotations within styled files to make text manipulation easy for the computer. In 2014, an update for this language titled HTML5 was released. But what is HTML5? HTML vs HTML5, what’s the difference? In this article, we will answer that question.

What Is HTML?

Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML) is the World Wide Web’s primary language. It allows developers to design how web page elements, like text, hyperlinks, and multimedia files, are displayed on the browser.

This language works statically, which means that you cannot create a dynamic or interactive web page feature using HTML. It only modifies the static elements of a web page, such as content header, footer, image position, etc.

To build a beautiful, interactive website, you need to combine HTML with at least two front-end languages: Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) and JavaScript.

HTML uses various tags, including headings, tables, and paragraphs, to define text structures of a page. Each tag is defined using the <A> and </A> formula. It is usually called an “opening” and “closing” tag, respectively.

For example, if you wish to change a specific text style to italic, you can use <i>type your text here</i>. Your browser will render the content via these tags, then display it on the screen.

The first HTML was released in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee. His creation has seen many updates ever since, including HTML 2.0 in 1995, HTML 3.2 in 1997, HTML 4.01 in 1999, and XHTML in 2000. Currently, the newest HTML version is HTML5 which was released in 2014.

HTML Milestones infographic with new html5 example

HTML5 has a plethora of new additional features to its predecessors, such as offline media storage support, more specific content elements (like footer, header, navigation, etc.), simpler inline doctype, audio, and video embedding support.

Read on to find out more on HTML vs HTML5.

HTML VS HTML5 – What Are the Main Differences?

HTML5 was released with the primary objective of improving the World Wide Web experience for developers and end-users. In this HTML vs HTML5 article, we’ll briefly list the main differences:

  • HTML5 supports SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), canvas, and other virtual vector graphics, whereas in HTML, using vector graphics was only possible by using it in conjunction with different technologies like Flash, VML (Vector Markup Language), or Silverlight.
  • Web SQL databases are used in HTML5 for storing data temporarily. Meanwhile, in the previous version of HTML, only browser cache could be utilized for this purpose.
  • With HTML5, JavaScript can run within a web browser, while the older HTML only allows JavaScript to run in the browser interface thread.
  • HTML5 is not based on SGML. This means that the language has improved parsing rules which provide enhanced compatibility.
  • You can use inline MathML and SVG in text with HTML5, whereas HTML restricts it.
  • Some elements are removed in HTML5, like isindex, noframes, acronym, applet, basefont, dir, font, frame, frameset, big, center, strike, and tt.
  • HTML5 supports new kinds of form controls, including dates and times, email, number, range, tel, url, search, etc.
  • There are multiple new features and new elements in HTML5. Some of the most important ones are summary, time, aside, audio, command, data, datalist, and so on. For the complete list, check here.

Difference Between HTML and HTML5

Key Advantages Provided by HTML5 for Developers

HTML5 wants developers to have more flexibility while designing websites. For this purpose, in this part of the HTML vs HTML5 article, we’ll explain the significant improvements worth noticing:

Persistent Error Handling

Most browsers have the support to parse structurally/syntactically incorrect HTML code. However, until a few years ago, there was no standardized process to handle this.

It means that browser developers had to perform malformed HTML document tests in different browsers to create improved error handling processes through reverse engineering.

The consistent error handling in HTML5 has made a massive difference in this regard. The improved parsing algorithms that are used in HTML5 have an unquantifiable benefit in saving a lot of money and tons of time.

Improved Semantics for Elements

Improvements have been made to the semantic roles of various existing elements in HTML to enhance code insinuation.

Section, article, nav, and header are the new elements that have replaced most of the now-obsolete div elements. It makes the process of mistake-scanning a whole lot less complicated since the elements are more straightforward.

Enhanced Support for Web Application Features

One of the primary goals of HTML5 is allowing web browsers to function as application platforms. Thus, it provides developers with enhanced control of their websites’ performance.

In the past, developers had to use workarounds because many server-side technologies and browser extensions were not present.

Currently, there is no need to employ any JavaScript-based or Flash workaround (as previously done in HTML4) because there are elements in HTML5 that provide all the functionalities.

Mobile Web Made Easier

The smartphone-owning demographic has been constantly growing over the past decade, and that created a need for improved HTML standards.

End-users want to be able to access web resources at any time via any mobile device. In other words, having a website is a requirement. Luckily, HTML5 has made mobile support a lot simpler by being able to cater to the low-powered electronic mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.

The Canvas Element

One of the most exciting features of HTML5 is the <canvas> element that allows you to draw various graphics components, such as boxes, circles, text, and images.

Considering how convenient the use of HTML5 to draw graphics using different colors and shapes via scripts (e.g., JavaScript), it is believed that the language will make Flash completely obsolete.

However, it is worth mentioning that the <canvas> element is merely a graphic container. Thus, to define the graphics, a script has to be executed. Here is an example where JavaScript is used in conjunction with the element:

<canvas id=”TestCanvas” width=”200″ height=”100″></canvas>
var c = document.getElementById(“TestCanvas”);

var context = c.getContext(“2d”);

context.fillStyle = “#FF0000”;


The Menu Element

The newly added <menu> and <menuitem> elements are components of the interactive elements specifications and examples of web developmen.

These two items can be used to ensure enhanced web interactivity. The <menu> tag is used to represent menu commands in mobile and desktop applications for simplicity purposes. One possible usage of the menu tag is:

    <body contextmenu=”new-menu”>

    <menu id=” new-menu” type=”context”>



Customizable Data Attributes

It’s possible to add custom attributes to the older versions of HTML, but it’s a risky affair. For instance, custom attributes can sometimes stop a page from rendering completely in HTML4 and cause incorrect/invalid documents.

Fortunately, the data-* attribute in HTML5 has brought an end to this often-occurring problem. Although there are multiple uses for this attribute, such as styling CSS elements or accessing an element’s data attribute via jQuery. Still, its primary objective is to store extra information about different elements.

Now, custom data can be included, giving developers the chance to make engaging and efficient web pages without having to introduce complicated server-side lookups or Ajax calls.

Web Storage to Replace Cookies

HTML5 uses web storage or local storage to replace cookies. In the older HTML version, if developers wanted to store anything, they had to make use of cookies that hold a small amount of data (around 4 kb).

However, cookies have several disadvantages — it can be expired, restrict the use of complex data (it only allows string), and slow down the webserver by carrying additional scripts to the server.

The web storage, on the other hand, allows data to be stored on the client’s computer permanently (unless the user erases it), it also has bigger data storage (5 MB) and does not give additional burden by requesting the server.

HTML5 Advantages for End-User

HTML5 presents a paradigm shift for both the developers and the end-users. Some of the advantages it provides for the end-users are:

  • Reduces mobile browser crash.
  • It provides better reliance on mobile websites. When a visitor wants to use a particular company’s services but doesn’t want to download their application, they can just log in to the company’s responsive website.
  • Eradicate the need to use Adobe Flash by giving developers an aesthetic graphic-rich user experience using JavaScript and MPEG4.
  • Support native audio and video elements without any additional plugin.

HTML5 Cheat Sheet

Cheat sheets can be a great help if you are starting to learn a new language. In this HTML vs HTML5 article, we’ve provided the sheet that includes the most commonly used HTML and new HTML5 tags.

HTML Cheat Sheet with new html5 content as well


In this HTML vs HTML5 article, we’ve learned the key features that distinguish HTML5 with its predecessor.

First, HTML5 enhanced tons of areas that its older version was lacking. It supports both video and audio embedding via <audio> and <video> tags, gives full support for JavaScript to run in the background, provides multiple new elements, like date, datalist, summary, etc., and has better compatibility with improved parsing rules.

Second, from a developer standpoint, HTML5 presents improvement in many areas, including persistent error handling, semantics elements, support for web application and mobile usage, utilization for <canvas> element, etc.

Finally, considering how convenient the use of HTML5 in modern-day web technology, we can safely assume that the adoption of this markup language will increase even more rapidly in the years to come.

It’s of paramount importance for you to learn about HTML5 as quickly as possible to maximize the potential of modern-day browsers. We hope that this HTML vs HTML5 article is of help. Best of Luck!

The author

Domantas G.

Domantas leads the content and SEO teams forward with fresh ideas and out of the box approaches. Armed with extensive SEO and marketing knowledge, he aims to spread the word of Hostinger to every corner of the world. During his free time, Domantas likes to hone his web development skills and travel to exotic places.