Jens Oliver Meiert

On HTML (and HTML in 2020)

Post from November 10, 2020 (↻ August 18, 2021), filed under .

HTML is awesome. If I were to call out three important facts and aspects of HTML I’d pick the following:

  1. Hyperlinks, a elements, undiluted anchors without rel=nofollow and without new-window nonsense are what makes for the World Wide Web. You here know that, but not everyone is aware.

  2. HTML, as a technology, has not nearly been exhausted yet in terms of the semantic wealth that it offers, nor when it comes to its technical optimization potential.

  3. Writing good HTML makes not only for a superb craft that you cannot just put on your CV without studying and practicing; it really is what allows us to make the vision for the Web a reality: to make information accessible to everyone.

Where are we on those fronts?

That’s something that the now-yearly Web Almanac helps to answer; and something I’m very happy to have worked on answering in this year’s HTML chapter, with support by Catalin Rosu, Ian Devlin, and the Web Almanac team: Part I, Chapter 3: Markup.

  1. Since the beginning of time, a elements have been among the most popular, most commonly used HTML elements. In 2020, they are trailing only div elements: The 6,347,919 mobile pages we analyzed for the Almanac use 844,580,132 anchors. The probability that a document contains an a element is therefore very high: It’s at 98.32%.

  2. HTML has 112 elements. The median web page uses 30. The 90th percentile, 41. You don’t need to, you can’t even use all HTML elements. Yet it’s likely that we observe quite a one-sided use of HTML; consider just the extreme popularity of div and span elements. HTML is not nearly being exhausted yet.

  3. When you then look at not only what markup is being used (those custom elements, those obsolete elements, those proprietary and invented elements) and how that markup is being used (from h7 and h8 headings to the specific use of details and summary), and then note how many pages are (of course!) invalid when they’re ever validated (79%), then… then we’re not left with much of a craft, then, after decades, we haven’t quite made much of the vision yet.

Enjoy the full report, and keep pushing on your use of HTML. (If you’re interested, I write much about HTML, including publishing a little book series about small things to improve HTML code.)

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on April 29, 2020.

I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering manager and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on I share some of my views and experiences.

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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.

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