“HTML First” Is Not HTML First

Published on December 21, 2023 (↻ March 25, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

In November, Tony Ennis released the website “HTML First.” *

On that website, Tony promotes guidelines “for making it easier, faster, more affordable, and more maintainable to build web software.”

The guidelines include the following:

Now, the Web and our field are perfect for initiatives like this—have an idea, build it, ship it. This is one of the things to absolutely love about the Web and our field. But this isn’t the point here.

The point is also not to comment on the guidelines picked. I don’t want to comment on them; it seems that some are useful, while others demand scrutiny and nuance.

The point is that these guidelines have nothing to do with HTML First. This is not HTML First, at all.

What Is HTML First?

I’m actually writing a book about this—you cannot yet access the repo, but it’s possible to find the skeleton book page.

As the book is still in process, I do not offer a (or my) full definition of HTML First yet.

However, the foundation is not difficult to argue about:

  1. HTML that is actual HTML, i.e., that is valid (common sense, until you start checking)
  2. HTML that makes full use of HTML features, i.e., that’s not XHTML–HTML
  3. HTML that is used according to purpose (aka semantic HTML)
  4. HTML that is accessible

These are the foundational tenets of HTML First.

The “HTML First” guidelines as found on html-first.com do not cover any of them. That is why “HTML First” is not HTML First. And why we probably need a school of HTML First, whether in website or in book or in any other form, that focuses on HTML—that truly puts HTML first.

* While I criticize and disagree with Tony’s interpretation of “HTML First,” I do so most respectfully. Thanks for putting this out there.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!