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Exploring HTML 5 Forms

One of the major initial goals of the HTML 5 effort was to update the core HTML form elements to reflect more contemporary thinking. Find out how well the HTML 5 specification has fulfilled that goal so far.

orms have become an integral part of nearly all web applications, but the core HTML form elements are now nearly 13 years old. No surprise, then, that one of the major initial goals of the HTML 5 effort was to update these elements to reflect more contemporary thinking.

One of the W3C's underlying goals when it first laid out the XHTML specification was to create a forms architecture that would better handle XML content. That led to the development of XForms in 2002. However, many in the HTML community felt that the focus on XML rather than on name/value pairs and JavaScript, which had evolved as part of HTML 4, ultimately made the specification too complex or too inflexible for the average web developer.

This reaction could very well have precipitated the creation of a new HTML 5 specification by the self-styled Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG), whose spec was eventually adopted as a draft by the W3C for the next generation of HTML 5. In the process, the XHTML 2.0 effort was displaced.

The current (August 2009) HTML 5 working draft establishes a few new form elements as well as modifications to existing elements. These changes continue to reflect the underlying data model that HTML 4.0 used, in which each particular form control maintains its own internal state rather than relying upon external resources. However, this process isn't as clearly defined as was in the earlier versions of the language specification.

This article explores the notable new form elements and the modifications to existing elements introduced in the HTML 5 working draft.

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