I feel kind of silly asking that honestly. but i don't know
i was asked to revamp a site recently, and optimize for SE's (which i reluctantly agreed to do). should i code as HTML5?
i did a quick survery of some big sites like CNN.com and more ( i can't remember) and it seemed like they made the <!doctype html> declaration but then i didn't see any new HTML5 elements like
You're right that many large commercial sites are using the HTML5 DOCTYPE as they prepare for the future of the web. While older browsers don't support the new features of HTML 5 or CSS 3, they do render pages using that DOCTYPE in Standards Compliance Mode, so it's not a problem to use it as long as you're aware of the limitations. That generally means designing your pages so that users running with older browsers still get a fully functional page, and users with HTML 5 compliant browsers simply get an enhanced version of the same content.
As for what you should do, I think it's probably best to stick with HTML 4 where your comfort zone lies. There's certainly no search engine ranking benefit in using HTML 5 (yet), and you can take advantage of CSS 3 features and still stick with HTML 4 DOCTYPEs.
My 2¢, don't build anything today that will be antiquated tomorrow. HTML5 is mostly about search engines and more semantic markup, so even if there is no immediate benefit today, there will be tomorrow. Use the modernizr script to accommodate legacy browsers.
Use the modernizr script to accommodate legacy browsers.
Not trying to stir up trouble, but I'm curious. We're often seeing this position, but how do you correlate it with the general consensus of "don't do anything in JS that's critical for the functioning of a web site, in case someone has JS disabled"? Does the modernizr script fail gracefully in such situations and leave the html5 page still acceptably viewable?