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HTML5 was the fifth and last major version of HTML that is a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) recommendation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML5

  1. Why is it "HTML5 was" instead of "HTML5 is"?
  2. What is the difference in semantics if it's "is"?
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Because it was the last version recommended by W3C, newer version is not called HTML5, but HTML Living Standard and is maintained by a consortium of the major browser vendors (Apple, Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft), the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).

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  • I don't see how this addresses the use of "was" (past tense) and "is" (present) in the same sentence, which is the crux of the question. – Mike Brockington Jan 30 '20 at 15:21
  • @MikeBrockington The question is "Why is "was" here?" And that is what I addressed in my answer – TK-421 Jan 31 '20 at 8:51
  • "1. Why is it "HTML5 was" instead of "HTML5 is"?" – Mike Brockington Jan 31 '20 at 10:32
  • @MikeBrockington - because html5 no longer is last version – TK-421 Feb 1 '20 at 8:34
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    @MikeBrockington But the historic context is the motivation for was. So, there is no way to answer the question without a reference to history of HTML.How would you explain 'was' in 'Ceasar was a great emperor.' without the consideration of the historic fact that he no longer lives? – Ben A. Mar 3 '20 at 12:58
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Because it might not be the last, ever. There might be an HTML6 in the future (in fact, a quick Google says there will be). In this context, "last" means "latest" rather than "final".

Saying it was the last allows for the possibility that something else could come along and replace it. Saying it is the last means it is definitively, positively the last there will ever be.

You could even say it "was the last" after it is succeeded, when the meaning shifts to "the previous", for example:

HTML6 is the latest version of HTML. HTML5 was the last version.

As an alternative you could say that HTML is the latest, the most recent or the current version.

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  • Once HTML6 comes along, the quote becomes incorrect - "HTML5 was the ... last major version ..." is no longer true, so 'was' vs. 'is' becomes irrelevant. – Mike Brockington Jan 30 '20 at 10:47
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    @MikeBrockington Not really - Donald Trump is the current president of the USA and Barack Obama was the last one. Right? – user103227 Jan 30 '20 at 11:00
  • @FrankTownend I think you are trying to use 'last' in two different ways simultaneously! – Mike Brockington Jan 30 '20 at 11:02
  • @MikeBrockington In the future, you will come to appreciate that my answer was the right one, because it is. – Astralbee Jan 30 '20 at 11:04
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    This answer would be correct if HTML5 was the last at some point but isn't anymore, but that's not actually the case, and doesn't appear to be what was meant by the quote, so I don't think this is the right explanation for the choice of verb tense here. Also, a phrase like "fifth and last" almost always means "last" as "final" (even though I'm pretty sure that's not what the author meant to say), so this doesn't actually work in most cases. The original quote is actually bad in a couple of different ways which complicates things a lot. It should not be considered a good example. – Foogod Mar 3 '20 at 0:23

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