October 23, 2014

W3C Excises Mentions of Competing HTML5 Group

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C (News - Alert)) has updated its list of differences between HTML5 and HTML4, but what’s been omitted is just as telling as what’s been put in. The W3C has removed mentions of WHATWG’s own HTML5 specification, according to InfoQ.

WHATWG, or the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG), was formed a decade to rectify what its founders saw as slow progression by the W3C on HTML and its move away from SGML toward XML. The group began working on HTML5, which the W3C adopted as a starting point a few years later for HTML5.

Now HTML5 is on its way to becoming an official standard and has dumped XML in the new standard, but WHATWG broke away, continuing to work on what it calls a “living standard.”  The schism was exemplified by Ian Hickson, the editor of the W3C standard, left to join Google (News - Alert). Hickson remains a spokesman for the  WHATWG.

“HTML5 evangelist” and former W3C team member Klaus Birkenbihl told InfoQ that the two organizations were moving in different directions.

“There is a rather obvious reason for this. HTML5 will soon be an official stable W3C Recommendation (aka ‘W3C Standard’) and the ‘HTML5 Differences”’working draft also shall become a standard one day. So moving targets like W3C's HTML5.1 drafts and WHATWG's ‘living standard’ version of HTML had to be removed for stability,” Birkenbihl said.

Even though HTML5 is still only a draft standard, modern browsers support at least some aspects of the new standard, such as video without the need for a plugin like Flash or the ability to save data on local machines.

Even with competing standards, what matters is how well browser makers support them.

“From a developer’s point of view, the schism between W3C and WHATWG is not really threatening as long as major browser vendors work together in both groups in their well-understood own interests and not to split the Web,” Birkenbihl added.

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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