The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) last week announced it will finalize HTML5 by 2014 and HTML 5.1 in 2016. With significant challenges ahead, the W3C laid out a tentative implementation plan. Should the plan be approved by the HTML Working Group the W3C will see 15 years of work culminate in not only HTML5.0 but its successor 5.1 as well.
The reasoning behind announcing two specs is the result of a different approach to the problems and setbacks the W3C has faced in the past. The W3C plans to step back from what it has dubbed a monolithic "kitchen sink" method with a grab-bag of features. Moving forward it will rely more on modularity in an effort to prevent setbacks and delays.
"The current combination of a monolithic kitchen sink specification, Decision Policy, A11y Task Force, and Formal Objection process has led to a significant number of objections, and current difficulties in achieving consensus." -- Worldwide Web Consortium
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Originally HTML5 included many pieces that have now been turned into their own specifications including Web Storage, Web Workers and the WebSocket Protocol. This approach will allow the W3C to move any unstable elements into the HTML 5.1 spec, thereby limiting what is in HTML5. With this approach the W3C can focus on making HTML5's current features interoperable between browsers and stable--something they have been working on for quite some time.
"Splitting out separate specifications allows those technologies to be advanced by their respective communities of interest, allowing more productive development of approaches that may eventually be able reach broader consensus" -- Worldwide Web Consortium
W3C's HTML5 Proposed Plan Outline
Split what was originally HTML 5.0 into an HTML 5.0 and an HTML 5.1, and considerably raising the bar on what issues and bugs we consider in the HTML 5.0 timeframe:
For bugs: create a new bugzilla component for HTML 5.0 stable/CR versions of the specifications, and only allow bugs to be created or moved in/to this component that address interoperability issues or can be addressed by a non-substantive change to the specification.
For issues: require actual specification text to be published in the form of extension specifications first, and only after said text meets the exit criteria for CR, consider folding the result into the core specification. To prevent unnecessary confusion, drop explicit indications that any given extension is obsolete once an extension specification exists that has been published as a FPWD. Issues that are raised that concern interoperability issues will be considered during as a part of HTML5.0, all others will be considered in the HTML 5.1 timeframe. As needed, split out controversial or unstable text into extension specifications. A detailed, issue by issue, list of proposals appears later in this document.
Verify with those that made the 11 current Formal Objections that they continue to support their objections. Close those that we can, and forward the remainder for immediate consideration by the Director. We encourage the Director to advocate Modularity as a solution whenever possible.
Proceed immediately after these objections are processed to CR on HTML 5.0 with Public Permissive proposed CR exit criteria.
We think it is likely that the Working Group will make substantive changes to the document as a result of Candidate Recommendation Review. Therefore, in accordance with the W3C Process, we will return to a short Last Call before requesting to advance to Proposed Recommendation.
Allow extension specs to proceed at their own pace. Examples: HTML/XHTML Compatibility Authoring Guidelines, HTML Canvas 2D Context, and HTML Microdata.
Source: HTML5 Plan 2014 - W3C
If its plan is approved, the W3C says HTML5 should reach Candidate Recommendation status, one step closer to standardization, in the final quarter of this year.
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HTML5 Progress and Setbacks
With 10 open issues, approximately 300 outstanding bugs and 11 formal objections it looks like the W3C has a tough hill to climb. That said, year to date the W3C says it has tackled more than 600 bugs and 28 issues. It also faced some challenging staffing issues in 2012 when Ian Hickson stepped down from his role as HTML5 Specification Editor to concentrate on other technologies at the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).
Since Hickson's departure, the W3C has brought aboard 4 new editors to the HTML 5 editorial team in an effort to keep things moving forward. It has also received funding from tech giants, Microsoft, Google and Adobe. If you'd like to know more about the W3C's HTML5 Plan 2014, you can read the entire W3C plan here.