Portland, OR: At OSCon, it was evident that the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and the WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) were no longer seeing eye to eye on how to organize HTML5, the next version of HTML. Ian Hickson, one of the HTML5 editors and a member of WHATWG, announced that WHATWG is going in a different direction with HTML5.
“The goals of the W3C and the WHATWG on the HTML front have diverged a bit as well,” Hickson wrote. “The WHATWG effort is focused on developing the canonical description of HTML and related technologies, meaning fixing bugs as we find them, adding new features as they become necessary and viable, and generally tracking implementations. The W3C effort, meanwhile, is now focused on creating a snapshot developed according to the venerable W3C process. This led to the chairs of the W3C HTML working group and myself deciding to split the work into two, with a different person responsible for editing the W3C HTML5, canvas, and microdata specifications than is editing the WHATWG specification (me).”
That sounds a lot like a fork to me. The end-goal, as Michael Smith, the editor of HTML for the W3C said, is still “to provide developers and users with the choice of a common, open Web platform based on completely open standards and with a feature set that is on par with the set of features available from other application-delivery platforms both on and off the Web."
So, what's really going on? According to Hickson, the two have “slowly slightly forked.” And, “The net effect of all this will be that work on the HTML will accelerate again.”
Hickson expects more rapid progress to ensure. “We’ve essentially separated the R&D part of the effort – working on new features, describing how things got implemented, and so on—from the technical report snapshot process, so the two parts of the effort do not need to block each other.” He, added, “It’s hard to keep adding new features when you’re trying to freeze the spec’s feature set!”
What all that really means, in the best case, is the WHATWG effort will make the HTML5 “Living Standard” more feature-complete while the W3C effort becomes a clean-up and fix-up of the WHATWG version of the standard.
On the other hand, as one Web developer involved in the W3C effort told me at OSCon, “This could also be the beginning of a real fork in HTML5. And the Web developer community needs that like a hole in the head.”
Hopefully, it won't come to that.