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W3C names four new editors of HTML5 spec

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The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) has named four people as the new editors of its HTML5 specification, following a recent split that divided the HTML standardization process into two parallel efforts.

The new editors were announced on Wednesday by HTML Working Group co-chair Paul Cotton in a message posted to the W3C's public HTML mailing list.

They are Travis Leithead and Erika Doyle Navara, both Microsoft employees; Ted O'Connor, an Apple employee; and Silvia Pfieffer, an independent consultant whose company, Ginger Technologies, specializes in HTML video.

Cotton gave no specific explanation for any of the appointments, saying only, "After evaluating all the applications, we chose the above HTML5 editorial team based on the individual qualifications of the new editors as well as the combination of the individual appointee's qualifications."

The four co-editors will be tasked with maintaining the W3C's formal HTML5 specification, which seeks to be the definitive document of the markup language that underlies the web.

Previously, the HTML5 spec had a single editor, Google's Ian Hickson. But Hickson quit the W3C effort in April to concentrate on editing the alternate HTML standard documents maintained by the Web Hypertext Applications Technology Working Group (WHATWG), a splinter organization of the W3C.

"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," Hickson explained in a mailing list post last week.

In keeping with that approach, WHATWG has dropped the version number from its HTML spec, and says that henceforth it should be considered "a living standard," where the current version is always the canonical one.

By comparison, Hickson said, the W3C effort is focused on creating "a snapshot" of HTML in its current form – which the W3C is still calling HTML5 – and developing it using "the venerable W3C process." (Get it? WHATWG is young. W3C is old.)

"My hope is that the net effect of all this will be that work on the HTML Living Standard will accelerate again, resuming the pace it had before we started working with the W3C working group," Hickson wrote.

Critics of WHATWG's approach say the whole idea of a living standard is silly, and that it will be impossible for browsers to maintain compatibility with the HTML standard if the specifications are in constant flux.

Overall, however, browser makers appear to disagree. WHATWG was founded by representatives of Apple, Mozilla, and Opera, and its current steering committee includes reps from Google. All of those companies' browsers have already implemented HTML5 features, even though the standard is not yet final.

But the consensus is not total. Although Internet Explorer has also implemented HTML5 features, Microsoft has yet to join WHATWG. Also, half of the new W3C HTML5 edit team hails from Redmond.

The W3C gave no word on whether it expects four editors to get the job of drafting the HTML5 spec done any faster than one would have. At its present rate, the standards org says not to expect HTML5 to reach "Recommendation" status – the final phase of the standardization process – until 2014. ®

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