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W3C reveals plan to finish HTML5 and HTML 5.1

Splitting it up to save time, headaches

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The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) says it's still on track to release the final HTML5 specification in 2014 – and to prove it, it's issued a tentative plan outlining the steps it will take to bring the web markup language to its next version and beyond.

The plan still needs to be approved by the HTML Working Group – naturally – but assuming it goes forward, the W3C will deliver not just an HTML 5.0 standard in 2014, but also an HTML 5.1 spec in 2016.

The reason it's announcing an additional version now is simple. Due to the pressure to deliver HTML 5.0 in 2014, the W3C wants to defer any new issues that are raised until HTML 5.1 and concentrate only on current issues that can be addressed without substantive changes to the 5.0 spec.

There was no word on whether the HTML 5.1 work will that mean we'll need a new logo when that version of the standard ships in 2016.

The plan also advocates increased reliance on modularity as the means to keep HTML5 moving forward. The traditional "kitchen sink" approach to the HTML specification process is no longer tenable, the plan says, and trying to draft HTML5 as a monolithic spec with a grab-bag of features will only cause further delays.

A number of technologies that were originally part of the HTML5 specification have already been spun off into their own, separate specs, including Web Workers, Web Storage, and the WebSocket Protocol. Without naming names, the plan advocates a similar approach for more aspects of the current HTML5 draft.

"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," the W3C's plan states.

By narrowing down the scope of work in this way, the W3C hopes it can concentrate on developing a comprehensive test suite to make sure the current features are stable and interoperable – which is, of course, what it has been hoping for the last 18 months, if not longer.

In case you haven't been keeping track, the last formal HTML specification, HTML 4.01, reached Recommendation status – meaning a finished standard – in 1999. At this rate, by the time HTML 5.0 becomes a Recommendation, the W3C will have been working on it for a solid 15 years. But then, if you're going to do a job, do it right.

The W3C suffered a brief setback in its schedule earlier this year, when Ian Hickson stepped down from his position as the HTML5 specification editor to concentrate on the parallel work going on at the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).

Since then, however, the W3C has hired four new editors to keep its version of HTML5 chugging along, and it has received funding from Adobe, Google, and Microsoft that it says will allow it to hire new staff to support its specification and testing efforts.

If all goes according to plan – which of course means the plan must first be approved – the W3C now says HTML5 should enter Candidate Recommendation status, which is the next stage of the standardization process, by Q4 of this year. ®

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