Alex Barnett blog


So we want to reinvent HTML. Now WhatWG?

If it wasn't Tim Berners-Lee calling for the reinvention of HTML, I think I would have skipped over this post and put it down to Friday night silliness.

But the post is dead serious. It's reflecting on the fact that HTML hasn't moved as an official spec since HTML 4.01, ratified nearly eight years ago by the W3C, and an admission that the W3C has failed in its charter to move things along since:

"Some things are clearer with hindsight of several years. It is necessary to evolve HTML incrementally. The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn't work. The large HTML-generating public did not move, largely because the browsers didn't complain. Some large communities did shift and are enjoying the fruits of well-formed systems, but not all. It is important to maintain HTML incrementally, as well as continuing a transition to well-formed world, and developing more power in that world."

Agreeing specifications and standards setting is an exercise in politics. The more the stakeholders the more complex the exercise becomes and the greater the chance for failure. As Tim BL points out, in the case of HTML, the number of stakeholders run into the millions.

"This is going to be hard work. I'd like everyone to go into this realizing this. I'll be asking these groups to be very accountable, to have powerful issue tracking systems on the web site, and to be responsive in spirit as well as in letter to public comments."

Tim Bray's reaction to the news is telling of the kinds of problems that the W3C have had with the community in recent years:

"I have had a very poor relationship with the existing HTML WG, so I’m hardly unbiased; but given the that the W3C’s impact on HTML over the last few years has been essentially zero, I think that this has to be A Good Thing."

Other reactions to the news have varied from skepticism, to 'About time!' to Ryan King trying to figure out the role WHATWG will play in what presumably could be a competing effort to the HTML 5 (or XHTML5) spec in progress:

"I wonder if WHATWG and Hixie in particular have been contacted and/or recruited to join this new WG? I doubt how successful the new HTML WG can be without the support of the the individuals involved in WHATWG."

The answer to this question will either make or break this effort.

(Watch this space.)


Posted: Oct 27 2006, 07:25 PM by alexbarnett | with 4 comment(s)
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JD on EP said:

New HTML group: A significant post from Tim Berners-Lee. I think these are the key quotes: "The plan is to charter a completely new HTML group... There will also be work on forms." There's also mention of validators which give stronger guidance. Alex

# October 27, 2006 10:25 PM

TrackBack said:

Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, has just announced that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) will establish a completely new working group...
# October 28, 2006 7:36 AM

TrackBack said:

Berners-Lee on Reinventing HTML gets some discussion by Alex Barnett and then Joe Clark. The issues are complicated but in the end...
# October 28, 2006 7:47 PM

Alex Barnett blog said:

Clucking bell, Molly Holzshlag really has kicked the web standards beehive with a blog post expressing

# August 13, 2007 8:45 PM