HTML5: W3C and WHATWG split

Spoon boy:: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo:: What truth?
Spoon boy:: There is no spoon.
Neo:: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy:: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

There is no HTML5.

Did you know that there were two organisations responsible for the development of HTML5? Well, indeed there are:  the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) and the, probably well known, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

How comes? Well, the WHATWG was a kind of a response to the slow progress being made by the W3C  back in 2004. The W3C, at that time, was pushing toward XML/ XHTML. So the WHATWG organisation started improving HTML, and the W3C adopted the WHATWG spec under the HTML5 banner. Since then both have been working together on HTML5. From the WHATWG FAQ:

The WHATWG was founded by individuals of Apple, the Mozilla Foundation, and Opera Software in 2004, after a W3C workshop. Apple, Mozilla and Opera were becoming increasingly concerned about the W3C’s direction with XHTML, lack of interest in HTML and apparent disregard for the needs of real-world authors. So, in response, these organisations set out with a mission to address these concerns and the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group was born.

But this is not news, this is background. The real news is: those two organisations decided to split the spec into a living part and a more static one.

In a post to the WHATWG list, the editor of the WHATWG specification explains:

More recently, the goals of the W3C and the WHATWG on the HTML front have diverged a bit as well. 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.


p>This in fact means that it will practically become impossible to tell what HTML5 is. In plain terms it means that, from the WHATWG point of view, the HTML5 spec never settles down and is always in the move. Browser makers must try to keep up. The W3C, on the other hand, is planning to create a single definitive standard. In fact, we already have two sets of specs, as listed here:

So does it mean we will have to standards? Well, I think we will. Safari, Chrome and Firefox probably will keep up with the new and noteworthy as fast as they can. And, without the W3C to slow down things, the innovation is surely going to speed up. Microsoft will probably stick to the W3C spec, cherry picking in the name of “corporate interests”.

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