Recent W3C HTML5 Updates

HTML5 logo — I am the 'alt,' not the 'title' I’ve been a member of the W3C HTML Working Group for a month now and appear to have joined at a point when there is a push to get HTML5 wrapped up as quickly as possible. While we all (should) know that HTML5 as it is referenced in the media is really a combination of related specifications, this push is about the core HTML5 specification itself.

Be warned, this is a dry read.

The W3C HTML Working Group has been taking steps to speed the HTML5 specification to completion. A couple weeks back the chairs proposed a new plan to get HTML5 to Recommendation status in 2014 and opened it up for discussion within the group, updating a draft plan as they receive feedback. This plan gives HTML 5.0 a target date of the fourth quarter of 2014, which we can realistically assume means “by January 1, 2015.” This plan also outlines a timeline for HTML 5.1, putting its release date in the fourth quarter of 2016 (by January 1, 2017).

In order to meet these timelines, HTML5 needs to make it to Candidate Recommendation by the end of this year (2012). To successfully make that goal and move on to a Proposed Recommendation, the chairs have defined “exit criteria” that must be met. To do this, from the W3C document:

[T]here must be at least two independent, interoperable implementations of each feature. Each feature may be implemented by a different set of products, there is no requirement that all features be implemented by a single product.

The exit criteria document defines independent, interoperable, and implementation, as well as the judgment level.

There are still ten open issues to be resolved to move this along. Two of the issues are to be decided by the editor, seven by the chairs and the final issue by the working group. The final issue (the first on the list) is also the only one with a due date (which has passed). The plan calls for creating extension specifications for each open issue that can potentially get folded back into the main HTML5 specification if they are put together in time (December of this year) and approved.

In addition there are still about 300 open issues and eleven Formal Objections that need to be sorted. Right now the plan pushes bugs about interoperability issues or that don’t require major changes to the specification into their own group to be worked for the Candidate Recommendation phase. Remaining bugs are assigned to HTML 5.1. The 11 Formal Objections, if still supported by their authors, will be passed to the Director (Tim Berners-Lee) for “consideration.”

There are a few HTML5 features at risk, meaning they might not make it into HTML5. Right now the list is short and consists of hgroup, command (and the commands API), menu, dialog, and the outline algorithm. It also includes the path object in the HTML Canvas 2D Context.

As HTML5 makes it to Last Call, the HTML Working Group Decision Policy will be updated to reflect the need to quickly resolve any open issues with a clear process to get to decisions.

For a more simplified and immediate timeline I quote the 2014 plan directly:

For CR, we begin in October 2012 by creating a draft HTML5.0 implementation report, which eliminates controversial or unstable features, and contains a listing of all the features in the current HTML5 specification, with information about:

  • which of the features have been implemented in browsers, and in which browsers
  • how stable each feature is
  • what the level of interoperability for each feature is
  • a list of at risk features

We also begin work on a systematic HTML5.0 Testing Plan, with the goals being:

  • identifying areas that are known to be inter-operable and don’t need further tests.
  • identify areas that are known not to be interoperable, and to be removed without the need for investing time in the creation of tests.
  • for the remaining areas:
    • systematically determine which features we currently have test cases for
    • systematically determine which features we still need test cases for

Again, as I am new to the group I am still working to understand the dynamic, the policies, the processes, and the players. I am confident, however, that we won’t see HTML5 as a final specification until the start of 2015.

Part of my opinion is based on my own experience with the Working Group so far coupled with plenty of experience participating and managing mailing lists, working with clients, being involved in my community and so on.

Because I have my own assumptions on how this will all play out, I am leaving any particular opinion about any of the open items out of this post. I also suspect that, even after my short time with the W3C to date, I might be gaining a reputation (at least on Issue 30, the longdesc item) as evidenced by a random tweet:

So. There’s that.

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