HTML5 Moves Forward

In case you missed it earlier this week, the W3C announced that it had extended the charter of the HTML Working Group, including clear milestones for HTML5, the next version of the platform-neutral HyperText Markup Language standard used worldwide for rendering Web pages, and the cornerstone of W3C's Open Web Platform for application development.

There has been a lot of online discussion about all this, positive and negative, as well as a number of media reports on the move, which is great as we at Microsoft strongly believe in an open discussion. I have referenced some of those reports in this blog, which is my synopsis of some of the issues.

Under the milestone timetable announced this week, the W3C said the Working Group will advance HTML5 to "Last Call," the point at which the W3C thinks the standard's features are set. Last Call is also essentially a call for all communities to confirm the technical soundness of the specification, after which the group will then shift focus to gathering implementation experience and building a comprehensive test suite.

As Joab Jackson reported in ComputerWorld and other online publications, the W3C expects no new features to be added after the Last Call. After Last Call is completed the group will take feedback only from implementers and through trials of the test suite, Philippe Le Hégaret, lead for the W3C Interaction Domain, which oversees the development of HTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) and other Web standards, told Jackson.

Microsoft is pleased with this time table, especially with Last Call in just three months. The HTML Working Group chairs set the Last Call schedule last year, and it's encouraging to see that the Working Group has stepped up to meet that schedule. This is a great step forward and we look forward to continuing to work with the hundreds of other members of the HTML Working Group to advance the specification.

And, as Jeff Jaffe, the W3C CEO, said in a statement earlier this week, even as innovation continues, advancing HTML5 to Recommendation provides the entire Web ecosystem with a stable, tested, interoperable standard. "The decision to schedule the HTML5 Last Call for May 2011 was an important step in setting industry expectations. Today we take the next step, announcing 2014 as the target for Recommendation," he said.

As CNet's Stephen Shankland correctly points out in his report on the news, the latest timetable doesn't mean interested parties won't be able to employ the new technology until 2014. "On the contrary, key phases of the coming years' development involve getting feedback from real-world use that's already well under way and ironing out wrinkles that may arise implementing the standard in Web browsers," he says.

To quote Ian Jacobs, the head of W3C marketing as told to Scott Gilbertson at Webmonkey, "developers can use HTML5 now and we encourage them to do so."

Because HTML5 anchors the Open Web Platform, the W3C has also started work on a comprehensive test suite to ensure the high levels of interoperability that diverse industries demand. Microsoft has already donated test cases to the current test suite. While it's the most comprehensive test suite of HTML5 so far, it is far from complete. But the test suite is an important step as it identifies differences in implementation and encourages implementers to fix deviations from the specification.

The W3C has invited test suite contributions from the community and, starting in March, will also dedicate new staff to drive development of an HTML5 test suite. Its first task is to expand the existing test framework by the mid-2011, which will encourage browser vendors and the community to create test cases.

CNet's Shankland also points out that HTML5 will become the first new revision since HTML 4.01 was released in 1999, noting the features in this next-generation Web page description language include built-in video and audio, a "canvas" element for two-dimensional graphics, new structural labels such as "article" to smooth programming, and a codified process to consistently interpret the hodgepodge styles of real-world Web pages, even when improperly coded.

 And, after the W3C releases the first last call working draft in May, it plans to begin tackling the early stages of what it's currently referring to as So stay tuned and follow along as the momentum around HTML5 keeps growing.

Peter Galli

Senior Community Manager

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