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Something to think about... / blog
We Need Another W3C

Written by on July 13, 2010

These days, everyone talks about HTML5. All the big guys like Apple, Google, and Microsoft put a lot of effort into making it happen. Google is especially focused on bringing HTML5 and web apps into the world.

But at this moment, the HTML5 specification is a "working draft," not anywhere near completion. So how long will it take for the W3C to complete the HTML5 specs?

I would say "let's give them a few more months"... but Ian Hickson, Editor for the W3C HTML5 working group says "in 2022"

2022??? Huh? .. wait, what?!

Here is the semi-official schedule for HTML5, as reported by Tech Republic

  • Work started in 2003
  • First W3C Working Draft in October 2007.
  • Last Call Working Draft in October 2009.
  • Call for contributions for the test suite in 2011.
  • Candidate Recommendation in 2012.
  • First draft of test suite in 2012.
  • Second draft of test suite in 2015.
  • Final version of test suite in 2019.
  • Reissued Last Call Working Draft in 2020.
  • Proposed Recommendation in 2022.

That's 19 years! In comparison, HTML4 took less than 3 years to complete.

Granted, HTML5 is the most advanced specification yet, but this is ridicules. We are already at a point now, where Google and Apple is implementing things that aren't exactly in the HTML5 specs. And, we got an even worse problem with CSS3.

By 2022 HTML5 will be completely obsolete, mostly because it is still a "hypertext markup language", not a "semantic dynamic web app language" (what we really need).

I think its time we took away the web spec work from W3C. They are clearly not performing.

Let's start a competitor to the W3C, because that is what they need - some competition.

What do you think?

--- UPDATE ---

(The following was added after reading Eric Eggert's reply in the comments. You should read it too.)

As @yatil and @shojberg pointed out to me, the HTML5 'final date' is when it reaches 'candidate recommendation' in 2012. (Although in any other business, defining "final" as the point in time before a product is tested would be a disaster.) But, even 'candidate recommendation' is 9 years after they started. That's just insane.

When reading: A Brief History of Markup it's clear that the entire HTML5 project doesn't work. It's an inefficient "body", that never gets the job done in time. Some of the things they do are good (some are not), but the problem is that they do not get the job done.

HTML4 was a disaster (we all know that), but solving the problem by getting 600 people to work as a "committee" doesn't seem like the solution to me. It sounds rather inefficient :)

Also, as I see it HTML5 is flawed to begin with. We need some way to define data, some way to define the rendering of this data, some way to define behavior (this part is surely lacking today), and some way to define application constructs.

For data we already have a fully extensible language, called XML. Adding HTML5 on top of that just complicates things. We have CSS to define rendering (although it needs work), we don't have a good way to define behavior yet - only workarounds via Javascript or webkit transforms, and exceptionally little has been done to support the application layer (mostly because HTML5 still sees everything is a page).

Each of these elements should separate from each other (most likely so should their subparts), instead of being mixed in huge spec that is never finished.

Not only would this simplify the project enormously, it would split it into manageable groups, that you can then assign a fast-action teams to conceptualize and solve.

--- UPDATE 2 ---

A lot of people have told me to "blame the browser" for the slow progress. That is a line of reasoning that I cannot follow.

With HTML4, the W3C finalized the specs, and then we watched the browsers manufacturers failure to implement the new standard. The browser where clearly to blame here, because they didn't adapt the standard, and made a mess of the internet.

With HTML5, the W3C hasn't finished the specs at all (and it nowhere near doing that), so the browsers do not yet have a final set of specs to implement. Instead the browsers have lost patience too, and have proactively started to implement HTML5 before it is actually released by W3C.

W3C job is to formulate, create and finalize the specs for HTML. The browser manufacturers job is then to implement those specs - once they are final. The only party here that isn't doing their job is W3C. After 7 years they are still "working on it" - and they will continue to work on it for years to come.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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