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W3C promotes HTML5 specification to Recommendation Status

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October 29, 2014

After almost ten years of ongoing development and endless group meetings, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has finally promoted the HTML5 specification to Recommendation Status, its highest ever level of maturity, effectively making the markup language a formal and accepted web standard across the industry.

"For application developers, web designers and the IT industry at large, HTML5 represents a set of rich features that internet users will be able to rely on for many years to come," the W3C said in a press release yesterday.

"Overall, HTML5 is now supported on a wide variety of PCs, smartphones and various devices, lowering the cost of creating rich applications to reach users everywhere," the W3C added.

HTML5 is the successor to both HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.1, which became W3C Recommendations in 1999 and 2001, respectively.

The specification began life ten years ago as the work of the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG), an independent consortium composed of browser vendors that were concerned that the W3C's slow development pace and its focus on XHTML 2.0 at the time were not in the best interests of the web industry.

Specifically, WHATWG was concerned that XHTML 2.0 wasn't going to serve the needs of web applications, which were increasingly becoming the focus of web developers and browser makers alike.

The founding members of WHATWG included Apple, the Mozilla Foundation and Opera. The editors of the current version of the W3C HTML5 specification include employees of Google and Microsoft, in addition to independent consultants.

But in reality, HTML5 has been the work of many hands over several years, including input from more than sixty companies across the globe.

However, drafting the final standard has been an arduous process. Since March 2007, there have been more than 45,000 email exchanges between members of the HTML5 working group, and the group's bug lists recorded more than 4,000 errors and ambiguities that needed to be resolved.

The road to Recommendation Status has been so long, in fact, that WHATWG split off from the W3C standardization effort in 2012 to develop its own "living standard" that it calls Simply HTML (without a version number).

What the W3C is calling HTML5 is described as a snapshot of the work that WHATWG and the W3C HTML working group have done up to a given point in time, while the WHATWG document is being constantly modified as various contributors continue to refine the specification and add new features.

"The plan to get the specs to converge again, such as it is now, is to do a better job with the WHATWG specification, such that it becomes the logical and obvious choice for anyone wanting to figure out which spec they should use," explains the WHATWG FAQ.

Whether browser vendors now choose to implement the strict W3C Recommendation version of HTML5 or keep tracking the WHATWG document still remains to be seen for now, and we could see some hesitation there.

Microsoft, for one, has been touting about how well its Internet Explorer browser conforms to web standards, but while two editors of the W3C HTML spec are Microsoft employees themselves, the company hasn't directly participated in the WHATWG effort.

For its part, the W3C promises to be good about this. By publishing an HTML5 Recommendation now, the group has met its goal of delivering the final specification by the fourth quarter of 2014.

W3C plans to deliver an HTML 5.1 Recommendation in the fourth quarter of 2016. We'll keep you posted on these and other developments as they happen.

Source: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

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