Listening to marketing messages from companies such as Apple and Google, one might think HTML5, the next-generation Web page standard, is ready to take the Net by storm.
But the words of those producing the specification show an HTML governance process that can be stormy, fractious, and far from settled down. The World Wide Web Consortium's return to HTML standardization after years of absence has produced tensions with the more informal Web Hypertext Application Working Group (WHATWG) that shouldered the HTML burden during that absence.
Some examples of language that's cropped up this month on the W3C's HTML Working Group mailing list: "childish," "intolerable," "ridiculous," "shenanigans." And there's a concrete manifestation of the divisiveness: The WHATWG and W3C versions of the HTML5 specification, though both stemming from the same source material, have diverged in some areas.
Some of the differences are relatively minor, and there are strong incentives to converge the two drafts of the HTML5 specification so that browser makers and Web developers aren't faced with the prospect of incompatibilities. In the meantime, though, the overseers of the Web are clashing during a time when their important new standard is just arriving in the spotlight.
"It's not an ideal situation. You want as much energy devoted to improving the spec and as little lost to the friction costs," said Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of engineering. In the long run, though, Shaver said, it's like writing software, where improvements cause temporary disruptions: "Sometimes you add something new, you have stability problems, you clean them up before they ship." … Read more