W3C Relaunches HTML Activity

Wow… this was one of the geekier things I read today… but it’s important to those of that work on the web. There’s news from the W3C that work on HTML is going to be relaunched…

Recognizing the importance of an open forum for the development of the predominant Web content technology, W3C today invites browser vendors, application developers, and content designers to help design the next version of HTML by participating in the new W3C HTML Working Group. Based on significant input from the design and developer communities within and outside the W3C Membership, W3C has chartered the group to conduct its work in public and to solicit broad participation from W3C Members and non-Members alike.

“HTML started simply, with structured markup, no licensing requirements, and the ability to link to anything. More than anything, this simplicity and openness has led to its tremendous and continued success,” explained Tim Berners-Lee, W3C director and inventor of HTML. “It’s time to revisit the standard and see what we can do to meet the current community needs, and to do so effectively with commitments from browser manufacturers in a visible and open way.”

Read the Full Release

This is pretty big news… The impact of this work won’t be felt, potentially, for years… perhaps a decade or more from now… I’m not sure if this announcement means that the W3C will officially start working on a HTML 5.0 Spec or not. Only time will tell. XHTML is not going away, and it will continue to evolve as well. I’m sort of baffleded at the reasoning behind the move to develop HTML further:

But due to the significant legacy of Web content that is some variant of HTML, traditional browser vendors moved slowly to adopt XHTML. This, in turn, has meant little motivation for content developers to adopt XHTML for the traditional desktop environment. Leaders in the Web developer and design communities therefore urged W3C to renew its commitment to HTML by adding new features (starting with the HTML 4 standard) in a manner that is consistent with community practice and backward compatible.

Considering how data-oriented the web is becoming, does it make sense to improve a standard that was improved upon by XHTML? I understand that browser manufacturers are hesitant to adopt more progressive specifications, but I don’t understand how further developing the HTML Spec is going to change anything. If they’re hesitant to support XHTML, what good does revising and updating the HTML Spec going to accomplish? Additional tags and attributes in HTML are going to require people to tweak their code if they want to take advantage of them. So what’s the point?

Legacy HTML is going to exist on the web for ages to come. This fact should not stop Mozilla, Microsoft, Opera, Apple, etc. from continuing to push forward on supporting XHTML. We need to keep taking steps forward, and to me, this seems like a huge step back.

Thanks, JD, for pointing this out.