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23 July 2012, 15:46

WHATWG and W3C diverge over HTML5 development

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HTML5 icon The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) will, in future, manage a snapshot specification of HTML5, while the WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) will maintain a living standard for HTML. This position, originally outlined in January 2011, is now being formalised. An open letter in the W3C forums by Ian "Hixie" Hickson, author and editor of the W3C's current HTML5 draft and WHATWG specifications, explains that the two organisations have different goals and processes in how and what they develop.

Hickson says the W3C is now focused on creating a snapshot of the WHATWG's work on "Web Applications 1.0", often referred to as "HTML5". WHATWG will continue developing its "canonical description of HTML", adding "new features as they become necessary and viable" and making a "living standard" for web technologies in the WHATWG's "HTML Living Standard".

The changes mean that Hickson will be giving up his position as editor of the W3C specification and will focus on working on the "HTML Living Standard". A new editor will take over the work on W3C's HTML5 specifications. Outstanding work, including bug fixing, on the HTML5 specification has been divided between the two groups, but is still being managed within the W3C's bugzilla system.

WHATWG will, Hickson says, be independent of the W3C working group while still maintaining a working relationship with the W3C. He hopes that the split will accelerate work on the "Living Standard" and that it will be "resuming the pace it had before we started working with the W3C working group".

The overall result of this change is unclear though. Browser makers will be able to select both from the W3C HTML5 specification and from the WHATWG HTML Living Standard; web developers could well be faced with two standards and differing implementations spread over multiple browsers.


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