File Under: Web Basics

HTML 5 Won’t Be Ready Until 2022. Yes, 2022.

html5 layout tagsIf you’re a web developer looking forward to the new tools in HTML 5, the next generation of the language that powers the web, we have some bad news for you — you’re going to waiting a while.

Ian Hickson, the editor of the HTML 5 specification, recently outlined the time table for HTML 5 and, even assuming browser manufacturers embrace HTML 5 when it reaches the final draft stage, that puts HTML 5′s widespread adoption at 2012. Worse, the final proposed recommendation won’t be released until 2022.

Yes, you read that right. 2022. Yes, that’s thirteen years from now.

If you’re thinking that planning how the web will look and work 13 years from now is a little bit ridiculous, you’re not alone.

Even if your 2022 ronc-o-matic web-enabled toaster (It slices! It dices! It browses! It arouses!) does ship with Firefox v22.3, will HTML still be the dominant language of web? Given that no one can really answer that question, does it make sense to propose a standard so far in the future?

Regardless of how you answer that question one thing is pretty clear — there’s a huge gap between the HTML 5 spec and the down-in-the-trenches web developers who are building websites right now.

As long time web developer Jeff Croft writes in a blistering (and funny) critique of Hickson’s timetable: “I care about right fucking now. My clients care about right fucking now. Our users care about right fucking now. The only people that really give a damn about two thousand twenty two are people who write timetables for a living.”

Of course there’s a pretty good chance that at least some browsers will fully implement HTML 5 long before 2022 (Opera, Safari and Firefox already offer support for many HTML 5 elements).

There are also some pretty good reasons why the standards groups behind HTML 5 have put its final release date so far in the future.

Part of the reason for the long timeline is that HTML 5 attempts to do something HTML 4 never did — not only does HTML specify new tags for HTML authors, it dictates how a browser should render a page, how it should handle errors and more.

The end result is that it may well take 13 years for browsers to comply with every line in the HTML 5 spec. However, there’s a good chance web developers will be able to use the new HTML 5 tags long before the browsers implement every recommendation in HTML 5.

While I agree with Croft, the timetable is ridiculous given the history of rapid change in web development, that doesn’t mean the HTML 5 spec won’t be usable until 2022. In fact the far more important year is 2012, when HTML 5 will be finalized, if not official.

While Croft may say he doesn’t care about the HTML 5 spec, he also suggests that what developers ought to be doing is reading Surfin’ Safari and Mozilla Developer News to find out what new HTML 5 tools the browsers already support (I’d also add the Opera Desktop Blog to that list).

In the end, that’s certainly a vote for HTML 5 — it’s just recognizing that the standard itself isn’t what’s important, real-world browser support is what matters. And hopefully, since many browsers are already adding HTML 5 features, we don’t have to wait until 2022 for a better web.

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