File Under: HTML5, Web Standards

W3C Adds Time Element Back to HTML5

If HTML5 editor Ian Hickson’s recent decision to remove the <time> element from the HTML5 specification left you scratching your head, you’re not alone. The W3C, the group that oversees HTML5, feels the same way and have stepped in to override Hickson’s earlier decision to remove the widely used element from the HTML5 spec. That means <time> is once again part of HTML5.

There’s a hint of friction in W3C member Paul Cotton’s post to the HTML Working Group, suggesting that the W3C feels Hickson overstepped his bounds in removing <time>. “Therefore we direct the HTML5 Editor to NOT process this bug further,” writes Cotton, who goes on to say that the <time> element will be reinstated to the spec by Nov. 8.

The HTML WG wants, ahem, more time to hash out <time>.

It’s unclear exactly what this means for the WHATWG version of the HTML5 spec (see our article on the Difference Between the WHATWG and the HTML WG), but the W3C’s new love for time should be welcome news for web developers who’ve already deployed <time> on their sites.

While Hickson’s move to toss time out was probably premature, there are nevertheless some problems with <time>. The <time> element offers the ability to add semantic meaning to pages by marking up dates and other time data, but not all use cases have been covered and some gray areas still exist. For example, the code <time>2:30</time> could refer to a time of day or perhaps the length of a movie. Both are theoretically valid uses and figuring out the details and the various potential use cases, is exactly what the HTML WG wants more time to do.

In the minutes from the last HTML WG meeting developer Tantek Çelik, makes the case for re-instating <time> just as it was, but also adding several new capabilities. Çelik suggests accounting for use cases like a <time> tag with only a year (commonly used on sites like Wikipedia or for copyright), and also for using <time> with only a day and month, commonly used when specifying dates like Christmas — 12/25 or 25/12, depending on where you live. Still to be decided are use cases like duration and some details around time zones.

Like the rest of HTML5, <time> remains a work in progress. Now that it’s once again a part of the HTML5 spec that work can resume and those who are already using <time> in some of its well-established roles can breathe easier.

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