Even though many are already using the still-unfinished language to code complicated web apps, the web’s governing body made the transition official by announcing that HTML5 will be complete by 2014.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has extended the charter of the HTML Working Group (HTMLWG) — the group charged with creating HTML5 — and announced that HTML5 will move to last call status later this year. After a couple of years of rigorous testing, the spec should be finalized by the second quarter of 2014.
“Developers can use HTML5 now and we encourage them to do so,” Ian Jacobs, head of W3C marketing, tells Webmonkey.
The web does not move at the pace of standards bodies, it moves at the pace of web browsers and innovative developers. No one, least of all the HTMLWG, expects the web to wait around for HTML5 to reach the official “recommended” status. Indeed developers are already using HTML5 and its related standards all over the web. HTML5 is here, even if it won’t be official for a few more years.
2014 may seem like a ways off, but it’s a much more promising timeline than 2022, which, despite never being an official date, is often cited as the one the W3C had originally targeted. Assuming the HTMLWG meets its goal, 2014 will mark the first official update for the HTML spec since HTML 4.01 was released in 1999.
HTML5 will give the web several new markup tags, like video and audio, the canvas element for animations and new semantic elements like header, article and aside, which give greater meaning to elements in webpages. Developers should note the 2014 date applies to the HTML5 spec only, not the associated APIs, like Geolocation or Web Workers, which are separate standards.
With a target date on the horizon, HTML5 is now entering the home stretch. Two years of testing still lie ahead, but the HTMLWG is already preparing to focus on the future — the next version of HTML.
The WHATWG, which consists of the browser makers that implement the HTML spec, recently declared its version of HTML to be a “living standard” and the group will no longer be versioning HTML (check out our guide to understand the difference between the HTMLWG and the WHATWG).
Jacobs says the W3C has no plans to follow the WHATWG’s versionless path. “Many industries need stable versions [of the HTML spec]… they require stability in the standard and very high levels of interoperability.” In other words, aiming for a moving target like the WHATWG’s version of HTML isn’t for everyone.
That means there may well one day be an HTML6, but for now the W3C is using the unofficial moniker “HTML.next.”
However, while the spec itself may eventually expand again, Philippe Le Hegaret, the interaction domain leader of the W3C, says APIs are the future. “Not everything needs to be in the spec itself,” Le Hegaret tells Webmonkey. APIs already encompass many features frequently labeled HTML5, such as the Geolocation API, offline storage API and the Web Workers API.
The advantage of APIs is that development can move at a faster pace and new technologies can be finalized individually, without waiting on other elements in the spec.
That’s good news for the future of the web, since the pace of development is only accelerating. The web is no longer something on your PC, it’s on your mobile device and it’s starting to encroach on your living room.
Whether it’s in the spec or separate APIs, both Jacobs and Le Hegaret believe that at least some of the features in future versions of HTML may well involve the collision of the web and television. Netflix, Sony and LG all recently joined the W3C and are interested in what will happen as more televisions begin to connect directly to the web.
Television on the web will likely bring a new set of requirements — possibly new tags, new APIs and a whole new platform looking to implement them. Le Hegaret says that there have already been proposals for features in HTML.next, though nothing is official just yet.
In the mean time, look for HTML5 to reach last call status later this year. From that point the only thing standing between HTML5 and the 2014 finish line are thousands of tests to ensure that HTML5 works everywhere it should.