[whatwg] A New Way Forward for HTML5

Tab Atkins Jr. jackalmage at gmail.com
Thu Jul 23 08:15:19 PDT 2009

On Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 8:48 AM, Manu Sporny<msporny at digitalbazaar.com> wrote:
> By halting the XHTML2 work and announcing more resources for the HTML5
> project, the World Wide Web Consortium has sent a clear signal on the
> future markup language for the Web: it will be HTML5. Unfortunately, the
> decision comes at a time when many working with Web standards have taken
> issue with the way the HTML5 specification is being developed.
> The shut down of the XHTML2 Working Group has brought to a head a
> long-standing set of concerns related to how the new specification is
> being developed. The following page outlines the current state of
> development and suggests that there is a more harmonious way to move
> forward. By adopting some or all of the proposals outlined below, the
> standards community will ensure that the greatest features for the Web
> are integrated into HTML5.
> http://html5.digitalbazaar.com/a-new-way-forward/

A few comments as I see them (these all happen to be disagreements,
but that's because it's easiest to get up the urge to write about
things that I disagree with):

"Problem: Disregarding Input from the Accessibility Community"
ARIA is *going* to be in HTML5.  Ian has made this clear.  He's just
waiting for them to resolve some unanswered Last Call comments so the
spec can proceed to the next stability level.  How can this possibly
be construed as ignoring them?

As for other accessibility experts, they *have* influenced the spec,
but unfortunately there is a vocal minority who believe that markup
languages and specs have the magical ability to make people care,
and/or believe in the equivalent of XML draconian error-handling for
unmet accessibility issues.  HTML5 goes out of its way to make
accessibility as *automatic* as possible, so that no one has to spend
effort on enabling others (or more properly, so the majority of
authors who will *never* spend significant effort on accessibility
still produce accessible content).  Witness the wars over the @alt
attribute on images.

"Problem: Partial Distributed Extensibility"
We had partial distributed extensibility.  We called it "The Browser
Wars".  For a mass-consumption medium like html, we need a centralized
authority *so changes take time before they spread*.  It produces a
barrier to entry that weeds out all but the most desired additions to
the language.  If they become relatively established despite the
language not allowing them, that's the best argument possible for
allowing them in the next version.

"Problem: Specification Ambiguity"
Dropping an email to the list is *not* a difficult thing.  It's
trivial.  And with a halfway decent modern mail client those "600 to
1,200 very technical e-mails a month" drop to a relatively small
number of grouped conversations that can be tracked or ignored at

That being said, inline spec comments sound interesting.  Can you
expand on this?  Are these meant to be private and only shown to Ian?
Shown to everything who views the spec (optionally, of course)?  Sent
to the mailing list?

"Problem: A Kitchen Sink Specification"
Ian recently implemented a way to hide or highlight the UA guidelines
that confuse so many more casual readers.  Does this help?  (I know it
helps me.  ^_^)


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