[whatwg] Technical Parity with W3C HTML Spec

Doug Schepers doug at schepers.cc
Fri Jun 25 03:13:13 PDT 2010

Hi, WHATWG folks-

As you are probably aware, some differences have arisen between the W3C 
draft of the HTML5 spec and the larger WHATWG version.  In my opinion, 
the specific technical details of any given feature (which, let's be 
fair, are often more-or-less arbitrary) is of lesser importance than 
there being a single definitive version that is consistent between both 
organizations.  The whole point of an open technical standard is to 
promote interoperability between implementations, and having conflicting 
or ambiguous specs will not result in that goal.

I'm not trying to be political about this, but since W3C and WHATWG are 
meant to be collaborating, there has to be a certain amount of of 
flexibility from both sides, for the good of the standard itself, and 
for readers of the spec.

There are a few possible ways to handle this:
1) W3C could match the WHATWG version in all details, with all decisions 
made by WHATWG
2) WHATWG could match the W3C version in all details, with all decisions 
made by W3C
3) WHATWG and W3C could maintain different specs with different details, 
and list the differences with an explanation for each
4) WHATWG and W3C could adopt decisions made in each group, and where 
there is conflict, decide upon some method of settling the difference of 

Options 1 and 2 are obviously both unreasonable. Option 3 results in the 
problem we have now (though having an explanation for each difference 
would be an improvement; I don't know of any such wording now).

This leaves option 4.  W3C has a relatively clear method for resolving 
conflicts: first, the group tries to settle the issue on the merit of 
the technical arguments; failing that, the group may hold a poll (with 
each individual or organization given a single voice); if there is no 
consensus, the chairs of the group can make a ruling based on the 
reasoning at hand; if there are still Formal Objections to the results 
of that poll, the group can escalate the issue up to the Domain Lead, 
and ultimately all the way up to the W3C Director (who is normally Tim 
Berners-Lee).  Obviously, the strong preference is not to get to the 
poll stage at all.  I don't know of any W3C method for dealing with 
conflicts between different standards bodies, like W3C and WHATWG, so I 
think we're in the air here; W3C obviously has no authority over 
decisions made in WHATWG, but we need to find a way to resolve these 

As I understand it, the editor seems to have final decision-making power 
in WHATWG, and I don't know of any process for appealing those decisions 
(assuming you would want to); for the purposes of arbitration between 
groups, how can we proceed?

For the record, here's my suggestion:

a) Both WHATWG and W3C should maintain a single definitive HTML5 
specification, that is a feature-for-feature match between groups

b) For the longer-term WHATWG work, including sections that were once 
part of the HTML5 spec but were split off into separate specs (Canvas 
API) or removed (datagrid), there is another "Master Spec" that includes 
whatever the editor feels is needed in that spec, so long as it doesn't 
conflict with the HTML5 or related specs

c) Where there are technical or political conflicts, WHATWG should 
decide how to resolve those internally, and how to represent the WHATWG 
point of view in the W3C HTML WG.  I would expect that people differ, so 
I would expect those different opinions to be represented in liaisons 
with W3C.  I don't have a good answer here, because I think it's up to 
the WHATWG to decide their own processes, but I hope we agree that we 
need improvements to how we liaison.

Maybe the answer is to have a spokesperson or liaison role, someone 
respected in the WHATWG community with a reputation for reasonable 
neutrality?  Both Hixie and Maciej have conflicts of interest, as editor 
and W3C co-chair respectively.  Maybe Håkon or David, since they were 
instrumental in forming WHATWG in the first place?

(Sorry I won't be very responsive on this list, I'm actually on vacation 
and only have sporadic net access.)


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