[whatwg] Technical Parity with W3C HTML Spec

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Fri Jun 25 12:01:39 PDT 2010

I would like to encourage peopel participating in this thread to focus 
exclusively on coordination with the W3C. In particular, this is not the 
right forum to discuss the W3C HTML WG public-html mailing list, the W3C 
HTML WG's decision policies, or other W3C matters. We don't have the 
authority in this mailing list to do anything about the W3C's internal 
matters, so discussing them here is not productive.

What we _can_ make progress on is to find a way to coordinate with the W3C 
and resolve any differences of opinion between the two groups.

On Fri, 25 Jun 2010, Doug Schepers wrote:
> As you are probably aware, some differences have arisen between the W3C 
> draft of the HTML5 spec and the larger WHATWG version.

The WHATWG doesn't actually work on HTML5, it works on an unversioned 
specification for HTML that is to be continually maintained. "HTML.next", 
if you will (though the spec's title is still "HTML5" by request from 
advocates -- apparently the word "HTML5" is a good buzzword at the moment 
and it helps advocates if the spec has that name in the title).

The differences between this draft and the W3C HTML5 draft all fall into 
two categories:

 - editorial differences with no normative impact (e.g. different style 
   sheet, different introduction section, different license, additional
   examples in the WHATWG version, more implementation advice in the 
   WHATWG version).

 - sections that are absent from the W3C version (e.g. <device>). These 
   are, by definition, part of "HTML.next" rather than "HTML5".

Could you clarify which of the two categories of differences, and within 
those categories, which specific differences, you think are problematic?

> In my opinion, the specific technical details of any given feature [...] 
> is of lesser importance than there being a single definitive version 
> that is consistent between both organizations.

The goal is to get interoperability between implementations while 
advancing the Web. It doesn't really matter how many versions of the spec 
exist (it could be zero, one, two, ten), so long as we get interop. The 
WHATWG itself has four versions of "the spec": HTML, HTML as a multipage 
document, "complete", and "complete" as a multipage document. In the past 
we've also had other versions, e.g. "HTML5" (as distinct from the "HTML" 
spec which has the newer features), "Web Forms 2", etc.

> 3) WHATWG and W3C could maintain different specs with different details, 
> and list the differences with an explanation for each
> 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).

The differences are detailed in the WHATWG spec's introduction. To have 
the changes listed in the W3C spec's introduction I encourage you to 
approach the W3C HTML WG.

> 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)

Others have explained the process, but just for the record, it is indeed 
as they described: much as in the HTML WG, the editor makes the first 
proposals, and if the editor is making bad decisions he can be overridden 
or replaced by the charter members.

> 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

We had this for a while (a year or so, IIRC), but it turned out to be a 
waste of time: nobody read the WHATWG HTML5 version, they all read the 
WHATWG HTML version with the new features. Maintaining a version of the 
W3C subset of the HTML specification on the WHATWG site just for the 
purpose of saying we have a version with identical text seems like it 
would be exclusively work for politics' sake, which isn't very 
interesting. Having said that, the WHATWG spec is licensed under a very 
liberal license, so if anyone wants to maintain such a version of the spec 
they are welcome to do so.

> 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

That's the status quo.

> 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 Hakon or David, since they were 
> instrumental in forming WHATWG in the first place?

Maybe an alternative would be:

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

Are you authorised to represent the W3C on this matter, and if so, would 
you agree with the above proposal?

> the specific technical details of any given feature [...] are often 
> more-or-less arbitrary

I don't buy that at all. Specifications have to be very carefully 
designed based on research, implementation needs, author needs, and a 
careful consideration of the implications of their designs. They are the 
opposite of "arbitrary".

> 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.

While I agree that it is helpful for us to cooperate, I should point out 
that the WHATWG was never formally approached by the W3C about this, so I 
don't think we can really say "W3C and WHATWG are meant to be 
collaborating". The only "decision" I'm aware of on this front is what the 
W3C HTML WG charter says, which obviously isn't binding on the WHATWG.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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