However, there’s a date approaching which is more important. May 22, 2011 has been confirmed as the “Last Call” — after that time, no new features will be added to the HTML5 specification.
During the next three years, the W3C will:
- Review all comments. The consortium is expecting considerable feedback from the Last Call and it’s likely to result in further revisions to the HTML5 specification.
- Create an HTML5 test suite to help vendors fulfill the W3C’s criteria. An official suite will also help developers build HTML5 content and applications. We will be able to rely on independent implementation results rather than exaggerated feature spin emanating from vendor marketing departments. An early version of the test suite is available now, but it’s a work in progress and you should not rely on the results.
Does the Completion Date Matter?
From a pure development perspective, the completion date makes no difference whatsoever. Most browsers already support some HTML5 features. There’s also no guarantee the feature you want will be fully implemented after July 2014. Developers have always picked technologies with care and, when necessary, used shims, alternative content or graceful degradation for browsers which do not support it. That situation won’t change no matter what label is slapped on the spec: you can use HTML5 today.
That said, the completion date may reassure those who consider HTML5 to be vaporware. In software engineering terms, “draft specification” equates to “not ready for production.” However, when referring to a W3C document, the “draft” label means the specification isn’t necessarily complete, but each feature has been implemented in at least two browsers and may already be viable. The confusion permeates through the industry and is one of the reasons WHATWG dropped the HTML version number.
The Future of HTML
HTML is an evolving standard. W3C members are already considering improvements for future versions under the working title “HTML.next.” So don’t ignore HTML5 for the next three years — the industry will have moved to the next iteration by 2014!
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.