Programming - - By Craig Buckler

HTML5 Completion Date Announced

If you’ve been avoiding HTML5 because its specification is a draft document, you’ll be pleased to hear the W3C has announced a completion date. Mark July 2014 in your diary as the date HTML5 will finally become an official W3C Recommendation. (Note I’m referring to HTML5 as a real technology rather than the all-encompassing “HTML5 is CSS3 is JavaScript is a Flash killer” marketing nonsense!)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

HTML5 logoHTML 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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