W3C HTML Working Group Publishes New Drafts

March 5th, 2010

Last week, the W3C HTML Working Group reached a decision to publish several new working drafts and these are now available. The discussion about what to publish and how to structure the HTML5 specification has taken several months. In November, at the TPAC meeting, a request was made for the Microdata section of the specification to be removed. Back in August, I posted about our support for a separate Canvas 2D API specification.

Some people in the community raised concerns about exactly what should be in scope for the HTML working group. Tim Berners-Lee shared his thoughts:

“I agree with the WG chairs that these items — data and canvas — are reasonable areas of work for the group.  It is appropriate for the group to publish documents in this area. On the one hand, they elaborate areas touched on in HTML4. On the other, these elaborations are much deeper than the features of HTML4, but also they form separate subsystems, and these subsystems have strong overlaps with other design areas. It is important (a) that the design be modular; (b) that the specifications be kept modular and (c) that the communities of expertise of the respective fields (graphics and data) be involved in the design process.”

We strongly support Tim’s call for modular design and modular specifications in web standards. Large monolithic documents are hard to consume and take longer to stabilise with well thought out engineering decisions. In fact, the decision to take these features from HTML5 and make them separate documents continues the process that started last year as the storage and networking APIs were moved out of HTML5 and into the W3C WebApps working group. Just like good software design, loose coupling and high cohesion are good principles for defining web standards. That doesn’t make them easy to apply and there is still more work to do to reduce the coupling between drafts. The group is working on improving the tools used to generate the documents to improve the cross-references, which will help towards this goal.

Microdata and Canvas 2D are now available as new working drafts alongside the core HTML5 draft. This also sets Microdata on a similar footing to the updated HTML+RDFa draft. You can review the full set of documents published yesterday here:

Adrian Bateman
Program Manager