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What’s Next in HTML, episode 1

by Mark Pilgrim, Google in What's Next

Welcome to "What's Next in HTML," where I'll try to summarize the major activity in the ongoing standards process in the WHAT Working Group. Wait... what happened to This Week in HTML5? Hell, what happened to HTML5? Well, nothing. It took over five years to create, but it's in Last Call now. By all measures, it has already been wildly successful. Browser vendors are implementing it, books are being written, we have a kick-ass validator, web developers are slowly catching on, and there's still plenty of time to send us your feedback. But in the meantime, the WHAT Working Group has begun work on new, experimental features for the next version of HTML.

The next version of HTML doesn't have a name yet. In fact, it may never have a name, because the working group is switching to an unversioned development model. Various parts of the specification will be at varying degrees of stability, as noted in each section. But if all goes according to plan, there will never be One Big Cutoff that is frozen in time and dubbed "HTML6." HTML is an unbroken line stretching back almost two decades, and version numbers are a vestige of an older development model for standards that never really matched reality very well anyway. HTML5 is so last week. Let's talk about what's next.

The big news in HTML is r4439, which adds the device element. What's a <device>? I'm glad you asked.

The device element represents a device selector, to allow the user to give the page access to a device, for example a video camera.

The type attribute allows the author to specify which kind of device the page would like access to.

So it's for video conferencing, something you can currently only do with Adobe Flash or other proprietary plugins that sit on top of your browser. In fact, most of the pieces for browser-based video chat are already in place. The idea is that a device element would go hand in hand with a video element and a web socket. The device records a video stream (using the also-newly-defined Stream API) and sends the stream of video along a web socket to the other party (perhaps via an intermediate server) which renders the stream in a video element. And like the video element, the device element would be native to your browser, so browser vendors would not have to wait for third parties to add specific support for their platform.

Does all that work yet? Hell no. We don't even have a standard video codec yet! Google Chrome is the only browser that has shipped an implementation of web sockets (although it's part of WebKit, so presumably Apple could ship it in a future version of Safari if they choose). And the entire device API is still in its infancy. Nobody has even started implementing a prototype of that piece yet, and the whole idea might be scrapped by my next episode. But that's life on the bleeding edge.

And now you know "What's Next in HTML."

43 Responses to “What’s Next in HTML, episode 1”

  1. GreLI says:

    What about copy to buffer? It’s one of the features which supported only partialy (IE and Opera afaik) and again third-party plugins are summoned by web authors.

  2. Brad says:

    This comment in the spec is right on: “Should we instead just make this only useful for audiovisual streams? Unless there are compelling reasons, we probably should not be this generic. So far, the reasons aren’t that compelling.”

    If you only have one useful value for ‘type’, then go with it. Call the element or or something more specific and direct. Using “device” as the element name is about as useful as the “object” element.

  3. You know, it’s really great that people are thinking about the future of HTML. But it troubles me that this work is being done outside the W3C for a number of reasons. The WHATWG does not have a patent policy, nor does it have a wide representation of all stakeholders (browser vendors are not the sole custodians of the Web, as represented by the WHATWG invite only membership). It’s also troublesome that Opera, Apple, and Mozilla retain copyright over the document, without a proper license (“You are granted a license to use, reproduce and create derivative works of this document.” doesn’t define what those terms and limits are, which is a threat because one particular company in the group is know for it’s predatory pursuit of IPR violations). As a start, maybe WHATWG HTML should be under a world-wide CC license. Better still, why can’t this be done as an open incubator group at the W3C? The W3C got it’s ass kicked by the WHATWG wrt XHTML and XHTML2. The director already admitted they fucked up royally and gave the WHATWG everything they wanted (killed XHTML, made a totally open WG). I don’t see what role is left to be played by the WHATWG apart from continuing to undermine the work and membership of the W3C and continue to push their solutions on the rest of the community. I think it’s wrong that the WHAT-WG believes it owns the canonical version of HTML and should stop attempting to undermine the W3C and its membership.

  4. John says:

    @Marcos: imho you obviously don’t understand that the W3C-model of “creating a new technology by committee” is really, really broken. The WhatWG mostly just documented existing behavior. If the W3C did that, there wouldn’t be anything to undermine. Especially not the amount of special interest accumulated within the W3C. While I agree that the missing patent policy and lack of transparency have to be addressed asap, saying that WHATWG or the W3C “owns” any version of HTML is simply ridiculous!

    The browser vendors, primarily Mozilla and Microsoft have owned HTML for pretty much every second the internet existed. I this were my weblog, I’d probably give you a list of all the code that is used by every modern website (XMLHTTPRequest anyone?) that’s not “owned” by any standards body that works “for” the internet instead for its business, which is what you really want (I’m assuming).

    In my opinion, it’s really time that we drop this strange pretense that any written document over unimplemented specifications has any value in a massive, wide-spread, decentralized ecosystem like the Internet is today.

  5. John Foliot says:

    “HTML5 is so last week.”

    Having the privilege of working for a Major university located in the heart of Silicon Valley has a number of wonderful job perks: one of them being that I can actually go and visit colleagues at places like Apple, Yahoo! and Google. Most visits to Google are around the noon-hour, and meetings are a combination of business and “shop talk” with at least part of the visit spent in one of Google’s many cafeterias located around their sprawling campus in Mountain View. One thing about lunch at Google is that, while their cafeterias operate pretty much how you would expect large eateries like this to work, there is no “paying” for lunch – simply present your Google ID card and move on to a table. Guests are similarly waved on through (and BTW, the food is very good). I mention these facts simply to establish context, as both Mr. Pilgrim and the WHAT WG Editor for Life are, at the end of the day, Google employees.
    Mr. Pilgrim can wax on about how exciting the latest additions to the evolutionary spec might be and proudly boast that HTML5 is now at “Last Call”, but remember, specs can be sketched out on the back of a napkin in one of those Google cafeterias, taken back to an IRC channel that most day-to-day web developers cannot monitor (as they are earning their paycheck, not listening in on banter and chatter), and, within as little as a few hours later the WHAT WG can have a “spec” that defines how to do the next latest and greatest. It’s exciting, challenging, and bleeding edge, and thousands would give their left arm to have gigs like that. Sadly, they don’t – they stand by and watch, hoping and praying for the time when they can implement this latest and greatest.
    But remember, specifications aren’t standards, and no matter how cool and exciting some of these emergent technologies might seem, until such time as they go through a fully vetted process that allows for every stakeholder to provide their input, it remains but an experimental (albeit exciting) cookbook of what *might* be, not what *WILL* be. Question: Will NASA use the HTML5 element on their site to showcase the latest exciting videos from Jupiter? Will Barclays Bank use to illustrate their latest retirement investment vehicle? Will the French or German governments use to facilitate video conferencing? Currently, the answer is no, and for good reason. These stake holders need to ensure that the technologies they use are rock solid, widely deployed, and meet other political and business requirements (like say, accessibility). These parts of our industry specifications are hammered out by people who are not technologists and engineers, but rather lawyers, managers, and a whole raft of non-technology specialists so that in the end you have a STANDARD, not a specification. Mr. Pilgrim loudly boasts that HTML5 is at “Last Call” at the WHAT WG, but none of the above mentioned stakeholders have had even a chance to weigh in and ask questions, seek clarification or ensure that the technology can work for their constituents. WHAT WG might think that is done, and is ready for Last Call, but without a specified way of ensuring that closed captioning can be provided, NASA will never use – it’s not that they don’t want to, but rather that they can’t.
    So continue to follow the excitement at ring side, but remember that these are nothing more than experiments in a very small circle of technologists, cooking up interesting stuff. But a production ready Standard coming from WHAT WG? Don’t even think about it – it’s never going to happen. Because Standards are rooted in the real world, and not in the rarified enclaves of these technologists. Unlike at Google, in the real world there is no such thing as a free lunch.

  6. John Foliot says:

    (it would be nice if this blog noted that HTML *can* be used) Here again are the questions:

    “Will NASA use the HTML5 <video> element on their site to showcase the latest exciting videos from Jupiter? Will Barclays Bank use <canvas> to illustrate their latest retirement investment vehicle? Will the French or German governments use <dvice> to facilitate video conferencing?”

  7. Da Scritch says:

    Without milestones, we’ll never exactly know which browser will be compliant to which part of HTML5.

    I think the best way to do is to say “HTML5 spec 2010″ to see how many years of late will have some (uh? Did I named someone ?) browsers over 100% of the HTML spec at the said date… To be state of the art.

  8. Tukein says:

    This is all just confusing.

    When the WHATWG don’t want versioning, why does is do versioning?

    Apparently the WHATWG wants to modularize HTML specs. So no browser vendor can say “We have HTML XY” support.” Instead they than have to say: “We have support for HTML Feature XY.”

    That may be a good idea, because best HTML authoring practice is already never to assume that a given feature is implemented only because one know that some other feature is implemented.

    But to keep the versioning of a bunch of features together – opposed to versioning every single feature – is just asking for trouble. Authors already find the information in the spec confusing, now confusion about the version will be added.

    It seems to me that the WHATWG is going a little bit head over heels these days. HTML5 (or whatever you call it) isn’t even finnished yet, it’s changing every day.

  9. Daniel Glazman says:

    @John: XMLHTTPRequest, XMLHTTPRequest? Oh, you mean the technology originally proposed, implemented and shipped by Microsoft and adopted afterwards by other browser vendors?

  10. @John (not Foliot), not that you care, but I’ve been doing standards for 4 years at the W3C; I also did my PhD on standardization so I’m well aware of the different models used to create specifications. HTML is everyone’s and I’m entitled to my opinion personal.

    You are assuming wrong. I’m not saying browser vendors should be excluded at all (that would be ridiculous, XHTML2 proved that). The more browse vendors, the better I think.

    And, as for “saying that WHATWG or the W3C “owns” any version of HTML is simply ridiculous”. Then tell it to Hixie, and I quote “Hixie: the canonical version of the spec is on the whatwg.org site, the w3c can take as long as they like to get over their problems and get with the programme”. I don’t know how else to read that, but “all you HTMLs belongs to us!”

    Read it yourself, and deal with it:
    http://krijnhoetmer.nl/irc-logs/whatwg/20100111#l-386

  11. Julian Reschke says:

    Note “…their problems…”. I guess somebody refuses to acknowledge to be part of the problem.

  12. Ian Hickson says:

    Marcos, the device element was developed based on this thread at public-device-apis@w3.org:

    http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-device-apis/2009Dec/0194.html

    …and is published at the W3C here:

    http://dev.w3.org/html5/html-device/Overview.html

    The chairs of both the Device APIs WG and the HTML WG are fully aware of and involved in this work. It’s more W3C work than WHATWG work, in fact — so far, the element has not been discussed in the WHATWG at all.

  13. Sean Hogan says:

    @Marcos

    I could read the quote “Hixie: the canonical version of the spec is on the whatwg.org site, the w3c can take as long as they like to get over their problems and get with the programme” as “Currently the WHAT-WG is the better caretaker for the spec” which hardly seems surprising for a frustrated editor to say, and could easily be a fair call.

    Although Ian “Hixie” Hickson has pretty much gifted it to you by responding to your comments without addressing anything you said.

  14. Ian Hickson says:

    Sean: I replied to the factual inaccuracies in Marcus’ post, which underlie most of his comments.

    I didn’t cover the two unrelated things he lists because one has nothing to do with me and the other is meaningless. However, since you ask:

    • I don’t work for any of the companies that have the copyright over the WHATWG spec; in fact, since Marcus does, he’s in a better position to do something about it and it’s unclear to me why he’s complaining about it here.
    • Regarding the “canonical” comment: maybe I should have used “director’s cut” instead. That more accurately reflects what I meant. It’s somewhat academic, anyway, since there’s no normative difference between the two, and as mentioned in my last comment, the new stuff was developed at the W3C, not the WHATWG.
  15. Shelley says:

    Ian: “It’s somewhat academic, anyway, since there’s no normative difference between the two, and as mentioned in my last comment, the new stuff was developed at the W3C, not the WHATWG.”

    Then there is no real to continue separate groups. You’ve just said all of the development is in the W3C, all of the work originates in the W3C, most of it is done in the W3C and there is no “normative” difference in the specs.

    Then let’s be done with this WhatWG/W3C dichotomy. Less confusion for everyone, the same license, the same patent policy, one bug database, one testing suite, one document–there is no reason to remain separate.

  16. [...] so dass sich die WHATWG bereits gestern öffentlich und in aller Gemütlichkeit zu ersten Gedankenspielen über HTML6 hat hinreißen [...]

  17. Hi Ian,

    Re: copyright and license. I’m not “complaining”. I’m trying to initiate debate and discussion and trying to understand the facts and implications. I (and others) have concerns, which 99% of the time are put at ease with a little discussion and transparency. We are all rational people here, who listen to reason.

    Also, “director’s cut”? Seriously, this isn’t a movie Ian. As the editor, you don’t have creative license to ignore what the studio (W3C community) says and go and rewrite the ending. Today, the specs may be in sync. But, what happens if, for instance, feature X gets voted out of the W3C spec (or a competing alternative is proposed) but you decide to keep X in the WHATWG spec. That would cause confusion – it almost feels like “embrace and extend”.

  18. Also, if the device element has not been discussed in the WHATWG at all, then why is it in the WHATWG spec? you are effectively taking IPR from work being produced by you and others in good faith within the W3C’s device working group and then licensing it back to the W3C. I don’t think anyone signed up to that. If things go bad at the W3C, and the WHATWG decides to pull the spec, then what happens to all the IPR that has been contributed by people working at the W3C? Do you mean to tell me Apple, Mozilla, and Opera own all that IPR now?

  19. Ian Hickson says:

    Marcus:

    I don’t see why you think the W3C HTML WG community is any more important than the (larger and older) WHATWG community.

    I laid out the conditions under which I would accept being an editor in the HTMLWG long ago, and this covers the policy under which I will ensure that the W3C and WHATWG specs remain consistent: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Apr/0469.html

    I haven’t changed this policy, and have continued to work to keep the normative requirements of both working groups consistent, even in the face of what I consider mistaken editorial decisions (such as taking Microdata out into a separate spec). Certainly, however, I think it is reasonable for the two groups to come to different editorial conclusions. We have different style and colours, different scripts running in the specs, and different spec organisation decisions. I don’t see why it would be unreasonable.

    Regarding the device element, it’s in the WHATWG spec because the two groups are working together. I am not sure what you mean by “IPR”, but if you mean the copyright on the text that I wrote, then it is owned by your employer, the W3C, Apple, and Mozilla, as with all of the spec text that I have written for several years while working for Google (and Opera before that). I don’t know what “IPR” has been contributed by “the W3C”; if you have any specific concerns please feel free to raise them. If you mean patents, then the WHATWG has no patent policy and the W3C patent policy applies to all the text in question. None of this would change if, in the worst case scenario, the two working group were to go their separate ways.

    In general it certainly seems like you are just looking for things to complain about — first you say that I shouldn’t be making stuff up without the W3C being involved, and then when I point out that I have been doing this at the W3C, you say that I shouldn’t be letting your employer have the copyright on things that I write! It’s very confusing. Between this and you referring to me as an “asshole” in another blog (http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2010/01/html5_means_wha.html#c13076), one is led to wonder whether you really are one of the “rational people here, who listen to reason”.

  20. John Foliot says:

    Reality check – the W3C has been an open, concensus building organization since at least 1994 – a full decade before you hung out the WHAT WG shingle. Tell the truth.

    …[I] have continued to work to keep the normative requirements of both working groups consistent”

    If this is true, how is that Mr. Pilgrim and you can suggest that HTML5 is in Last Call, when anyone involved with the W3C Process knows full well that HTML5 *IS NOT* at Last Call yet. Where is this so-called consistency? Tell the truth.

    How is the WHAT WG handling significant accessibility shortcomings in your so-called Last Call specification, so that real world developers can actually use HTML5 to create legally mandated accessible content? Or is that not WHAT WG’s problem? Tell the truth.

    It took over five years to create, but it’s in Last Call now.

    WHAT WG has authored a specification document that is likely the basis for a final Standard, but it is far from there now (as continued work within the W3C can attest to), and suggesting otherwise is misleading, inaccurate, and frankly plain wrong. What part of truth has you guys so worried?

    Cutting edge designers and developers are certainly encouraged to play with HTML5, take it for a spin as it were. But these same designers and developers should not be told that the draft specification that you are proclaiming ‘finished’ and into Last Call is in any way production ready – it isn’t and large swaths of the web development community are unable to use HTML5 today because it remains incomplete. Tell the truth.

  21. Ian Hickson says:

    John Foliot, please keep your trolling out of the WHATWG.

  22. John Foliot says:

    A forbidden writing is thought to be a certain spark of truth, that flies up in the face of them who seek to tread it out. – Sir Francis Bacon

  23. Kyle Weems says:

    John Foliot, please keep your trolling out of the WHATWG.

    Thank you for addressing the accessibility shortcomings (which will be the single largest obstacle to getting HTML5 adopted worldwide by large organizations due to legal obligations) in a thoughtful fashion. You’ve won me over.

  24. Firstly, I was not directly referring to you as an asshole, Ian (you are not the only member of the HTMLWG and WHATWG, and I didn’t even have you in mind when I wrote that). You’ve always been patient, polite, and more than helpful to me; dare I say, a friend… even though you keep misspelling my name). Lets be clear, by “assholes” I mean anyone who takes the position (in the HTMLWG or WHATWG) that the specification is solely written for some sort of super human called an “implementer”, and hence it does not need to be legible to any other community. This was PPK’s complaint about clarity/accessibility of the specification that I was responding to. PPK wrote: “Inevitably, it was pointed out that specs aren’t meant for developers but for browser vendors. That’s true but unhelpful, just as it has been for the past ten years. The ritual dance begins anew.” <–Assholes === those that support this position.

    If you hold that position, then sadly, yes, I have called you an asshole and I can't apologize for that because I honestly believe that specifications should be legible by all communities that are going to use it. Specially true for a document as important to humanity as HTML. However, if you share my view that the specification should be accessible to more than just implementers, then, under no uncertain terms did I call you an asshole.

    You say, " first you say that I shouldn’t be making stuff up without the W3C being involved,"

    That is correct. And I'll keep calling the WHATWG out on it if you do. Particularly because I'm fundamentally opposed to your idea of having two working groups reach different editorial conclusions (though understand, because of history, that it may be inevitable).

    "and then when I point out that I have been doing this at the W3C, you say that I shouldn’t be letting your employer have the copyright on things that I write!"

    This is also correct. I don't know why you keep mentioning my employer, like you are putting me down or I'm some kind of slave to them? What comments I make here are my own, I don't need my employer's permission to have opinions. Do you?

    Oh, why isn't Google a copyright holder of the WHATWG spec?

    "It’s very confusing."

    I don't see why that would confuse you? But lets move on…

    You say: " I don’t know what “IPR” has been contributed by “the W3C”;"

    The W3C does not contribute IPR, you know that. And you know that I know that. If, for instance, the people that responded to your email at the W3C gave you ideas that make you amend the specification, they shared intelectual property. You are taking that intelectual property from a W3C member and republishing it in the WHATWG spec. Which is then licensed by copyright holders? That doesn't sound logical or right.

    "if you have any specific concerns please feel free to raise them."

    I'm here "complaining" about specific things, aren't I :) I also will once W3C HTML reaches *real* LC. I'm thankful that 3 year review period. You know how important I think the spec is – let no one have any illusions that I don't think it's one of the most important technical achievements ever produced. It's the only reason I have my hissy-fits every few months: because I really truly care… maybe too much and maybe about the wrong bits.

    "If you mean patents, then the WHATWG has no patent policy and the W3C patent policy applies to all the text in question."

    I don't see how that can be. If I implement the WHATWG spec, and claim to do so, then I'm not protected by anything. It was you who said that WHATWG version was the canonical one (later to be watered down to "director's cut").

    "None of this would change if, in the worst case scenario, the two working group were to go their separate ways."

    I really hope not. Anyway, you are right that blog comments are not the right place to bring about change. Everyone is getting defensive, which is unproductive.

  25. Ian Hickson says:

    Marcos:

    Regarding IPR, I don’t think you understand who IP law works.

    Regarding implementing the WHATWG spec, if you implement the WHATWG spec you are by definition also implementing the W3C ones since they are the same normative requirements (the only differences are editorial). So yes, you are protected by the same patent policy.

    Regarding the rest, you’re welcome to your opinion, just please at least have it based in reality. :-) My apologies for misspelling your name.

  26. Regarding IPR, IANAL so you may be right. I’ll read up on it some more.

    Regarding implementing, I’ll take your word on it.

    Regarding reality, I prescribe to constructivism. So, by virtue of our different experiences, our view of reality may never quite align. But that’s ok! it’s good that we at least make an effort to understand each other’s realities through our opinions. Anyway, getting far too existentialist…

  27. Chris Wilson says:

    It’s not true that “you are protected by the same patent policy” for any IP that is implemented following a WHATWG spec that is not also in a W3C spec that is at least past the FPWD stage.

  28. [...] wünschen sich eine fließende Entwicklung ohne feste Versionsnummern. (Daniel Schürmann via “The WHATWG-Blog”) Tags: Entwicklung, HTML, W3C Sie können diesen Artikel kommentieren oder einen Trackback-Link [...]

  29. [...] Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel und oft denkt man schon während des Spiels an das nächste Spiel. So auch bei HTML. Wenn es eine 5 gibt, dann kann die 6 nicht weit sein. Oder besser man lässt die Versionsnummer gleich ganz weg. HTML is an unbroken line stretching back almost two decades, and version numbers are a vestige of an older development model for standards that never really matched reality very well anyway. HTML5 is so last week. Let’s talk about what’s next.What’s Next in HTML, episode 1 [...]

  30. [...] Link: What’s Next in HTML [...]

  31. mattur says:

    Kyle Weems: John Foliot may be many things, but describing him as an accessibility shortcoming seems (a bit) unfair.

  32. [...] Mark Pilgrim @ blog.whatwg.org Die Redmonder sind bislang nicht in der WHATWG involviert und orientieren sich eher an den offizielleren W3C-Spezifikationen. Dabei hinkt Microsoft schon jetzt in der Unterstützung aktueller HTML-Trends in ihrem Browser hinterher. Während die Konkurrenten bereits in aktuellen Browser-Versionen erste Teile von HTML5 verbaut haben, wurde das aus Redmond erst für den Internet Explorer 9 in Aussicht gestellt. [...]

  33. Jon Rimmer says:

    So no response from the WHATWG on Chris Wilson’s point about the patent policy then? Is it too much to expect the WHATWG to respond to comments on the WHATWG blog?

  34. @Jon Rimmer: The WHATWG does not have a patent policy. Chris Wilson’s comment (#27) seems accurate to me. (But I am not a lawyer, etc.)

  35. [...] nicht nur das XMLHttpRequest vom W3C im Status “Last Call”, sondern auch html5, wie ich hier bei whatwg lesen [...]

  36. CSS-Design says:

    The next step on the road “HTML” seems to be a never ending story.

  37. [...] wie Mozilla, Apple ), bzw. einzelner Mitarbeiter der mit dem W3C zusammenarbeitenden Arbeitsgruppe, erste Ideen über dessen möglichen Nachfolger. Angesprochen wird hier speziell ein potenziell neuer Tag namens [...]

  38. [...] HTML6,然而按 Pilgrim 在 WHATWG 博客中的说法,下一代 HTML [...]

  39. [...] “HTML is an unbroken line stretching back almost two decades, and version numbers are a vestige of an older development model for standards that never really matched reality very well anyway. HTML5 is so last week. Let’s talk about what’s next.”  Mark Pilgrim, Google [...]

  40. [...] HTML6,然而按 Pilgrim 在 WHATWG 博客中的说法,下一代 HTML [...]

  41. [...] Mozilla, Apple ), bzw. einzelner Mitarbeiter der mit dem W3Czusammenarbeitenden Arbeitsgruppe, erste Ideen über dessen möglichen Nachfolger. Angesprochen wird hier speziell ein potenziell neuer Tag namens [...]

  42. [...] leads to another point about the HTML5 spec: it will probably be the last numbered spec. In the future, instead of revving HTML versions, like HTML6, the W3C will just maintain the latest [...]

  43. Alan5 says:

    I’m just wondering how long this will last until it’s out the door. In the past 6 years I’ve learned over 10 programming languages and to this day I only use 4 of them. So much time wasted on knowledge. I have no doubt HTML5 is going to be a good language and it will be an extension of HTML (one of the four I still use) but I also feel everything has surpassed HTML and is now in the days of .php or WordPress.

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