While we’ve heard companies and businesses split in the tech terrain, it isn’t often that we hear split in standard developments. Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are the two bodies working on the HTML 5. Now, the news has it that both are parting ways as WHATWG will be taking charge of an evolving “living standard” and W3C will be working on a more static “snapshot.”

Forked ways

Forked ways

Though this may not sound like a good idea and is likely to add some complications. Reportedly, Ian Hickson, the head of WHATWG believes that they will be making a lot more progress after the split. Hickson had written in an open letter on its W3C forums that, “More recently, the goals of the W3C and the WHATWG on the HTML front have diverged a bit as well. The WHATWG effort is focused on developing the canonical description of HTML and related technologies, meaning fixing bugs as we find them [1], adding new features as they become necessary and viable, and generally tracking implementations. The W3C effort, meanwhile, is now focused on creating a snapshot developed according to the venerable W3C process. This led to the chairs of the W3C HTML working group and myself deciding to split the work into two, with a different person responsible for editing the W3C HTML5, canvas, and microdata.”

So, basically, WHATWG and W3C have already been working on different parts of standards and now this has been just formalized into administrative split. Techcrunch has got some air cleared about the split. While many may think that the split may add some complications to companies like Facebook and Opera, Hickson says otherwise. He said, “Nothing has really changed for developers, browser vendors, and people sending feedback on the spec. In theory it should only really affect the people doing the spec editing work. Browser vendors will still have to decide whether to follow the specs, just as they always did. Developers will still need to check what the browser vendors actually implemented, as they always did. People sending feedback on the specs can continue sending them to the same places they sent their feedback before; for the WHATWG side I will continue to monitor the same places, and for the W3C side I assume they will do likewise.”

Both WHATWG spec and W3C spec will be standards in their own way. The WHATWG spec is called “living standard” and they recommend browsers to implement it. This spec is updated based on feedback to fix any problems that are found. The W3C spec is more traditional draft-draft-draft-snapshot model where once a version is released it is frozen and the errors it faces are typically no longer corrected. Hickson adds, “There are important uses for both; obviously the “always updated” version is good for making sure implementors and Web authors are working to the most up to date knowledge, but the snapshot model is also important, in particular for things like patent licenses (so that the lawyers know exactly what is being licensed), and for contracts (so that lawyers can agree on whether something matches what was agreed or not without having to worry about us changing the document out from under them).”

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