That nice Stephen Shankland just published a news report HTML5 is done, but two groups still wrestle over Web’s future on CNET, quoting me a couple of times.
As I’m occasionally asked questions about how I see the two different organisations working together (or not), here are the full questions that Steve asked me, and my responses (as approved unchanged by my bosses at Opera). I’m grateful to Steve for giving me his permission to reproduce them.
SS: How big a problem is it that WHATWG and W3C both are sorta kinda in charge?
BL: It’s not an especially big problem for the vast majority of developers who aren’t developing sites using still-fluid features that are only available in the latest nightlies. Where they differ, the W3C spec is a better guide to the stable features as implemented already in browsers – for example, it has dropped the <hgroup> element, warns about the lack of implementations of the outlining algorithm and has much better advice on using the <main> element today to make websites more accessible to people with disabilities.
SS: Which do you think has more power in charting the future of the standard?
BL: Neither. The power is with browser makers. As Ian Hickson of WHATWG said, it doesn’t matter what the specs say if browsers don’t implement them.
SS: It seems kind of like we have two horses pulling the same cart, with no coordination between the horses. Is this a bad use of resources? Or is that a bad metaphor?
BL: The web is the biggest platform we’ve ever had. Therefore, it has more constituencies and competing interests than we’ve ever seen. It’s absolutely right that those different interest groups slug it out. At least it’s (mostly) done openly, unlike the decisions made behind closed doors by proprietary organisations answerable to no-one.
SS: We can’t rewrite history to excise XHTML 2.0, but should the two communities work to converge into one somehow? Is that even possible?
BL: I’d like to see one community , but suspect the cultural clashes are too large. So we have to get along, working together mostly and fighting occasionally, just like a family – albeit sometimes most like the Addams Family.
SS: How much actual real-world confusion is there among developers? Where should they go to see what the “true” spec says?
BL: If you want to see what’s already implemented in browsers now, look at W3C spec. If you want to see what might be coming (or how things may change) look at WHATWG spec.
Opera implements following the WHATWG spec, because that’s where nitty-gritty of the leading-edge stuff is discussed. But we also actively support and participate in the W3C as we see the value in having stable snapshots that developers can refer to, and it’s also the forum for many other vital spec discussions about Web Manifest, Device APIs etc. It’s possible to love both and, as we’re Norwegian, our hearts are full of love for all.
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