HTML5 — Smile, it’s a Snapshot!

Today, the HTML WG is publishing a set of new documents including Candidate Recommendations for HTML and Canvas, first drafts for HTML 5.1 and Canvas Level 2, and our first extension specification, the main Element. I thought that would be a good occasion to say a word about how we’re managing the evolution of these specifications, and about what’s coming up.

Three months ago, when I jumped aboard this HTML adventure, I announced that the HTML WG would be handling the care and feeding of the HTML5 specifications as is done in many open source projects: a common repository on GitHub making use of multiple branches corresponding to various levels of maturity. The goal was to make it easy for our varied constituencies to have their delicious cake and eat it too, with a stable branch heading for Candidate Recommendation, and a more advanced one being used for cutting-edge features.

As can be seen with today’s release and from the drafts that are now automatically published from the repository, this approach has now been successfully deployed by the new crew. You can for instance go read the HTML Nightly or the Canvas Nightly.

All of these documents are generated from the same source in the same repository, and thankfully addressing the needs of multiple communities at once has not brought the world to an end (so if the Mayan do come knocking, don’t blame us). This includes regular synchronisation between WHAT WG and W3C documents to ensure that there is no split.

Because we are applying a tried and true software development release strategy here, in which the stable branch was frozen just a couple of weeks ago, the 5.1 and Level 2 specifications don’t yet have massive checklists of new features compared to their stabilised counterparts. But as we keep on moving forward, only bug fixes will go to the CR documents, while innovative additions will flow into the newer, fresher document lines.

Speaking of innovations, I’m also happy to report that several extension specifications are making steady progress. Extension specifications constitute a way of bringing new features into the HTML fold without necessarily having to effect changes in the core HTML specification itself directly (as that can be a bit daunting, and may also make reviewing difficult).

That’s how today, together with the other drafts, we are also publishing one such extension specification: the main Element. New semantic elements aren’t the most glamorous, but they’re useful. As I’ve argued before, the litmus test for new semantic elements is that they should enable greater content repurposability. As far as I’m concerned, main frolics to a hop over this bar with flying colours.

And coming next in the same vein of extensions we have two proposals for responsive images, The srcset attribute and The picture element. Both have now reached the level of maturity at which they can be most usefully compared, and this discussion is about to go through a new chapter. You can expect more from these drafts in January.

For my part I am now going to increasingly focus on working with the HTML Test Suite group and working on making the CR interoperable. We’ve started reorganising the suite so that it’s more in line with the document and better able to integrate the many, many thousands of tests that it requires. As always, if you feel like you’d like to help make the Web a better place, don’t hesitate to join in and help with testing — we want to make it as developer-friendly as possible (and we will).

I look forward to much more such input, and many more features to eventually ship as stable. And I have no doubt that there will be a lot more to come!