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"Shaping the Future of HTML"

W3C workshop 4th/5th May 1998
San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency, California.

Chairs: Dave Raggett and Steven Pemberton

Goals | Summary | Agenda | Minutes | Papers | Participants | Presentations

Note that the minutes are only available to W3C members

Workshop Goals

Is HTML 4.0 the last HTML? Does XML mean the end of HTML? Has W3C given up on HTML?

Rest assured, W3C's answer to all three questions is "no". HTML, together with style sheets and scripting, promises to be a vital part of the Web for years to come as the ubiquitous format for global hypertext. Millions of people have learned HTML and have documented vast amounts of information with it, ensuring its future role.

What is that role? How will HTML co-exist with XML, RDF, SMIL, and other languages? W3C has ideas but we want your input. Participants had a chance to discuss their views directly with the designers of HTML. The workshop helped W3C Members and Staff evaluate issues and challenges to be met by future versions of HTML.

The two-day workshop was held May 4th/5th at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame California, close to San Francisco Airport. There were 68 participants, who between them represented a wide range of organizations involved in either the use of HTML or the development of tools for processing it. This included Web site designers, application developers, tool vendors and end-user organizations.

The workshop addressed the issues:

Workshop Summary

In discussions, it was agreed that further extending HTML 4.0 would be difficult, as would converting 4.0 to be an XML application. The proposed way to break free of these restrictions is to make a fresh start with the next generation of HTML based upon a suite of XML tag-sets. The workshop expressed a need for a better match to database and workflow applications, and for the widely disparate capabilities of small/mobile devices. Modularizing HTML will provide the flexibility needed for this.

The tag-sets will be developed in cooperation with experts from each area, with a clean rationale design for each tag-set and how these can be combined. The new version of HTML will be informed by 4.0 but not bound by it. There is no requirement for strict upwards compatibility, although the migration path will be carefully considered. New features and richer authoring environments will provide compelling reasons for upgrading to the next generation of HTML.

Browser and authoring tool support for existing versions of HTML will be with us for a long time to come. The new approach will make it easier to develop powerful new tools without the penalty of having to provide full backwards compatibility with existing content. Style sheets and scripts will make it practical to tune Web content to the profile of each device, with the flexibility to apply this at authoring time, in proxy servers or in the browser.

The next step is for W3C to draft a briefing package for setting up an activity to carry this forward. The previous HTML working group having been closed when HTML 4.0 became a W3C Recommendation. Work on the new version of HTML is expected to take 18 months or so.

Participating Organizations

Last modified: $Date: Friday 11 February 2005 - 13:46:10$Author: dsr $