The HTML standards process grinds on

There is a Moore's Second Law effect at work here. As standards become more complex they take more time to coalesce. And as with other Moore's Law artifacts this also tends to move geometrically, not arithmetically.

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Back in January I wrote that HTML 5 would prove one of the big stories of 2008.

You agreed and made it the 6th most popular post at this blog for 2008.

Maybe we were both wrong. As I write this in December HTML 5 seems no closer to implementation than it was in January.

This is not an overt criticism of the W3C. I suspect this is in the nature of the standards-making process.

There is a Moore's Second Law effect at work here. As standards become more complex they take more time to coalesce. And as with other Moore's Law artifacts this also tends to move geometrically, not arithmetically.

The same effect helps explain the motives behind the development of enterprise open source.

As software gets more complex it takes more time to write and debug. But the value the marketplace puts on the improvements does not rise correspondingly. Not forever at any rate.

If the value of software kept growing in relation to its costs we might be paying $1 million per copy for Windows, not a few hundred dollars. Open source makes this manageable by allowing the costs to be shared, as at Eclipse or Apache.

Standards seem to work similarly. Just the cover of the standards-writing document for HTML5 is daunting. Is this code or another O.J. trial? (Rimshot.)

What seems clear in going over the contents is that, assuming it's ever implemented, HTML5 will be as different from current Web standards as IPv6 is from IPv4.

There is a warning in the preceding. IPv6 is still not fully implemented nearly a decade after being approved. Let's hope that doesn't happen here.

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