Berners-Lee: Work is needed to harmonise HTML 5

The multiple development of web protocols such as HTML 5 could end up fragmenting the effort, according to Tim Berners-Lee

People are passionately developing protocols such as HTML 5, but there is a potential for duplication of effort and divergence of technologies, according to web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee has warned that lack of harmonisation in web development could cause issues in the future.

The harmonisation of new protocols such as HTML 5 is only one of a number of technical and social challenges faced by the web, he told ZDNet UK at the official launch of the W3C UK and Ireland office in Oxford on Monday.

"The new web is such a broad area, there's lots of areas advancing in parallel," Berners-Lee said. "In HTML 5 there is a huge amount of invention. There are so many people with such an idea of what HTML 5 should be like, and open linked data is doubling every 10 months. So there are technology areas that need looking at."

Lack of harmonisation could cause interoperability problems that would make the web more closed, for example.

Berners-Lee added that the web also faces challenges to do with resilience and availability in order to stay open. He cited the unrest in Egypt, which led to internet access being restricted for citizens, as an example of web fragility.

"There are policy areas that have highlighted that the internet cannot be taken for granted," Berners-Lee said. "People looked at what happened in Egypt and realised what could happen in their town. That raised a lot of interesting questions."

HTML 5 is a language for presenting multimedia web content, which also attempts to define a single markup language for the web. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a web standards body headed by Berners-Lee, is involved in standardising HTML 5 through its HTML working group.

HTML directions

Paul Cotton, HTML working group co-chair, said that the group had problems in agreeing on directions in which to take the protocol. Cotton is also group manager in Canada for Microsoft, which has championed what it calls 'native HTML' in its Internet Explorer browser.

"It's a very large working group with a very diverse set of interests and capabilities," Cotton told ZDNet UK. "The challenge is to get all of these people together in a way to find consensus. The process at W3C is about finding the solution that causes the least dissent."

Cotton announced at the launch on Monday that the W3C HTML working group expects to close its last call for HTML 5 within the next couple of weeks, and that the standard will explicitly control the extensibility of HTML 5.

Nominet, the UK internet registry, officially launched its hosting of the W3C UK and Ireland office at Keble College on Monday, but has hosted the office at its premises in Oxford since October. The office was previously housed at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory for 13 years.

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