World Wide Web Consortium releases draft of HTML 5

A major upgrade of HTML is in the works but won't emerge for at least two years.

The World Wide Web Consortium has published a public draft of the first major upgrade to HTML in over a decade.

Released on Tuesday, the first working draft for HTML 5 is a result of work carried out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) HTML Working Group, which brings developers, browser vendors, and content providers together.

In its final form by 2010, HTML 5 is intended to bring the markup language forward into today's richer Internet environments, with new application programming interfaces to control audio and 2D video content.

"HTML is of course a very important standard," said Tim Berners-Lee, author of the first version of HTML, and W3C director. "I am glad to see that the community of developers, including browser vendors, is working together to create the best possible path for the Web. To integrate the input of so many people is hard work, as is the challenge of balancing stability with innovation; pragmatism with idealism."

The W3C HTML Working Group studied the Web's evolution and was driven by developments, such as the Ajax development process, to draw up the new standard for a Web that is now far beyond a collection of static pages. New features in HTML 5 will mean that elements of today's most popular Web sites can be standardized to promote interoperability. Ultimately, these elements will then proliferate as they begin to show up in authoring tools, experts have claimed.

HTML 5 will focus on client-side data storage to enable users to edit documents interactively. It will also address costs by providing concise rules on handling HTML documents correctly, alongside instructions for how to recover from errors. In line with these augmentations, new features are also planned to help bring familiar page sections and navigation elements to the screen. Written in either "classic" HTML syntax or an XML syntax, HTML 5 is also intended to extend Web-application interoperability outward to the mobile platform.

"A huge amount of data is recorded on the Web in HTML, but often encoded to work for a specific program, rather than following the existing specifications. In order to preserve this information, we need to know how to process it even if the particular programs it was designed for disappear," said Charles McCathieNevile, chief standards officer for mobile-browser company Opera. "The new HTML 5 drafts clarify how existing HTML can be parsed in a reliable way according to a specification that others can freely implement in the future. They also add specifications for a number of important Web features that have been implemented and found acceptance over the last decade."

News of HTML 5 comes at a time when vendors such as Microsoft are becoming increasingly vocal about browser interoperability. In December, Microsoft claimed Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) correctly passed the Acid2 browser test, a part of the Web Standards Project. "Successfully rendering Acid2 is an important landmark for IE8, as it highlights the interoperability, standards compliance and backwards compatibility that we're committed to for this release," said a Microsoft representative.

However, some experts have claimed that Microsoft's Acid2 assertions may be premature. The company has attracted some criticism from developers over its approach to render modes in IE8.

HTML 5 will be the first implementation under the W3C's royalty-free license scheme. The HTML Working Group is made up of around 500 participants, including AOL, Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, and Opera.

Adrian Bridgwater of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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