HTML5 standards war brewing: Developer nightmare looms as W3C and WHATWG split over the future of the HTML standard

A rift has opened between two web standards bodies working on the HTML5 standard over its future development, leading to the very real possibility of two competing versions of the HTML5 standards in the future.

The Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) standards editor, Ian Hickson, has announced that while the group will continue to work with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) HTML Working Group, it will publish a version of the HTML5 standard independent of the W3C.

The two groups are diverging over the approach to take on the future of the HTML5 standard, with W3C preferring to have a fixed version of the standard, while WHATWG will publish a “living HTML” standard that continuously evolves as new technologies become available.

On the split, Hickson said:

“The WHATWG effort is focused on developing the canonical description of HTML and related technologies, meaning fixing bugs as we find them, adding new features as they become necessary and viable, and generally tracking implementations.”

“The W3C effort, meanwhile, is now focused on creating a snapshot developed according to the venerable W3C process.”

“This led to the chairs of the W3C HTML working group and myself deciding to split the work into two, with a different person responsible for editing W3C HTML5.”

“We are now independent of the W3C HTML Working Group again, while still maintaining a working relationship with the W3C.”

“My hope is that the net effect of all this will be that work on the HTML Living Standard will accelerate again, resuming the pace it had before we started working with the W3C working group.”

The news creates a potential nightmare for developers and businesses, as different web browsers or devices may choose one version of the standard over the other, potentially creating more work in developing and maintaining websites and HTML5-based web apps in the future.

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