Ori Livneh home

WHATWG and W3C

WHATWG will be folded back into the W3C. This is excellent news. WHATWG has been a dynamo for shiny things, and they deserve praise for transforming front-end development into a hugely exciting technological frontier. (Let’s track popular usage and call that transformation ‘HTML5’, even though it’s a misnomer.) But there have been reasons to worry, too. Although anyone can participate in the mailing lists, where the meat-and-potatoes of standards development happens, full membership is by invitation only, and has not been expanded beyond the major browser vendors. This fact, coupled with the lack of of a serious effort to drive community involvement (IMHO), has distorted the conversation, skewing it in the direction of technical solutions that are implementable in browser code and that are useful primarily for developers working on enterprise-class web apps like gmail. The good news is that this work made front-end development the most exciting place to be. Getting RIAs to work well at scale requires considerable expertise and ingenuity. The bad news is that the web browser that you are using has been augmented with a slew of new APIs, many of which have only seen very limited adoption outside major browser vendors. It’ll be a while before we can appreciate their full impact on the character of content on the web, and by that point the specs will be a fait accompli. The W3C struck me as considerable more idealistic, with a louder, more explicit commitment to making the web serve truly human ends. I’m sure this makes them a lot less efficient than they’d otherwise be. But when you’re steering the development of a platform that binds ever larges swathes of humanity together on a planetary scale, there are things other than efficiency or innovation to optimize for.