HTML5 Splits – Snapshot or Living Standard?

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A rather important development in the world of HTML5 has taken place. The two groups responsible for the development of HTML (the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group or WHATWG and the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C) have decided to have two versions of HTML5 – the snapshot and the living standard – making the decision on which is best to use a rather confusing one to say the least.

Since 2004, the WHATWG has been responsible for the advancement of HTML5 but there seems to be some strife among it and the W3C. In a recent post to the WHATWG list, the editor of its HTML5 specification writes:

More recently, the goals of the W3C and the WHATWG on the HTML front have diverged a bit as well. 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 the W3C HTML5, canvas, and microdata specifications than is editing the WHATWG specification.

Does that mean that there will be two HTML5 standards? The likely answer, at least in the short term, is yes. The W3C is apparently planning to create a single, definitive standard (the snapshot) while the WHATWG’s living standard will continue to add new features and receive refinements.

What this means for Web professionals (designers and developers) in particular is that they will, at least for the time being, be forced to choose between the snapshot or the living standard. If you want to play it safe, use the W3C’s snapshot. If you want to test the limits, use the WHATWG’s living standard.

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10 comments

WolfgangB 07-26-2012 3:08 PM

Say it ain't so...

DavidJ 07-26-2012 3:19 PM

Thanks a bunch. You guys moonlighting from the U.S. congress?

ChrisB 07-26-2012 3:55 PM

Here we go again!

WayneA 07-26-2012 3:55 PM

Two conflicting standards are not a standard.  Standards are important.  Make up your minds and choose just one!  You have an obligations to your users to develop one and only one standard.   The world has shrunk to where you need one definitive standard for the whole world.

AnthonyD 07-26-2012 7:41 PM

I have written web pages for many years. I have hand written many pages. I have always used W3C standards and I will continue to use W3C.

Why would another standard break away? I believe somebody wants to make a few dollars farther down the road. My web pages all have perfect web code according to W3C. A real programmer would know you can't have code moving and changing around, and it is why I choose the snap shot so to speak. I also have written software C, C++, Visual, Java and every version of HTML since the beginning of the internet. I am proud to be one of the first million online back in the day. I am sure programmers (those who write browser code) will go with W3C.

DougH 07-26-2012 10:01 PM

You've got to be kidding me. I agree with DavidJ. I spent a career trying to get some government agencies I worked with to apply standards. Fortunately for them, they listened. It made life so much easier.

MichelleP 07-26-2012 10:19 PM

*groan*  Seriously?  Didn't we already have this kind of problem *last* century??? We can't allow disagreements to split us again.  Nearly 2 decades fighting this kind of issue with standardization, and the people who are supposed to make our lives more streamlined go and complicate the landscape like this. smh *sigh*

MichelleP 07-26-2012 10:21 PM

Anthony, I'm right there with you.  The old school programmers are more likely to go with W3C, simply because it makes our lives easier to follow the standard that's led the way for nearly 20 years.

RobF 07-27-2012 8:43 AM

WHATWG let me see. I can not recall my programming instructors ever referencing WHATWG. HD DVD vs Blu-ray, Betamax, Betamax vs VHS etc.

Hands down I will be referencing W3C as I have for well over a decade. When I googled WHATWG the first thing I noticed was

"An unofficial collaboration of Web browser manufacturers and interested parties who wish to develop new technologies designed to allow authors to write and ..." Unofficial being the key thing I focused on. Without a definitive standard for reference for browser programmer and the standard for Web Professionals to reference and validate code. It almost seems logical that WHATWG should at most supply suggestions and case study to W3C and for W3C to remain the definitive source for standard and versioning. Not that it means much but thats my opinion.

replique montres 11-26-2013 10:32 PM

Panda is all about Content and Penguin trap low quality links. Thanks for making me clear about these algo updates.

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