back to article Major HTML update unveiled

The first major update to HTML in 10 years - factoring in changing tastes around rich-media applications and online collaboration - has been unveiled by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The group has published the first public working draft for what it termed a "major revision" to the mark-up language. Much has changed …


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  1. amanfromMars Silver badge

    IT's the Real Thing .....

    "[Fire up the hookah, boys - Ed]" ..... ? :-) Very Transcandental.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    "Working Group"

    "Members include Google, IBM, Microsoft, Mozilla and Nokia"

    "HTML 5 is designed to inject more consistency into the ways vendors and end users have gone about building today's generation of sites"

    Considering Microsoft's efforts to spoil / start and win a war on Open Document Standards, I think ratification of HTML 5 might happen around 2020 at the earliest...

  3. E


    I heard through my friend at the W3C that the new spec will be incompatible with emacs, but fully support vi. It seems the people at the W3C had finally seen the light.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please, no, really

    HTML is complex enough and has grown far too much already. Scrap it. Why is it that any full featured web-browser is a huge behemoth, even the supposedly lightweight ones such as Opera or Firefox? HTML is so big, poorly structured and historically lenient of errors that any HTML parser is by necessity a sizable chuck of code in its own right.

    Leave it to become obsolescent and upgrade XHTML and related standards instead. Provided the current lack of tolerance to mal-formed documents is preserved we have a much better chance of getting it right the second time around.

    Who knows? We might even get a world wide web that actually works properly.

  5. Herby

    Microsoft, eh?

    If they support the standard (standard, that is what we do, just ask us!), maybe IE will follow it (not bloody likely if you ask me).

    The standard needs to say something like: If it is broken, you must reject it! Only then will you get standards based stuff.

    Just makes more trouble for web developers, more browsers to support.

    Please bring back plain text! (especially for email!). Gotta go now...

  6. Rodrigo

    only 7 years left...

    to have spotty support in IE.

    Holding my breath

  7. Ben Ruset

    Browser Support

    And in 10 years maybe most browsers will get around to supporting it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do I have this correctly?

    Another version of HTML is meant to "inject more consistency" - hmmm. Like fruit salad. Shurely shome misteak.

  9. Chris Walsh

    HTML5 vs XHTML2 & what about user agent support

    Wow, now we have to decide whether we should build our sites using HTML 5 or it's XHTML cousin. All sounds quite exciting!

    I wonder when we will expect to see HTML 5 supported in user agents. I bet the Mozilla crowd get there before Microsoft. There! I have thrown down the gauntlet... :-)

  10. Adam Azarchs

    Why do we need this?

    Isn't (or shouldn't) XHTML more or less replacing html anyway? Why not just put old-fashioned html to bed altogether?

    That objection aside, making more consistent a precise rules for recovering from parse errors is much-needed. Some of my web-design work has seen errors which Internet Explorer recovers from gracefully, and even produces the intended output, but which causes Firefox to just crash or go into an infinite loop.

  11. Jay Zelos

    HTML5 is XHTML 2


    My understanding is that HTML 5 is a fully XML compliant SGML rather than HTML 4.0 on speed. The major issue will be like with WAI 2, how much pointless "we want you to buy X" rubbish makes it into the final version. WAI 2 was watered down so much by companies with product to sell it was self defeating.


  12. Anonymous Coward


    Imagine the new vulnerabilities, erm, i mean possibilities.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    My bullshit generator detector went to 11.

  14. Svein Skogen

    Unless the standard includes

    Unless the standard includes a requirement for servers to redirect semi-compatible (read: Intentionally incompatible) browsers to a standardized page listing actually compliant browsers, this will have exactly zero impact on cleaning up the mess with supporting pages for broken-by-design browsers.

    The standard should also include requirements for compliant browsers to automatically reject pages that use proprietary extensions that is impossible for all browsers to render correctly. And no, I'm not talking about flash, I'm talking about garbage like ActiveX on pages.

    Of course introducing such requirements for compliant products would mean Microsoft shafts this standard like they shafted the ODF group to create their own "standard", but since this is likely to happen anyway, I don't see the problem.


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  16. Anonymous Coward

    @ AC RE:Please, no, really

    I think its more of a case of Poor coding by people that dont know what they are doing and people doing websites in programs like word or front page

    Not the HTML its self

    "Who knows? We might even get a world wide web that actually works properly."

    That will never happen since anyone can put up a site these days

  17. John Angelico


    [Grytppype Thynne] Moriarty, get a floor-cloth and mop up those Huzzahs...

    Yes, that's the one, thanks.

  18. Andy Jones

    Microsoft involvement

    If Microsoft are involved then expect to see the announcement of MS OpenHTML soon, which will only work with Internet Explorer!

  19. Ian


    Just as I thought we'd got a way from a messy, immature web and were moving to a more mature, clean, accessible web the W3C go and legitimise this awful standard.

    Last thing we need is a new "HTML for children" standard to prolong the problems the web has suffered pretty much since it's creation. HTML5 puts even more of a burden on web browsers than any other HTML standard ever before and they couldn't get it right previously so how the hell can they be expected to get and even more messy, ambiguous spec right?

  20. Eddie Edwards

    Restrict the license

    Rather than changing the standard to "fix" the Microsoft problem, why not sell an HTML 5 license for $10K together with a contract that says "if you don't pass this array of conformance tests you don't get to put the code into any public app".

    And have a reference implementation.

    OK, I'm dreaming, back to work.

  21. James Dunmore

    In Answer to Why not XHTML

    I (could be wrong), but always thought that HTML was the language, and XHTML was just the way you should use it and put it together.

    ......HTML is the language, but XHTML is just the standard you should use when implementing it (bit like programming languages and design patterns).

    Therefore with HTML 5, they will just update the w3c scheme to reflect the new elements, and therefore you have XHTML compliant HTML5.0

  22. Duncan Hothersall

    So much misunderstanding in one thread!

    HTML 5 *is* XHTML which is an XML document type.

    Being XML it is also Unicode, meaning that it is of course compatible with any text editor (was this a joke?).

    As far as criticisms of W3C's standards work go, I find it extraordinary that the one organisation which has been consistent and successful in promulgating useful standards for the web should be subject to criticism on the basis of how others - browser vendors and SVG vendors - have responded in the marketplace. Adobe's decision to dump SVG was a commercial one, nothing to do with the standard's efficacy. And surely we all know by now that the problem with CSS 2 support was IE's implementation, IE-specific web development, and the commercial interests of browser developers in general.

    Web users need to get behind W3C's efforts to ensure wide and full implementation of web standards, and stop moaning about issues that, apparently, half of us don't even understand.

  23. David Rollinson

    <table> still required for layout though

    It doesn't look like they've addressed one of the big bugbears of HTML/XHTML/CSS though; all the recommendations are not to use <table> for layout, but with current browsers its the only way to get a layout to work (yes I've tried <div> ing and <span> ing 'til the cows come home!).

    They need to address layout by having a table-like set of tags that can be ignored/understood by non-visual user-agents (readers etc.)

  24. Matt Bradley
    Gates Horns

    @ Eddie Edwards

    Excellent idea: some sort of software patent held by W3C: patent based on DTD, licensing is conditional on the following terms:

    1] If you support any part of the DTD, you must support it *all*

    2] You must not support proprietary extensions of the DTD without prior approval from W3C, and without providing full documentation of those extensions, and an open licence for other implement same.

    Any attempt to implement by M$ to implement a "lookalikee" standard (ODF / OOXML, anybody), will swiftly be batted down by a quick patent violation trial.

    This needs to happen. I for one am *SICK TO DEATH* of having to convert documents to and from Microsoft world, whether it be OOXML, JScript / Javascript / ECMAScript or horrible MSHTML.

    As for the new HTML 5 standard: I do hope this really is based in the real world, in contrast to some of the more outlandish thought processes that seemed to go into CSS 1 / 2... floated element clearing and element height / containment rules, for instance.

  25. Bill Coleman

    @Please, no, really AC

    The sprawling html mess was recognised at html3 - html4 with the xhtml dtd and css was a huge step towards rectifying the situation. And it seems this is another big step. AJAX is a hack and it's grown out of control. html5 is a way of providing dynamic pages without the javascript overhead nightmare. So contrary to other poster's opinions, it will actually reduce the burden on browsers (e.g run-time script interpretation), while increasing security (less JS workaround vulnerabilities). Secure, dynamic content with a standardised DOM and without RoR/Mootools/whatever? Yes please! I welcome it very much thank you!

    I'm just dreading the IE8/9 implementation... with IE5+ MS used their IE monopoly to deliberately mis-render CSS, forcing developers to code specifically for IE, thus making sites appear broken in other standards compliant browsers. If they do this with html 5, I'm going to beat monkey boy to death with a thin client!

  26. Dan Clarke

    Has anyone actually read the change spec?

    It's actually a pretty good job of accepting and codifying some things that are already being widely done by all the major browsers and trying to provide simple ways forward to allow HTML to handle some of the demands of AJAX-like functionality, thereby cutting down on reams and reams of the god-awful javascript that is causing so many of the recent security holes.

    Jesus, people: this isn't slashdot.

  27. breakfast Silver badge

    @David Rollinson

    Are you writing through some kind of time rift from 1999? Have you upgraded your browser past Netscape Navigator 4? The problems of semantically clean cross browser design have been solved time and again in many different ways. Just look at a few web design sites or blogs and you will find hundreds of different solutions to the problem you're regarding as insurmountable.

    Any wood turner could take a lathe and a set of chisels, put a decent piece of wood in and make something useful with it. I'm pretty sure I couldn't, but I'm not going to blame the lathe, chisels or wood for that.

  28. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Also in answer to why not XHTML

    If you'd *followed the link* in the article to the W3C page and scrolled down to the "Syntax" section, you'd have your answer. Here's the link again...

    Ironically, HTML's great innovation was the link. It seems that some folks haven't "gotten it" yet. Still, it's only been twenty years.

  29. Hayden Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    It's not proper XML.

    Look at the <dialog> tag - a stupidness in itself.

    <dialog> <dt>name1 <dd> text1 <dt>name2 <dd> text2 </dialog>

    Note the lack of trailing </dt> or </dd> elements (like </td> for table cells)

    This is real standards-munter badness.

  30. Keith T

    National Irony Day?

    "Web sites have moved from being a collection of static pages to media-rich communities leveraging participation."

    Thanks for that - I'll be chuckling all day - -especially having just read the thread on Web 2.0.

    Maybe it should read "Web sites have moved from being a collection of static pages to media-rich communities leveraging participation comprising of the old static stuff having Java thrown at it."

    (does 'participation' mean 'sales'? by any chance)

  31. Ivor

    @Hayden Clark

    Sigh. Did you read the bit two paragraphs above the dialog bit about text/html mode vs xml mode?

  32. A J Stiles

    Table-free layout

    I did a really beautiful site using CSS instead of tables for layout. I used the correct combination of absolute and relative positioning and everything. It looked absolutely gorgeous in Konqueror (my browser of choice), and only slightly less gorgeous in Firefox (mainly due to the latter jarring against my desktop theme; ignoring the window dressing, the site was how it was meant to look).

    Then one of the beancounters opened it in IE6, and it looked shite. At least my expand/collapse JavaScript still worked, though.

    Why must Microsoft insist to behave differently from everyone else? If I asked for a background colour in a div, I expect the whole div to appear with that background colour. Like the standard says, and like Konqueror and Firefox do. Is that really so hard?

  33. David Rollinson


    View the source for this page; <table> is still being used for layout (as opposed to tabular data); surely El Reg must be able to code for "semantically clean cross browser design"?

  34. Paul Taylor

    Still way inferior to TeX

    All web-related software is a huge pile of crap, that only ever seems to get bigger and crappier.

    When he invented HTML and HTTP, Tim Berners-Lee was at CERN, surrounded by mathematicians and physicists. At least a significant proportion of these people must already have been using LaTeX. Yet after two decades, the typographical output of web browsers is still way inferior to what TeX could produce when Don Knuth first released it. I say that <i>even for plain text</i> - whilst there are very good programs like Hevea for translating a decent language (LaTeX) into HTML/CSS crap, the result on the web browser is still awful.

  35. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    @John Angelico

    I would have thought that this would have been better attributed to Major Bloodnock and Bluebottle

    [Bluebottle] ...pausing only to pull out his Boy Scout special all purpose handkerchief, he wipes up the Huzzahs until coming across the recumbant form of Private Eccles.

  36. Carl Garner

    So Microsoft...

    ..are part of the group, but we all know that when HTML 5 is released, they will re-write the browser to only support the bits that they support along with adding in features that they feel are missing!

    I'm glad i'm free of Windows at work now - I love my Linux box!

  37. Alan
    Thumb Up

    At least...

    the CSS 3 spec is looking better. The mailing list discussion has been very positive and productive.

    Shame html 5 looks like mind piss.

  38. tim chubb

    big deal is?

    its another standard big deal,

    to be fair might do some useful things like make an elegant way to embed flash in markup...

    something like <flash src="some.swf" id"...

    all id really want then is a simple 2d polygon generation in markup (just a circle would suffice) and vertical positioning that worked properly...

    probably wishful thinking but never mind

  39. Anonymous Coward

    To <table> or <div>

    Simple formulae:

    <table> elements react to content.

    <div> elements react to context.

    The reason a site like El Reg would use <table> elements is because their content is king. It is supplied by a large number of authors and streams. Their layout must adapt to the content. They eschew tight layout control in favor of being able to deliver their content.

    <div> elements control the layout rigidly, and allow content to do things like overflow display areas, etc.

    It's quite possible to have this site use <div> tags, but then, they'd need an editor to act as "Kontent Kop," ensuring that all content fits within the layout.

    Here's what I mean:

    <div style="border:1px solid black;width:5em">Supercalifragilisticexpialidotious</div>

    <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" style="border:1px solid black"><tr><td style="width:5em">Supercalifragilisticexpialidotious</td></tr></table>

    I don't think we need a new tag for tabular layout. We already have one. It's called "<table>," and it's one of the oldest, most well-understood and robust elements in the lexicon.

  40. Chris Cheale

    RE: <table> still required for layout though

    Technically he's got a point. Use DIVs and CSS as much as you like there is no way to have 2 DIVs the same height (without defining that height).

    For example; you've got a menu on the left and content on the right with different coloured backgrounds - you want them both to be the same height no matter which has the "tallest" content.

    Currently 2 columns in a table do this perfectly.

    The only way to do it with DIVs is to put both in a "container DIV", give the container the background colour of say the "menu" and the "content" another background colour. Position the "menu" absolutely and give the "content" a "margin-left" the same width as the "menu".

    Now, to make IE display the same as everything else you have to ensure there's no padding on the "menu" since IE pads opposite to the standard (in rather than out). Then nest another DIV inside that menu (width: auto) to sort your padding out. Still with me? It does work and there's less markup involved but it feels like a dirty hack and uses a lot of CSS.

    However - this is all resolved in CSS3, so this is not really an HTML issue at all.

    Anyway - after having read the HTML 5 spec... it looks like XHTML2 without the modularisation (forms for instance rather than moving to xForms). There is actually some good stuff on the way but personally, I think I'll just move to XHTML2/CSS3 when they've matured.

  41. David Rollinson

    Re. To <table> or <div>

    A lot of the work I do is with automatically generated content, and tables work great for that; however I still end up using <table> to lay out controls and forms, just like the form I'm filling in now!

    the CSS properties for "display" (table, table-row, table-cell etc.) work fine in Firefox and Safari, and I can lay out <div> and <span> elements just like a table. But IE7 ignores them, just like the w3 specification says it can ( Works ok in Pocket IE though...

  42. Anonymous Coward

    About time too

    Anything that annoys the fanboys who've been mindlessly coding in XHTML for the last 5 years (or worse still, wasting time recoding existing HTML pages that display fine already to XHTML) without knowing *why* they were doing it - other than to copy/impress their 1337 cyberfriends - and then send them over HTTP as text/html is a good thing in my book.

    I haven't had so much fun since Russell T Davis said the TV movie was canon and credited Christoper Eccleston as "Doctor Who" in the end titles.

    Anyway, here's to hoping Firefox will pass the HTML4/CSS Acid2 test by the time HTML5 becomes a Recommendation...

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  44. David Arno
    Thumb Up

    HTML has layout tags already

    "They need to address layout by having a table-like set of tags that can be ignored/understood by non-visual user-agents (readers etc.)"

    They have this: it's called the table tag. The table tag is brilliant for laying out content that is readable in a text-only browser. The key is to actually check your design in a text-only browser (or Opera's text browser simulation) as you develop it. That way nasties can be caught and fixed early. As an added bonus, this method avoids the unreadable vile bodge that is DIVs & CSS used to do little more than simulate tables.

  45. The Mighty Biff

    Frames ?

    I've heard rumours that frames have been dropped in HTML 5.0.

    I know I could have a look at the spec meself, but I'm about to nip out for a paper, so I thought I'd harness the mighty opinionsphere that is the El Reg comments form instead.

    If true, it will be a bit of a pain. I know tha tpurists rather look down on frames, but I do find them to be useful on occasion.

  46. Paul

    for those who demand implementations...

    Note the following quote from the W3C statement of HTML 5 differences from HTML 4:

    "The HTML 5 specification will not be considered finished before there are at least two complete implementations of the specification. This is a different approach than previous versions of HTML had. The goal is to ensure that the specification is implementable and usable by designers and developers once it is finished."

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