Web Devout tidings

Archive for the 'Specifications' Category

W3C to resume HTML standard development

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Tim Berners-Lee, the W3C director and inventor of the Web, recently made a blog post announcing plans to charter a new HTML working group to make incremental additions to the HTML standard. In his post, he acknowledged problems with getting the Web switched over to XHTML, and determined that such a progression must be done more gradually.

Some things are clearer with hindsight of several years. It is necessary to evolve HTML incrementally. The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn’t work. The large HTML-generating public did not move, largely because the browsers didn’t complain.

One of the chief problems with the adoption of XHTML is the complete lack of support by Internet Explorer and a number of search engines and other user agents. As a result, webpages that are marked up as XHTML are often sent to the browser using the text/html content type instead of the proper application/xhtml+xml content type, thus causing browsers to treat the page like HTML instead of XHTML. This has lead to lots of “bad” XHTML that, if a browser was to attempt to treat like real XHTML, would completely fall apart. More problems with XHTML are discussed in the Beware of XHTML article.

Tim Berners-Lee also mentioned the advent of the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHAT WG), an open standards organization that works separately from the W3C in attempt to more immediately address the interests of real-world web applications developers. WHAT WG is lead by Ian Hickson, who has participated in the development of both Opera and Mozilla products and currently works for Google. WHAT WG has received some criticism that it has departed from the ideals of the semantic web and some of the foundation of today’s established standards. Largely through Ian Hickson’s influence, Opera and Firefox have over the last few versions added support for a number of features in WHAT WG’s Web Applications 1.0 specification.

Berners-Lee hopes that with the chartering of the new HTML working group, parties that are interested in the development of the HTML standard will return from separate efforts like WHAT WG back to the W3C process.

The plan is to charter a completely new HTML group. Unlike the previous one, this one will be chartered to do incremental improvements to HTML, as also in parallel xHTML. It will have a different chair and staff contact. It will work on HTML and xHTML together. We have strong support for this group, from many people we have talked to, including browser makers.

W3C to standardize the Window object

Monday, April 10th, 2006

Following the recent XMLHttpRequest draft, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is continuing its move to define standards for common-in-practice technologies with a new Window object draft. The Window object is one of the oldest, most commonly used proprietary technologies for use on webpages, and the W3C has set out to define a minimal standard feature set for it.

The specification draft notes that dispite the name, which is “Window” for legacy reasons, the object is not limited to visual user agents. The Window object extends the previously standardized DOM Level 2 AbstractView interface and provides interfaces for document locations and time-based events.

Several commonly supported features of the Window object, such as history navigation, dynamic generation of new windows, alerts, and prompts, are not yet covered in this draft. The draft is only a work-in-progress and is expected to be superceded by following drafts.

W3C to standardize the XMLHttpRequest object

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published the first working draft for the XMLHttpRequest object.

XMLHttpRequest is a popular tool for making dynamic requests on webpages to remote servers. It is the cornerstone for what has come to be known as AJAX. It was originally implemented by Internet Explorer 5.0 as an ActiveX object, followed by Mozilla 1.0 as a native object, and then Opera 8.0 as a simple native frontend to the W3C-standardized DOM Load and Save model, currently unsupported by Internet Explorer and Mozilla browsers. Internet Explorer 7 will offer the object natively like Mozilla and Opera.

Although DOM Load and Save became a W3C Recommendation in April 2004, its lack of support and relative difficulty of use has made it less attractive to web developers than the much simpler XMLHttpRequest object. Two years later, the W3C has acknowledged the popularity of XMLHttpRequest and is now attempting to standardize a minimal implementation of the object based on the WHATWG’s research on existing behavior in modern web browsers.

From the draft:

The XMLHttpRequest object is implemented today, in some form, by many popular Web browsers. Unfortunately the implementations are not completely interoperable. The goal of this specification is to document a minimum set of interoperable features based on existing implementations, allowing Web developers to use these features without platform-specific code. In order to do this, only features that are already implemented are considered. In the case where there is a feature with no interoperable implementations, the authors have specified what they believe to be the most correct behavior.

This specification is currently a working draft and is thus subject to change.