HTML5 won't be finished for another three years, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has warned.
On Monday, the standards body said that it has extended the charter of its group hammering out HTML5, with plans to advance the proposed spec to last-call status in May. Then we wait – for three years.
The group gave as the reason the fact that it is developing a comprehensive test suite "to achieve broad interoperability for the full specification by 2014, the target date for Recommendation."
Jeff Jaffe, W3C chief executive, said that testing is vital, given HTML's importance as a cornerstone of the web.
"Even as innovation continues, advancing HTML5 to Recommendation provides the entire Web ecosystem with a stable, tested, interoperable standard. The decision to schedule the HTML5 Last Call for May 2011 was an important step in setting industry expectations. Today we take the next step, announcing 2014 as the target for Recommendation."
The decision can be read as an attempt by the W3C to try to dampen down the heat and unrealistic expectations that have been building around HMTL5 in the last year.
Steve Jobs spent 2010 hyping HTML5 as the future of the web in his war to keep the iPhone and iPad free of Flash, deliberately conflating the unfinished spec to include CSS3.
The Jobsian HTML5 fever hit the W3C last month, when it released an HTML5 logo that also succumbed to conflation, by saying it covered HTML5 with CSS, along with SVG and WOFF. The group later apologized, but the logo remains as something you can slap on any web site without undergoing any certification or testing to prove your HTML5 cred.
Microsoft contracted the Jobsian plague ahead of the W3C late last year. Chief executive Steve Ballmer told a major Microsoft developer conference that HTML5 would be the glue that binds his company's strategy of "three screens and a cloud" – the three screens being PC, phone, and TV. Until then, Microsoft had been pushing its proprietary Silverlight media player as the best media technology for spanning different devices on the web.
Microsoft claims "extensive built-in support for various industry standards including HTML5" in the Internet Explorer 9 Release Candidate, released last week.
Based on Microsoft's IE release schedule of a new browser every two years and considering IE9 is coming this year, it's likely to be 2015 before Microsoft can genuinely claim an HTML5-compliant browser for the PC. Before that, we should expect another noncompliant browser in 2013.
The Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) has also been adding pressure. That group is pushing for HTML5 to be considered as a finished work.
WHATWG blogged last month that it has determined that HTML5 is more "mature than any specification to date" and that it's senseless to keep calling HTML5 a draft. WHATWG was founded in 2004 by Apple, Mozilla Foundation, and Opera Software, and claims to represent people who are unable to join the W3C's working group.®