W3C begins HTML refresh effort

HTML has arguably been the single most important technology involved in the exchange of ideas and information for the past dozen years. Many of its underpinnings are taken for granted because it has been close to a decade since the last major revision to the language was formalized, in the form of 1998's HTML 4. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has decided to reopen discussion on the evolution of HTML and its data/text-blended cousin, XHTML, in the form of new standards-making working groups.

The new HTML working group, co-chaired by a W3C representative and a Microsoft executive, is scheduled to produce a finalized working draft of the new HTML specification by the second quarter of 2008, with its final recommendation to be submitted in Q3 2010. In parallel, W3C will advance its work on XHTML 2.0. The last working draft of that language was published in July 2006.

In the announcement declaring its intentions, W3C was candid about the failure of its vision in 2000 to migrate desktop users from HTML to the XHTML standard. "Leaders in the Web developer and design communities therefore urged W3C to renew its commitment to HTML by adding new features," W3C said. The organization is leaving open the possibility that it may change the name to help clarify the different roles for the two technologies, as XHTML has become more of an infrastructure than an end-user asset.