HTML and CSS Reference
XHTML 2.0 had a lot of things going for it and, if it had really taken off, would have made the web a more
consistent place instead of the Wild West of bad markup that exists today. But it suffered from a fatal flaw that
made it practically a nonstarter: It wasn't backward compatible. That meant that if you had a perfectly valid
HTML 4 site, you would have to throw that site out and start from scratch to make it XHTML 2.0-compliant.
In addition, jumping back to 2004, the speed at which the W3C was innovating the web was slow as molasses,
with the last update to the HTML 4 standard, HTML 4.01, having been released four years previously in 2000.
In response to disappointment over the XHTML 2.0 standard, an offshoot known as the Web Hypertext Ap-
plication Technology Working Group (WHATWG) formed in 2004. The WHATWG was made up of members
from Apple, Mozilla, and Opera, and it immediately began to work on a new standard. Fast forward to 2007
and the standard the WHATWG had been working on over the previous three years and which had been gaining
some significant momentum is proposed to the W3C as the starting point for a new standard called HTML5, to
be developed concurrently with XHTML 2.
The W3C relented and started working on HTML5, pushing out the first working draft at the beginning of
2008. Furthermore, it abandoned XHTML 2.0 in 2009 when it let the charter of the working group that was
developing the spec expire, an acceptance of the reality of the time that XHTML was a dead standard.
Looking Toward HTML6? HTML7? Nope, Just HTML5
In January 2011, the editor of the HTML5 spec at the WHATWG, Ian Hickson, announced that the working
group was going to treat the HTML5 spec as a “living document” that would continue to be updated and worked
on indefinitely. The W3C was still going to release an official snapshot of HTML5, but the document itself will
continue to be updated as new technical recommendations come in.
What does that mean for developers? On the good side, there's lots of cool stuff coming down the pipeline
that will take it from idea to single browser implementation to being well supported and in the specification—in
a fraction of the time that it used to take. As a developer you're going to get lots of goodies, which makes it a
fun time to be building stuff. On the down side, there's a lot of stuff coming down the pipeline, such as direct
access to video cameras and support for joypads, but browser fragmentation is again a big issue, as well as just
keeping up with everything going on.
Going to the Spec
One of the great things about the HTML5 spec is that it's readable. Even though it's a document aimed at
browser implementers, it's nonetheless an incredibly useful document for web developers and worth checking
out whenever you need to figure something out authoritatively. A lot of times, the spec can answer your question
more efficiently than the normal practice of Googling for the answer. If you haven't been there already, take
a quick visit to the permanent home of the HTML spec, “Living Standard,” which is permanently housed at
The next time you look something up, such as the parameters to a variation of drawImage , spend a bit of
time getting comfortable with the format and organization of the spec, because it provides the easiest way to
look up specific features of HTML5. Only when there's a nonstandard implementation or not yet a spec for a
feature should you start elsewhere.