19 May 2011

Yes, HTML5 is at Last Call

Updated: May 23, 2011

A popular post here at Burningbird is the one titled No, HTML5 is NOT at Last Call. I wrote it in 2009, when the HTML5 editor, Ian Hickson, made a unilateral call for Last Call because of the status of the document in WHATWG.

However, times change. HTML5 is now heading into W3C Last Call status, beginning with a poll of members about publishing HTML5 and several other documents:

Currently there are No votes in the LC poll against publishing the HTML5 document, the Microdata document, and the HTML5+RDFa document. Most of the No votes are politics, as usual. However, I do expect at least one formal objection vote in the poll. The Accessibility Task Force asked that the HTML WG co-chairs re-open the decision on longdesc, and if they didn't, the Accessibility TF was prepared to issue a Formal Objection.

One of the co-chairs, Paul Cotton, noted the different Poll options including one for Formal Objection, and suggested the Accessibility TF respond to the poll is such a way as to reflect their views on this issue. Daniel Glazman did respond with a No vote, listing the longdesc issue (among others). However, someone needs to respond with a Formal Objection if they want to ensure a FO is recorded for publishing the HTML5 document with longdesc in the current state.

Politics are definitely playing themselves out with the HTML5+RDFa vote, and somewhat with the Microdata vote. I don't expect Microdata to thrive, primarily because there is no real community support for it. The only time you see community support for Microdata is when someone challenges its usefulness. Frankly, though, I don't care one way or another about Microdata, as long as it is not in the HTML5 specification.

However, there is significant community support for RDFa, as well as real world implementations. The No votes on RDFa do not reflect the reality of what is. For people who keep using the excuse of backwards compatibility for all actions, I'm surprised that they would advocate breaking backwards compatibility with RDFa. One could think they're trying to sabotage the very existence of RDFa with their actions.

Update: Since I first published this post a couple of hours ago, formal objections to several documents have been recorded against the Useful Text Alternatives document, and the HTML/XHTML (Polyglot) Compatibility Authoring Guide.

Really, the only document passing through the process unscathed is the Canvas 2D specification.

Update 2: There is chatter about the poll in the WHATWG IRC. I've highlighted the relevant entries. The chatter is actually quite interesting and informative.

Some folks asked what this poll, and Last Call, mean. First as to the poll, from a WHATWG IRC entry:

Since Last Call publication is necessary for progress of the group and this is a non-technical question, we will decide it by counting votes. A quorum for these votes is at least 50 working group participants, including at least half of the 54 participating W3C member organizations. Provided we have a quorum and at least 2/3rds of the non-blank votes are 'yes', the question carries.

The relevant section in the W3C process.

This demonstrates why it's essential for members to vote in this poll: the poll requires both a quorum of members, as well as a positive vote of 2/3rds of the non-blank votes for the question to carry.

The W3C has documentation on the Technical Recommendation Track including the purpose for Last Call. I think of it as a way of presenting a relatively stable document to the public and other technical groups, asking for commentary.

Update 3: And the quorum requirement has been met. Still only a disappointing number of voters—76 out of 419. However, the poll still runs two more days, and some folks wait until the end.

Last Update And the poll is finished.

If I correctly understand how the poll results are tabulated, a quorum of members has been met, and all of the documents have received enough Yes votes to proceed.