The annual TPAC meeting is when standards people involved with W3C specifications get together to see if they can more easily hammer out issue resolutions face to face, rather than in endless email discussions. I suppose we can liken the event to finally meeting that really hot person you connected up with on Facebook—it’s a big of a crap shoot whether anything useful comes of the meeting.
Opera was kind enough to provide company rep impressions of the different meetings, though the W3C is the only entity that can provide official reports.
Among the items I was glad to see was the decision—finally—to publish WebSQL as a Working Group (WG) Note. What that means, boys and girls, is that this spec is dead, and we can finally drop it from our list of HTML5 technologies. Of course it never was HTML5, but that’s beside the point.
The comment on Web Sockets doesn’t reflect the recent findings of security problems and browsers disabling support for Web Sockets. We can all learn from Web Sockets, and how the race to be first isn’t the same as the need to be best.
There was a discussion about redefining previously defined presentational elements such as <s>, <small>, and others as semantic elements. I was glad to see that this discussion happened, because it makes little sense to talk about backwards compatibility, and then redefine a presentational element for semantic use. However, no conclusions was reached, which I guess means that the group broke up and went off to have a beer.
Sometimes I think “semantics” is used as a sort of all purpose lubricant to stuff whatever some folks want into HTML5.
I was not happy seeing the following statement, about accessibility and HTML5:
The a11y Task Force made a list of user requirements (about 100). During the meeting Frank Olivier from Microsoft went through the requirements with the HTML WG and we organized them. It turns out about 10 of them are applicable to the HTML5 specification and are not addressed yet. The HTML WG Co-Chairs as well as the W3C Interaction Domain Lead put their foot down with respect to accessibility potentially delaying the HTML5 Last Call. It was made clear that HTML5 is time driven, not feature driven. So if the work on these requirements is not complete by May next year, it will not happen.
One area of major failing at the W3C is how accessibility has been handled. The W3C initiates working groups that create specifications such as Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA), but even before this spec has a chance to be rolled out as a finished work, the W3C undercuts the work by demanding native implementation of most of the ARIA features in HTML5.
The HTML5 Accessibility WG people seem to be spinning their wheels and dragging their feet, but the problem really is that the HTML5 editor keeps tweaking, adding, and removing things that impact on accessibility, forcing the group into a constant state of motion, just trying to stay in step with what’s going on.
The focus is on the “cool” stuff, like HTML5 video and captioning, at the expense of the more mundane, like alt, longdesc, table summary—yet the majority of web pages will never use any of the cool stuff, but will make use of the mundane. What makes this all even more fun is that because we don’t support that old thing deprecation in HTML5 working land, when something like longdesc is pulled, it’s just plain gone. End of story. It is now obsolete. There is no period where the attribute is deprecated, which not only would give folks a heads up about coming obsolescence of the attribute, but also provide an alternative for the attribute’s functionality.
However, seamless transitions are old fashioned—abrupt changes and disconnects are so much more hip.
The HTML5 co-chairs, rather than ensuring all voices are heard equally, have somehow managed to drive all useful discussion out of the HTML5 WG email list to bug reports, which has the advantage of being out of sight, out of mind. They’ve confused the Last Call commenting with bug reporting, encouraged outsiders to comment, but only if they become insiders for the group. They created a working group procedure that ties the working group up in procedures so that procedures are not discussed in the working group email list—which has now become an archive for bug reports, including some really cute ones that come in from the commenting form in the WhatWG HTML5 document, typically consisting of words like, This damn thing has broken my browser….FIX IT!!!!
So to participate in Last Call commenting you kind of have to become some kind of insider, though the whole purpose of Last Call commenting was to get comments from those outside the group…but hey, the majority of insiders in the HTML5 are outsiders, anyway, because the HTML5 WG co-chairs more or less just gives the HTML5 editor whatever he wants because, as we’ve come to find out, the HTML5 specification is being held hostage by a handful of browser vendors who really don’t give a damn what we need or want, because they’re too busy outdoing each other with cool stuff. Like Web Sockets.
Personally, I can’t wait for the official W3C reports on TPAC. Then I can really tell you what I think.