Thoughts on a new charter for HTML


<DAN CONNOLLY TYPE="excerpt" Source="">
At 09:16 PM 5/13/98 -0500, you wrote:
>And keep in mind that debating stuff in the abstract
>is of limited value. This forum exists for the purpose
>of creating a specific document: a charter for future
>work on HTML. Specific text for the briefing package
>is most useful. About briefing packages, see:
> <>
>The real challenge in creating a briefing package is
>not so much the "what?" as the "why?". i.e. who
>needs this stuff? Why? What's the market window?
>Who benefits from the results enough to put in
>the time?

 After reading the briefing material, and looking at several previous charter
documents,here are my thoughts regarding 
the contents of the charter currently under development on this group. These
are my opinions only; please subject 
them to all due criticism. They are intended as a means to advance the

Among the best of the charters for working groups currently in use is the
charter for the XSL working group drafted
by Chris Lilley
I'll use this as a model for a 'strawman' proposal for 
a charter, intended to be duly torn apart by you, erstwhile critics all. Of
course much of this represents my own opinion
on the future of HTML. I doubt that many of you will agree on the goals and
purposes stated here. I have followed Dave SInger's 
model to some extent also.
Here is a text version. With these caveats then, allow me to respectfully
submit the following:

Scope (Why are we doing this?)
HTML is currently the base document markup language for the World Wide Web. In
view of the W3C’s stated purpose of developing industry standards for
commercial web publishing, this document proposes a new HTML Working Group to
revise, extend, and modify the existing HTML 4.0 recommendation [ref] with the
goal of producing a new standard. 
In the rapidly changing technical environment of web publishing, evolution of
fundamentally new technologies can result in radical changes in the role and
scope of existing ones. In the case of HTML, the task of producing a stable,
useful, extensible standard has been especially difficult. The introduction of
XML in response to the needs of publishers unmet by the current standards and
the vast array of new display devices means that changes are needed in the
existing specification 
HTML faces three explicit challenges, which must be surmounted in order to
continue to serve the needs of the publishing community: 
 The extensibility problem  HTML, despite the immense effort devoted to its
creation and specification, is currently lacking in the extensibility
to allow for rapidly changing web technology. This results in the misuse of
current markup, the addition of proprietary markup, and a general lack of
standardized results for web pages.  
 The scalability problem  HTML currently does not scale well across a diverse
set of display devices, either those currently available (webTV,
PalmPilots) or
those expected in the future (cell phones, automobiles, home appliances). This
limits accessibility and basically confines HTML’s role to large-scale browser
software suitable for personal computers. 
 The conformance problem  due to the weaknesses of HTML and its inability to
deal in a standard fashion with common publishing practices, current user
agents do not display the level of conformance to HTML standards desired in a
structured markup environment. In many cases, a given HTML document will
display remarkably differently even on the same platform when displayed in
different clients. Also, since HTML doesn’t provide services authors desire,
much of the published HTML on the web is of very low quality.

Given these three problems, members of the publishing community have expressed
interest in creating a new standard, designed to solve many of these
Specific goals for the next-generation of HTML are these, not necessarily in
any particular order: 
 The standard must provide a mechanism for modular extensibility to cope with
technological advances. To this end, it has been proposed that HTML be
rewritten to comply with the XML specification [ref]. This involves requiring
HTML documents to be well-formed and valid XML documents.  
 The standard must be stable. By narrowly redefining the role and scope of
and simultaneously developing the means whereby it can be easily extended, we
can develop a standard that does not need replacement in 18 months. 
 The standard must be scalable. Some methodology must be defined that allows
authors to determine the capabilities of the user’s client and to tailor the
HTML output specifically for that device. While certainly not every possible
device can be accommodated by HTML documents, HTML can, possibly along with
other web standards e.g. HTTP be profiled in such a way as to allow for
appropriate display in a large number of cases. 
 The standard must provide necessary services to authors of both high and low
end documents, including standard publishing devices such as columns, figures,
 The standard must be written in such a way as to promote automation of HTML
generation by application software. This will allow adequate tools to be built
for authoring and relieve authors of the necessity of hand authoring
as is done in the vast majority of cases currently. 
 The standard must make provision for preserving the value of HTML documents
already in existence. Authors of current documents are unlikely to rewrite
to conform to future standards (one very good reason for a stable standard!) 
While recognizing this, we must also recognize that solving the essential
challenge HTML faces will involve breaking changes to existing pages and
this as we go forward. 
 Deliverables (What, exactly do we propose to do?)Tangibles  
The primary deliverable for the new Working Group should be a well-written
specification of HTML 5.0. Along with the specification two other documents
should also be produced: a rationale that explains all changes to previous
standards and justifies the decisions made to develop the current standard,
a tutorial that explains the new standard to prospective users. The documents
should be separate from the standard itself, which should only contain
information necessary to define the new version of HTML.  
Other requirements  
Along with the specification development, two mailing lists need to be created
and monitored. One of these should be open only to members of the working
and another created as a SIG (special interest group) forum to which
members of the community may post suggestions and commentary. This list should
be monitored regularly by the group, though the group is not required to
respond in any way to the SIG’s comments. 
The group must recognize that a specification of the level of importance
and in
such wide use cannot be left without resources for maintenance and correction,
nor without well-developed plans for continuation of the work done, if
necessary. While Working Groups are limited in their terms of service,
sufficient thought must be given to further work in the area of development.  
Resources (What are the costs for this activity?)WG members  
The HTML WG should be limited to no more than 20 active members at any time.
Members should be chosen from those who answer a call to participate as in the
W3C guidelines, or from interested individuals who may be considered invited
experts. Time contributions should be 15% with the option of specifying an
Support personnel  
At least one W3C member should be permanently assigned to the task of
overseeing HTML activities, the WG, newsgroups, long term maintenance etc.
person should also oversee liaison activities with other concerned working
WG activities  
The HTML WG should schedule regular face to face meetings along with suitable
methods of discussion such as email and mailing lists. The face to face
meetings should be held often enough to allow the group to develop the
as a joint effort but not so often as to pose an undue burden financially on
consortium members. 
Timetable for Completion  
The HTML WG should initially be chartered for a period of 18-24 months to
assure completion of all tasks and to allow current activities of
importance to
mature as the specification is being written. Milestones for release of drafts
of working material should be set after the initial planning phase is
Relationship to other W3C activities (Who else should be involved?Working
of overlapping interest  
Here is a list of the other W3C working groups whose activities are related to
development of a new HTML standard: 
 A lot of others I am sure I missed. 
Liaison with other groupsThe HTML WG should assign members to liaison with
other working groups on an active basis.

Received on Monday, 18 May 1998 17:31:27 UTC