Hot in web standards: November/December 2012

I doubt many of you can think about web standards at this time of the year, with the holidays just around the corner and the Christmas songs loops in practically every public place. However, W3C WGs have their own gifts for you during this festive season: there have been many exciting developments lately in a number of open web platform technologies. I will try to cover them as concisely as possible, so that I don’t steal too much of your precious pre-holiday gift-buying time. Have fun!

HTML5 going to CR land

In the September/October article, I mentioned the HTML WG’s two-year plan of moving HTML5 forward. If anyone thought it was unfeasible, hopefully their doubts will start going away: HTML5 went to Candidate Recommendation (CR) status yesterday, on 17 December 2012. CR means that a spec is pretty stable, features are frozen, and testing will begin in earnest... think of it as the release branch. This is a very important step for the adoption of HTML5 from the part of the industry outside our generally progressive circles.

FPWD of HTML 5.1

As HTML5 went to CR yesterday, a FPWD of HTML 5.1 was also published. Right now it includes few new features, but mostly things that weren’t stable enough for HTML5. In the next course of months, expect much more new hawtness to be added to it – so if you’re interested, keep it in your radar!

<main> element

Ever since most developers started using the new semantic elements in HTML5, they realised one of them was conspicuously absent: an element to mark up the main content area of the page. The recommended best practice was that we could use ARIA for this, marking it up with <div role="main">, which we duly followed. Recently, some members of the HTML WG reconsidered this idea and Steve Faulkner wrote a draft extension spec that defines a <main> element with the semantics of ARIA role="main". Later, it was discussed in the HTML WG mailing list and there were no objections for it to move forward as a First Public Working Draft (FPWD), so it’s probably here to stay!

HTML5 extension specifications

Notice anything odd about the new feature I described above? Instead of being added to a monolithic HTML5 spec, it’s a separate 'extension specification'. In general, there are efforts to modularise HTML5 more, just like CSS did after CSS 2.1. You can read more about this strategy in the HTML WG’s plan for HTML5 or check out a list of existing extension specs.

The Pointer Events saga

In the past few years, we realised that the web is more diverse than we originally thought. Different resolutions, different pixel densities, different input devices... to address the latter, Apple released a touch events API, to be used with touchscreens such as the iPhone or iPad. However, this was never submitted for standardisation and when attempts were made towards that direction, Apple made it clear that they would not grant royalty-free licenses on any patents they may have there. Therefore, it was made clear that a new API was needed to address this increasingly common use case. Microsoft proposed a new Pointer Events specification, whose goal was to address not only touchscreens but any kind of pointer device. Recently, it was published as a FPWD, as implemented in IE10. There is currently an internal debate going on about whether Google's implementation of this will be accepted into the WebKit trunk, which you can read on its mailing list.

Screen Orientation API

After a few months of inactivity, a second WD of the Screen Orientation API was published. If you’re a mobile web app developer, I’m sure you’ll love this new API. It will enable us not only to detect orientation changes, but also to lock the orientation to whatever we please.

Push API

We’ve discussed the Push API before in this column. In June, I wrote about its first Editor’s Draft (ED). It sounded very promising, and it’s good to see it moving forward. A FPWD was finally published in October 18th and was debated shortly after at TPAC, in the Webapps WG meetings. Apparently, there are still a number of issues that are holding it back. However, it’s great that efforts are being made in that direction. After decades where the best way for real-time updates in web apps was polling, it fills me with hope that a much more efficient way is just around the corner!

Animations API

CSS animations were met with enthusiasm by the developer community, back when they were introduced a few years ago. However, working with them through script through the CSS OM can be painful, especially if you are trying to synchronise them with each other. The Animations API is intended to serve as the underlying model that CSS animations and SMIL are built on top of, provide more fine-grained control over them than the current ways to access them through script and a way to synchronise different animations. There are already thoughts about implementing it in WebKit, despite its early stage.

FPWD of CSS Masking

We’ve discussed CSS Masking before, during this summer. If it sounded good to you back then, you’d be happy to know that it’s moving forward and got published as a Working Draft in November.

WOFF becomes a Recommendation

After many years of turmoil, the WOFF font packaging format finally became a W3C Recommendation on 11 December. Recommendation status is the most stable stage a specification can aspire to.

W3C breaks record: 38 Working Drafts published in one day

If you needed a reminder that the Open Web Platform is growing fast, here it is: in advance of the holiday publishing break, W3C broke one of its records, publishing 38 updated specifications on a single day, 11 December. Some of these include WOFF as a Recommendation, an updated WD of CSS Fonts Level 3 and the FPWD of Pointer Events. As if that wasn't enough, 17 more were published over the next few days as well.

W3Conf rescheduled for 21-22 February: registration open

In the July/August instalment of this series, I announced the 2nd W3Conf, which we were hoping to run in November 2012. At some point we realised that it was impossible to organise a conference of the quality we wanted in so little time. It was a hard dilemma, but we decided to postpone it for 21-22 Feburary 2013, which will give us more time to prepare. We believe it will be so awesome that it will be totally worth the extra wait! We already have a brilliant line-up, with folks like Eric Meyer, Alexis Deveria, Brian Leroux, Joshua Davis, Paul Bakaus and others (yes, yes, I’m speaking there too) and a lot more exciting speakers that haven’t been announced yet. Even better, since W3C is non-profit, we kept the ticket very affordable, at only $300/£187 (early bird) for two days filled with knowledge!

Huge thanks to Doug Schepers for his feedback and contributions

Words: Lea Verou

Lea works as a developer advocate for the W3C. She has a long-standing passion for open web standards, which she fulfills by researching new ways to use them, blogging, speaking, writing, and coding popular open source projects to help fellow developers.