Anne van Kesteren

Meaning of “Recommendation”

I wonder if the 2022 debacle is in part due to terminology confusion. That is, the meaning of “W3C Recommendation” changed over time. (Arguably it varies per W3C Working Group too.) When CSS 1, CSS 2, and HTML 4 were created, W3C Recommendation meant that the responsible Working Group was done with their work and it was now up to implementors and authors to start adopting it. Around the start of development on CSS 2.1, W3C Recommendation was changed to mean a specification that has proven itself in the market place. One that is implemented to the letter by at least two implementations in identical fashion (interoperable), is used by authors, and is generally found useful. XML 1.0 is a good example of a W3C Recommendation with the more recent meaning. (Though even XML 1.0 is still tweaked based on experience gained with using, testing, and implementing it.)

What used to be known as W3C Recommendation (in the HTML 4 era) is something we now know as Last Call Working Draft or maybe Candidate Recommendation. Using the new terminology, Ian expects HTML5 to become a Last Call Working Draft in 2009 and W3C Recommendation in 2022. So it’s actually quite close given that the latter date is not that meaningful. On top of that, HTML5 features are already shipping in various browsers today.

(The W3C HTML WG charter suggests end 2010 as W3C Recommendation date, though some deadlines are already missed.)