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Apple gets higher profile in HTML standardization

The group standardizing the fast-changing language of Web pages now has three leaders, and an Apple manager occupies the new seat.

An Apple manager has become a co-chairman of the group standardizing HTML, giving the company a higher-profile role in a crucial time for development of the language used to build Web pages.

The World Wide Web Consortium's HTML Working Group had been led by IBM's Sam Ruby and Microsoft's Chris Wilson. Wilson has stepped down and is being replaced by two others, Paul Cotton, who manages Microsoft's Web services standards team, and Maciej Stachowiak, who manages Apple's WebKit WebApps team, according to an e-mail announcement by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee.

"Why three co-Chairs?" Berners-Lee asked in the note. "Clearly, there is a lot of work to do. Sam, Paul, and Maciej bring particular skills to the job (whether it is Maciej's experience with WebKit or Paul's with Working Group processes)."

Indeed, the two new co-chairs arrive during a crucial time. The W3C stopped developing HTML with version 4.01 in 1999, focusing instead on a very different standard called XHTML 2.0 that ultimately met its official demise in July. Browser makers, meanwhile, went their own way with a group called WHATWG, short for Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group.

WHATWG's work ultimately grew into HTML 5 as the W3C embraced HyperText Markup Language once again. It's got a number of features to make the Web a better foundation not just for static Web pages but also for more interactive Web applications. For example, one Web storage lets Web-based applications store data on a computer, helping Web applications work even when a network connection isn't available.

The standardization process is complicated, though, with a complex back-and-forth between the standards group and browser makers trying new features on their own.

Meanwhile, Microsoft only began HTML 5 discussion in earnest earlier this month.

And Aaron Boodman, a programmer involved with Google's Chrome browser, suggested on the HTML 5 mailing list, "I would like to propose that we get rid of the concepts of 'versions' altogether from HTML. In reality, nobody supports all of HTML 5...Instead of insisting that a particular version of HTML is a monolithic unit that must be implemented in its entirety, we could have each feature (or logical group of features) spun off into its own small spec."