The next generation of hypertext markup language, or HTML, is a step closer to reality, as the Web's main standards body said today it finished the specification and has sent it to its members for final review.
First made public in July, HTML 4.0 won't become an official standard--or "recommendation" in World Wide Web Consortium-speak--until the members review the spec and cast their final votes. The review period lasts about six weeks, and the spec could undergo changes in that time.
"Once it becomes a recommendation it's very hard to change," so members will be careful in the upcoming review period and will most likely make "minor" changes, a W3C spokeswoman said. The W3C members must come to a consensus to approve the specification as a standard.
Perhaps most significantly, HTML 4.0 adds support for cascading style sheets, which give Web designers much greater flexibility in creating the look and feel of their pages. Style sheets carry the design information for a page or set of pages and let designers use programming scripts and objects to create dynamic content on a page.
The two major browser makers, Microsoft and Netscape Communications, have been battling over pieces of the spec and, to the frustration of many Webmasters, already have implemented separate and in some cases incompatible versions of the new HTML.
"I'm completely in favor of HTML 4.0 not because of a single feature it adds, but because every advancement from the W3C in the official definition of HTML means that the major browser vendors are forced to get closer and closer to recognizing the same HTML and rendering it identically," said Glenn Davis, chief technology officer of Project Cool, an online resource for Web designers. "Maybe by HTML 8.0 I'll be able to create a Web page without having to think about what it will look like on the different browsers."
HTML 4.0 also adds the following general features: