"HTML has long been at war with itself," writes Yahoo! Architect Douglas Crockford, one of the most popular speakers at AJAXWorld ever since it began life early in 2006. "Is it a document format or is it an application delivery format? You can see that confusion in the cacophonous HTML 5 effort." But Crockford has very clear ideas on how to fix HTML: his approach is to make it better by exploiting unrecognized properties that it has had all along.
The background to Crockford's essay is as follows: the HTML 4 recommendation was published in 1999 and, according to Crock, while there are good ideas in HTML, "many of these were discarded in the XHTML effort." He continues:
"My thinking is that we should take a step back and refocus. The problems with HTML will not be solved by making it bigger and more complicated. I think instead we should generalize what it does well, while excising features that are problematic. HTML can be made into a general application delivery format without disrupting its original role as a document format.
The new language I am proposing is not totally compatible with HTML 4. But HTML 4 was not totally compatible with HTML 3, and XHTML would not have been totally compatible anyway, so that's ok.
This is my proposal for a kinder, gentler HTML 5."
The ten changes Crockford proposes can be read in full here.
"These changes significantly improve the reliability, security, and performance of HTML applications," Crockford claims, adding that the simplification of the language reduces the cost of training of web developers and incorporates the best practices of AJAX development.
"It provides extensibility without complexity. The deltas from HTML 4 are generalizations and reductions, which should make browser implementation more straightforward. This is particularly important for mobile devices that cannot tolerate the power demands of complex platforms. The only new feature here is the module, which is critical for security. Modules makes safe mashups possible."
We can expect the discussion to continue vigorously into 2008, when Crockford will be keynoting at AJAXWorld Conference & Expo 2008 East, in New York City (18-20 March, 2008).