W3C: HTML5 is just about closer to taking the next step toward almost being done

It's something around which mobile app developers are already building business models, but the standards body in charge says these things take time to bake.
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In 2011, the definition of the HTML5 standard shifted significantly to become a specification for all the various open technologies that Web browsers following the standard should incorporate. One of those technologies is the HTML markup language, which is now being developed as a "living standard"--a baseline for all the elements that browser makers constituting the WHAT Working Group (WHATWG) agree to utilize.

HTML5 continues to be steered by the W3C consortium. In a W3C blog post Tuesday, Philippe le Hegaret, who directs the initiative now called the Interaction Domain, announced that at the current pace of the standard's development, a recommendation for the HTML 5.0 standard is on course to be completed by the end of this year, with discussions on future components for HTML 5.1 to begin in earnest right away.

You'll have noticed the differences in punctuation once the decimal points have been added.

In accordance with W3C's "Plan 2014," initiated earlier this year, certain elements of the Consortium's categorical list that may not evolve into complete technologies by the time a recommendation is ready to be printed, are being moved to the development track for HTML 5.1. The goal there is to have a recommendation ready by Q4 2016. Meanwhile, discussions about what elements should be added to the formal specification of the HTML markup language are being moved to a development track called HTML.next. As Plan 2014 explicitly states, this enables W3C to "cherry pick" those features they approve from WHATWG's work, and include them or omit them as they will.

Recommendation status is the formal start of the discussion about how to proceed towards finalization.

One of the technologies included in the HTML5 list of open components is WebRTC, whose original stated intent was to enable conferencing capabilities to be built directly into Web applications without developers owing licensing fees, and without users installing cumbersome plug-ins. WebRTC actually works right now, and some trials of the technology are being hosted at this moment. You can conduct videoconferencing from the browser without involving Skype or Hangouts or some branded plug-in or codec.

This week, developers and vendors in the emerging WebRTC space met in Atlanta for a conference to discuss the future for open video- and audioconferencing technology. One of the keynote presenters there was a company called TokBox, which began in 2007 with its own browser-based service, but whose core business today is enabling developers to embed conferencing into their Web services.

Where's the business model for incorporating an open technology? Naturally, conferencing has to be hosted. TokBox creates freely embeddable modules that let developers embed vcon sessions that TokBox hosts. For a $50/month up-front fee, customers get the first 10,000 minutes of streaming at no additional charge, then are charged $0.00475 for each additional minute for the next 90,000 minutes. (Keep in mind that customer support apps can be streaming several sessions simultaneously.)

During his keynote address, TokBox CEO Scott Lomond reportedly said, "Anything that can run a browser can be a telephony communication endpoint. That's a big psychological shift."

But as other players in the HTML5 technology space have demonstrated, the trend in development is toward mobile apps that can be rendered by browser cores, but which don't require users to launch their browsers first. If the browser becomes less of a framework or front end and more of a library, the question of the continued value of bundling all the library's various open components--including WebRTC--into a common specification for something fewer people actually use, will come into question long before Q4 2016.

For more:
- see HTML as a "living standard" page
- see W3C's "Plan 2014"
- read this WebRTC World article

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