Tim Berners-Lee hasn’t been idle since he invented the World Wide Web 25 years ago.
In addition to his day job as a computer science professor, Berners-Lee has been guiding the development and spread of the web. As the founder and director of the World Wide Web Foundation, he promotes making the web affordable, accessible and open to everyone. As the founder and director of the World Wide Web Consortium, the standard body for the medium that’s known as the W3C, he oversees the process of adding new features and capabilities to the web.
The W3C recently gave its official stamp of approval to HTML 5, the latest update to the coding language that underlies websites and apps. The last major update to HTML was in 1997. The 1,300-page standard promises a wealth of new features intended to allow developers to design sophisticated pages and web-based apps.
Berners-Lee spoke about the new standard and how the web is evolving.
Question: Why has it taken so long for the W3C to give its stamp of approval to HTML 5?
Answer: The whole thing about HTML 5 is it’s not just a markup language, it’s a computing platform, one that’s ubiquitously deployed. It’s very big and very powerful.
You don’t just produce a new version of HTML overnight. There are a lot of people involved. There are people who would much prefer to get a feature in there and go on to the next feature, to develop and develop and develop. In a way, it’s been like that. There’s been a rapid deployment.
On the other hand, there are some people for whom the idea of a standard, of having a fixed point, is very valuable. That stability is useful for people who teach, for training programs, for books on the standard, for governments. Stability and consistency are important for some important communities. There are some people who are going to be using HTML 5 for years.
Q: What are some of the most significant new things in the HTML 5 standard?
A: It’s tough to pick one thing, since the whole is much more than the sum of parts. But the video tag is a great example.
You look at the history. You had these competing plugins, and they were constantly out of date.
Once you put the video tag into HTML, it makes it much easier for everybody. You no longer need to use plugins. It makes it so much easier for the developer.
Q: How do you use the web? Are there any sites or services that you use regularly?
A: We do all our work at the W3C on the web — everything. We have a mantra: If it’s not on the web, it doesn’t exist. When discussing things in a meeting, everything we do, the minutes of the meetings, it’s always on the web.