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Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group
Formation4 June 2004; 20 years ago (2004-06-04)
PurposeDeveloping web standards
Apple Inc., Google LLC, Microsoft Corporation, Mozilla Corporation[1]
Main organ
Steering Group

The Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) is a community of people interested in evolving HTML and related technologies. The WHATWG was founded by individuals from Apple Inc., the Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software, leading Web browser vendors in 2004.[2][3]

WHATWG is responsible for maintaining multiple web-related technical standards, including the specifications for the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and the Document Object Model (DOM).[4][5] The central organizational membership and control of WHATWG – its "Steering Group" – consists of Apple, Mozilla, Google, and Microsoft. WHATWG community members work with the editor of the specifications to ensure correct implementation.[6]


The WHATWG was formed in response to the slow development of World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web standards and W3C's decision to abandon HTML in favor of XML-based technologies.[7] The WHATWG mailing list was announced on 4 June 2004,[8] two days after the initiatives of a joint Opera–Mozilla position paper[9] had been voted down by the W3C members at the W3C Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents.[10]

On 10 April 2007, the Mozilla Foundation, Apple, and Opera Software proposed[11] that the new HTML working group of the W3C adopt the WHATWG's HTML5 as the starting point of its work and name its future deliverable as "HTML5" (though the WHATWG specification was later renamed HTML Living Standard).[citation needed]

On 9 May 2007, the new HTML working group of the W3C resolved to do that.[12] An Internet Explorer platform architect from Microsoft was invited but did not join, citing the lack of a patent policy to ensure all specifications can be implemented on a royalty-free basis.[13] Since then, the W3C and the WHATWG had been developing HTML independently, at times causing specifications to diverge.[14]

In 2017, the WHATWG established an intellectual property rights agreement that includes a patent policy.[15] This spurred a renewed attempt to allow the W3C and the WHATWG to work together on specifications. In 2019, the W3C and WHATWG agreed to a memorandum of understanding where development of HTML and DOM specifications would be done principally in the WHATWG.[14][16]

The editor has significant control over the specification, but the community can influence the decisions of the editor.[17] In one case, editor Ian Hickson proposed replacing the <time> tag with a more generic <data> tag, but the community disagreed and the change was reverted.[17]

Transition of HTML Publication to WHATWG

On 28 May 2019, the W3C announced that WHATWG would be the sole publisher of the HTML and DOM standards.[18][19][16][20] The W3C and WHATWG had been publishing competing standards since 2012. While the W3C standard was identical to the WHATWG in 2007 the standards have since progressively diverged due to different design decisions.[21] The WHATWG "Living Standard" had been the de facto web standard for some time.[22]


The WHATWG publishes a number of standards that form a substantial portion of the web platform including:

  • The HTML Living Standard (sometimes informally called HTML5[23]). The HTML specification has been a living document without version numbers since 2011.[24] It includes both HTML, the core markup language for the web, and a number of related APIs.
  • The DOM Standard, defines how the Document Object Model on the web is supposed to work and replaces W3C DOM level 3. For example, it replaces mutation events with mutation observers.
  • Fetch Standard,[25] which "defines requests, responses, and the process that binds them: fetching." The fetch standard defines the 'fetch' JavaScript API, and supersedes the HTML5 fetch functionality, CORS and the HTTP Origin header semantics.
  • The Streams Standard provides APIs for creating, composing, and consuming streams of data. These streams are designed to map efficiently to low-level I/O primitives, and allow easy composition with built-in backpressure and queueing. On top of streams, the web platform can build higher-level abstractions, such as filesystem or socket APIs, while at the same time users can use the supplied tools to build their own streams which integrate well with those of the web platform.
  • The Encoding Standard defines how character encodings such as Windows-1252 and UTF-8 are handled in web browsers and is intended to replace the IETF encodings registry.
  • The MIME type sniffing standard defines how MIME types are supposed to be sniffed in web browsers.
  • The URL standard defines how URLs are supposed to be parsed in web browsers.[26]
  • Web IDL used to describe interfaces that are intended to be implemented in web browsers.[27]

See also


  1. ^ "Steering Group Agreement – WHATWG". whatwg.org. WHATWG.
  2. ^ "FAQ – What is the WHATWG?". WHATWG. 12 February 2010. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  3. ^ Reid, Jonathan (2015). "1 - Welcome to HTML5". HTML5 Programmer's Reference. Apress. pp. In section "A Brief History of HTML" -- "The Formation of the WHATWG and the Creation of HTML5". ISBN 9781430263678. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
  4. ^ Cohen, Nancy; Xplore, Tech. "W3C and WHATWG agreement: Single version of HTML, DOM specifications". techxplore.com. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  5. ^ "Alliance gives HTML a stronger future after decade-long struggle to control the web's core tech". CNET. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  6. ^ "FAQ – How does the WHATWG work?". WHATWG. 22 November 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013. If necessary, controversies are resolved by the Steering Group with members appointed from the organizations that develop browser engines, as a backstop to ensure the editor's judgment aligns with what they will implement.
  7. ^ "HTML5: A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML". W3C Recommendations. W3C. Archived from the original on 28 October 2014. Retrieved 21 October 2015. Shortly thereafter, Apple, Mozilla, and Opera jointly announced their intent to continue working on the effort under the umbrella of a new venue called the WHATWG.
  8. ^ Hickson, Ian (4 June 2004). "WHAT open mailing list announcement". WHATWG. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  9. ^ Joint Opera–Mozilla position paper voted down prior to the founding of the WHATWG: Position Paper for the W3C Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents
  10. ^ "W3C Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents (Day 2) Jun 2, 2004". World Wide Web Consortium. 2 June 2004. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  11. ^ Stachowiak, Maciej (9 April 2007). "Proposal to Adopt HTML5". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  12. ^ Connolly, Dan (9 May 2007). "results of HTML 5 text, editor, name questions". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 24 February 2010.
  13. ^ Wilson, Chris (10 January 2007). "You, me and the W3C (aka Reinventing HTML)". Albatross! The personal blog of Chris Wilson, Platform Architect of the Internet Explorer Platform team at Microsoft. Microsoft. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  14. ^ a b Cimpanu, Catalin (28 May 2019). "Browser vendors win war with W3C over HTML and DOM standards". ZDNet.
  15. ^ Van Kesteren, Anne (11 December 2017). "Further working mode changes". The WHATWG Blog. WHATWG.
  16. ^ a b "Memorandum of Understanding Between W3C and WHATWG". W3C. 28 May 2019. Archived from the original on 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  17. ^ a b Way, Jeffrey. "A Brief History of HTML5". Retrieved 4 October 2016.
  18. ^ Jaffe, Jeff (28 May 2019). "W3C and WHATWG to Work Together to Advance the Open Web Platform". W3C Blog. Archived from the original on 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  19. ^ "W3C and the WHATWG Signed an Agreement to Collaborate on a Single Version of HTML and DOM". W3C. 28 May 2019. Archived from the original on 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  20. ^ Cimpanu, Catalin (29 May 2019). "Browser vendors Win War with W3C over HTML and DOM standards". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  21. ^ "W3C - WHATWG Wiki". WHATWG Wiki. Archived from the original on 29 May 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2019.
  22. ^ Shankland, Stephen (9 July 2009). "An epitaph for the Web standard, XHTML 2". CNET. CBS INTERACTIVE INC.
  23. ^ "Is this HTML5?". WHATWG. 13 June 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  24. ^ Hickson, Ian (19 January 2011). "HTML is the new HTML5". WHATWG. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  25. ^ "Fetch Standard". WHATWG. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 13 June 2019.
  26. ^ "whatwg-url". npm (software). 18 August 2018. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019. whatwg-url is a full implementation of the WHATWG URL Standard. It can be used standalone, but it also exposes a lot of the internal algorithms that are useful for integrating a URL parser into a project like jsdom.
  27. ^ "Web IDL Standard". webidl.spec.whatwg.org. Retrieved 3 September 2023.
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