Neil McAllister’s Infoworld article yesterday about WhatWG and how it differs from W3C is worth reading… the headline is rather linkbait-y about the markup spec, but it’s the dynamics of the “standard” groups themselves that’s most important in this essay.
The W3C reaches group decisions with a large variety of participants, and ends up producing something which works for all. The WhatWG is four browser vendors (intentionally omitting the most important one) and tends to reach decisions which benefit those members (as shown by the eventual progress of VIDEO, which in practice just let Apple protect its proprietary business model). Neil makes clear the difference better than I… worth the reading time.
You might want to skip the headline and implications about “HTML5″… markup will always progress, at the pace that consumers accept new runtime engines which agree on new functionality. HTML will work out fine. The W3C may be slower, but it includes a wider variety of viewpoints, that’s the main point.
(Addenda: Slashdot was one of the few venues to pick up on Neil’s article yesterday. The WhatWG’s acceptance of alternative viewpoints seems less open than Adobe’s community process for Flash. And a disclaimer, currently I’m a bit annoyed at apparent war by other means, complete with plausible deniability.)