March 07, 2012, 10:15 AM — "How many people have heard of HTML5?" World Wide Web Consortium CEO Jeff Jaffe asked the crowd at CEBIT on Tuesday. Almost everyone put their hand up. "Now how many of you have figured out a plan for how you're going to use HTML5 in your business?"
Decidedly fewer hands were raised.
Even if they haven't fully explored its potential, though, Jaffe told the conference crowd that HTML, just one of a series of specifications that make up the W3C's Open Web standard, will be among the most disruptive elements to hit organizations since the early days of the Internet.
"We're about to experience a generational change in Web technology, and just as the Web transformed every business, (HTML5) will lead to another transformation."
This is in part because of HTML's cross-browser capability, its improved data integration and the way it handles video, but Jaffe also said the spec makes Web pages "more beautiful, intelligent," and would offer new avenues of Web accessibility to the disabled.
It's a lot of promise for a standard spec that hasn't been fully baked yet. "It won't really be a standard until 2014, but in the Web ecosystem," nobody waits," said Jaffe, who worked as CTO at Novell prior to his role at the W3C. "They'll make minor adjustments once the standard is done."
While CEBIT is filled with vendors pitching products, Jaffe's talk offered a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the W3C, a non-profit organization set up to ensure the Web remains free and opened. Working with a relatively small staff of less than 70 people out of MIT, Jaffe said the W3C has added 22 large vendors to its roster of 340 members in less than two years, including Facebook, Motorola Mobility and LG. A key area for the Open Web standard right now, he said, is the development of protection from tracking on the Web, an issue that ties into the CEBIT 2012 theme of "managing trust." Tracking protection has become enough of a hot button that Jaffe said the W3C has created a working group to address it.