The report of the completion of HTML 5 is an exaggeration.
(with apologies to Mark Twain)

As you hopefully know by now, despite the hype, HTML 5 is not a completed specification.  In fact, back in 2008, the author of the specification, Ian Hickson, estimated HTML 5 wouldn’t be a Proposed Recommendation until 2022!  Indeed, the W3C site shows there are still significant aspects of the HTML 5, CSS 3, DOM and other specifications being fleshed out – just take a look at the ‘warning’ in every W3C Working Draft: Implementors should be aware that this specification is not stable.

Waiting until 2022 for all i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed is obviously not an option though.  It’s infeasible to expect a drop of all these technologies at one fell swoop, and there are certainly aspects of the HTML 5 and related specifications that are relatively solid today: canvas and and semantic tags, to name a few.  These are the types of stable ‘standards’ you’ll continue to see implemented in the IE 9 beta and the continuing cycle of Platform Previews.

But what about those bleeding-edge features? The ones like WebSockets (currently an Editor’s draft)  that Firefox 4 and Opera recently disabled due to security issues?  Or features that other browsers are “implementing” with vendor-specific extensions and the such?

There’s clearly need for a balancing act between providing a dependable, solid browsing experience to millions of users and incorporating new features that haven’t been completely vetted in the wild.  With his post today, Dean Hachamovitch, announces another facet of Microsoft’s strategy to walk this tightrope between responsible development and active adoption of emerging web standards. 

HTML5 LabsWith HTML 5 Labs, Microsoft is providing a sandbox through which it can offer prototype implementations of those proposed features that haven’t quite gelled yet – features like WebSockets and IndexedDB for starters.  By separating the experimental from the ‘site-ready’, Microsoft aims to balance the expectation of consistency of behavior for consumers with the need to actively engage in Contact HTML5 Labsconversations and development around emerging web standards. 

If you’re as passionate about web standards as the IE and Interoperability teams are, check out HTML 5 Labs, and participate in the discussions.  My favorite part about the site is the contact link at the bottom!