This week the World Wide Web Consortium released the first working draft of the HTML 5 standard. Of course this has received lots of attention because, well, it's the next version of HTML, which is for many people the core standard of the World Wide Web.
And this release of the working draft of HTML 5 is clearly significant. For many reasons this is one of the most unique standards to come out of the W3C for quite some time.
One of the biggest is that, for the most part, HTML 5 looks to be an extremely practical standard. In many ways it is a standard meant to conform to the ways that people are actually building Web sites now, rather than a classic standard that tries to enforce a pristine ideal of what a Web site should be.
This has, of course, caused not a little bit of controversy in Web development communities. There are many who feel that the W3C is giving up on the (in many ways) superior XHTML standard and that HTML 5 will make it easier to create sloppy sites with poor standards support.
For the most part I have a positive opinion of HTML 5. It is a standard designed to take account of and work with the many changes that have occurred in the last few years on the Web, such as the rise of Web 2.0 technologies.
However, HTML 5 may not be the most important recent standards announcement that the W3C has made.
That's because last week the W3C also announced that SPARQL had been released as a full W3C recommendation, which essentially makes it a full standard.
What is SPARQL? Well, in the most basic sense it's a query language. But more importantly, it's the query language for the Semantic Web.
For years the Semantic Web has been a stagnant emerging technology and the main cause of this has been the lack of a querying language. It was sort of like having a database but not having SQL to query it with.
SPARQL changes all that by providing robust and flexible querying capabilities that make it possible to query data from across the Web and from multiple data sources. With SPARQL, it is possible to treat data from across the entire Web in the same way you would treat data in a single database.
It goes without saying that SPARQL will enable some pretty innovative and never before seen Web applications and platforms. More then anything else, SPARQL could make possible the true next generation of the World Wide Web.