There are 4 classes of problems people like us work on solving:
- Yesterday problems. Also known as "fighting the last war". I don't think any of us want to work on semantic markup for yesterday. The W3C doesn't usually work on yesterday problems, except when updating an old recommendation to incorporate errata or something.
- Today problems. Problems that lots of people are still running into, and where a quick solution, even if it is "hacky", would have immediate benefit if it had wide support. WAI-ARIA could have been such a solution were it actually quick. Microformats are another good example. In general the W3C does not look at this type of problem because the processes are too long and frankly the market will deal with them before we ever could. However, I see XHTML Access and XHTML Role as fitting into this category. Should have been completed sooner, but whatever.
- Tomorrow problems. Problems that cutting edge people are running into now, and that lots of people are going to run into really soon. This is where the W3C should focus its energy, and certainly where we have been looking in the recent past. RDFa is a solution to a "tomorrow problem" in my mind. If we can quickly show how to map it to microformats, then it is also a solution to a today problem and will help the people using the solution also survive into tomorrow.
- Someday problems. Problems that visionaries have decided are where the industry is heading, and for which we need to start developing solutions now because it is going to take forever. This type of work has no place in the standards community. Instead, this is called "research" and there are appropriate places to do it. The W3C is not a good venue for cutting edge research.
XHTML / XML grammars and easy annotation is a today problem and a tomorrow problem. We need a quick bridge, and we need a long term solution. I think we have both in the XHTML RDFa module.
Improved accessibility is a today problem and a tomorrow problem. We have the start of some long term solutions with the Access and Role modules. These, coupled with dymanic semantics defined through RDF vocabularies are a great way to start making the web a more friendly place for people with disabilities.
Combining these technologies with WAI-ARIA into a new version of XHTML solves a today problem and a tomorrow problem. And, even better, it will work in existing user agents right now. We don't need to wait for the browser vendors to implement anything. That's surely the right place for us to be focusing our energies.
That's my opinion. That's what I am working toward. It might be a little head in the sand, but I sleep well at night and I am confident that we can declare victory very very soon. I invite you all to work with me on solving today and tomorrow problems. It's fun. It's rewarding. I doubt the people working on someday problems can say the same.