Paul Cotton, on behalf of the chairs of the working group, issued a revert request -- and his explanation is interesting:
The Chairs have received multiple requests to revert change r6783.
This change is related to bug 13240  which was never sent to the HTML WG since it used a possibly incorrect Bugzilla component. Since WG members were NOT notified of the creation of this bug the Chairs have decided that this change should be subject to the Enhanced Change Control rules in the WG Decision Policy :
"Therefore during a pre-LC review, or during a Last Call, feature additions or removals should only be done with sufficient prior notice to the group, in the form of a bug, a WG decision, or an on-list discussion. This applies only to LC-track drafts and does not apply to drafts that may include material for future versions of HTML."
We therefore ask for a revert of this change to be completed no later than the end of day on Tuesday 8th of November. If this revert is not complete by that time, we will instruct W3C staff to make this change.
In other words: people don't like it, and we never really meant to approve, and we're not really sure how it got through in the first place.
Now, the decision policy quoted sounds as though it would not invalidate the change, since the <time> 'bug' was listed (and discussed) since July. I don't know what 'possibly incorrect Bugzilla component' means -- did they actually find something misconfigured in Bugzilla? -- but the vague hedging on 'possibly incorrect' raises my suspicions a bit. The meeting minutes don't help much (though it's neat to glimpse at how these conversations go).
After the decision, a proposal to modify the reverted <time> element was posted on the W3C wiki. This might map the near future of <time>, so it's worth checking out for that reason alone -- though also, again, to help understand how HTML5-spec decisions are made. But however it happened, <time> is back.
So: did the W3C WG actually bow to popular outcry? or was there really just a bug in their bug-review system?
I don't know, but I'm curious. What do you think?
Update: Discussion has re-opened in the original bugpost since the revert command came through -- some deductive, some inductive. Results from the blekko web grep mentioned in the last comment might be very interesting...