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Re: legacy of incompetence? [was: a compromise to the versioning debate]

From: Henk-Jan de Boer <html-wg@hjdeboer.nl>
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2007 00:51:35 +0200
Message-ID: <46254F77.8080800@hjdeboer.nl>
To: liorean <liorean@gmail.com>
CC: HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>

liorean schreef op 17-4-2007 17:11:
>> Is it unrealistic to
>> say: let Safari, Opera and Mozilla implement the spec and let them prove
>> that it's useful for rendering legacy HTML? That proof should convince
>> Microsoft in the end, shouldn't it?
> [...] There
> is content out there that is written for IE, there is content that is
> written to a common subset supported by all major browsers, and
> content that is written for other browsers and hacked to support IE.
>
> Content out there rely on a whole slew of bugs and features. So just
> because the other browser vendors can do something, that doesn't mean
> Microsoft can do the same. They don't start from quite the same
> position.
I guess you are right at this point. My question was based on what I've 
read about the fact that HTML5 should be covering the whole web as it 
exists today. I made my remark that Microsoft might want to have a new 
mode switch because the don't believe that this new spec will be able to 
describe all legacy content (both standards compliant and relying on 
bugs), because I myself am in doubt how this could be done at all.

When you have content that relies on being rendered correctly in 
standards mode in Firefox/Opera/Safari, and at the same time relies on 
some hack to work around a bug in IE, in my opinion you have a situation 
that you cannot describe in a specification. If HTML5 would decide the 
first method is right and IE should (have to?) adopt that way of 
rendering, they break that content because it relies on IE being broken 
(and therefore uses a hack). If HTML5 would decide IE's method is right, 
all other browsers would have to implement this way of rendering... 
which will break the content because the content assumes that only IE 
has this behaviour. I don't see how you can create an interoperable and 
back compat spec that defines how to render content that is targetted at 
different ways of rendering. You cannot decide both rendering methods as 
right according to the specifcation: it's one way or another.
Only when you really _can_ write such a specification (which I think is 
a paradox per se), then MS should be able to do something because other 
browser vendors can do it too. If writing such a spec is impossible 
because of this paradox (or as you call it: because they don't start 
from quite the same position simply because there is targetted content 
that relies on buggy behaviour), then Microsoft cannot indeed. I agree 
with you on that.

> That is one thing I do agree with. I just don't think Microsoft have
> the option of not using a mode switch. Versioning on the other hand is
> a whole different issue. I personally believe the best way out would
> be to have add a single mode switch to a single implementation and
> leave it at that.
Yes. And you're right in making a distinction between versioning a spec 
and adding a mode switch in an implementation; they are different things 
indeed.
> It's hard to be backwards compatible with content that is relying on
> both standards compliant behaviour and proprietary behaviour. I don't
> think it's possible for Microsoft without removing the entire set of
> bugs and features that can be used to set it apart from other
> browsers, and that is something I don't believe anyone even wants
> Microsoft to do.
But based on what I read earlier in this thread and also in the 
Versioning and html[5] thread, I though one of the main goals for HTML5 
is to describe all current content in such a way that IE wouldn't need a 
version number and another mode switch, because with an iterative spec 
development and implementation cycle, the implementation should not 
break legacy pages. If it's as hard to be backwards compatible as you 
say it is (and I think you're quite right here), the principle of 
covering all legacy content is a utopia isn't it? Or am I horribly 
mistaken at this point and do I misunderstand the design principles for 
HTML5 and the work WHATWG has done so far? I have not been involved with 
the WHATWG's job so far, I have to admit.
> Versioning, yes. Mode switching on the other hand I don't see any way 
> to avoid.
As said before, it's correct that you point out the difference between 
those two. Regarding the things I said above, I can't see how adding a 
new mode switch could be avoided either, but still I think that such is 
exactly one of the things HTML5 claims to make unnecessary. And still I 
don't see how.

Kind regards,
H.J. de Boer
Received on Tuesday, 17 April 2007 22:50:11 GMT

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