W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > May 2007

Re: Support Existing Content

From: Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2007 17:23:42 -0700
Message-Id: <54CB9836-C2A8-4446-A8BE-75ED1656538A@apple.com>
Cc: tina@greytower.net, "Philip Taylor (Webmaster)" <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
To: Philip & Le Khanh <Philip-and-LeKhanh@Royal-Tunbridge-Wells.Org>


On Apr 30, 2007, at 4:56 PM, Philip & Le Khanh wrote:

>
>
> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>
>> Philip said, and I quote: "The W3C should define HTML, and browser  
>> manufacturers should be willing to accept that definition (or to  
>> reject it, at their own risk: this is a free world)." That does  
>> not sound like constructive engagement to me. It sounds like he  
>> thinks the spec should be defined in a way that ignores or  
>> overrides implementor input, and then the implementors need to  
>> suck it up. I sense an undertone of resentment against browsers in  
>> all this. My apologies to Philip if I have misunderstood him.
>
> Neither "ignores" nor "overrides", and equally not "blindly
> accepts", but rather "considers" in the light of other input,
> then rules accordingly.

Well great, that's exactly what we are doing. It so happens that  
representatives of the browser vendors are often domain experts with  
good arguments, and there are a number of people who share many  
aspects of their viewpoint. You'll have to be prepared for that.

> The W3C /is/ the web standards authority,
> and it is their responsibility to ensure that any standards published
> in their name reflect the very best available received wisdom.
> Until very recently, there was more-or-less universal consensus that
> HTML was a Document Markup Language whose sole r\^ole was to
> indicate a document's structure.  The rendering of that structure
> was the browser's task, and that rendering could be modified
> by the use of style sheets.  This consensus did not come about
> by chance : rather it was the result of years of observation
> of the mess that resulted if one tried to use HTML both to
> indicate structure and to affect form.

I don't know who was part of this consensus, but apparently they did  
not consult with:

- the users who complain if their browser doesn't render a site the  
way other browsers do
- the content authors who complain when a new version of Browser X  
doesn't render their site the same as the last version
- browser vendors who anger content authors and lose users if they  
don't work the same as other browsers

There's a lot of these people - a lot more than the number of people  
who complain about language purity. I can recall 0 Safari bug reports  
requesting removal of any presentational tags or attributes.

> Now, for reasons that I do not pretend to understand, the W3C seem  
> to be bowing to
> pressure from the very same group (not of individuals, but of
> ?vested? interests) that created the mess in the first place,
> by which I mean the browser implementors.  Remember that it
> was they (Microsoft, Netscape et al) that led to the bloated language
> that was HTML 3.2; now, with HTML 4.01 Strict already pointing
> the way to a leaner, cleaner, language, once again the browser
> implementors are seeking to re-introduce language bloat.  But
> this time they are doing so in a way that is far harder for the
> W3C to resist : rather than each going his/her own way, they are
> actively working /with/ each other to either retain a feature
> that has already been formally deprecated, or to define a new set
> of  "added value" elements; and whenever one of these is called
> into question, they defend its retention/introduction by screaming
> "interoperability" or "compatibility with the web".

The whole paragraph above is exactly the sort of thing that makes me  
think you have a bad attitude about browser vendors. Does the  
language above sound like a good way to start a constructive  
conversation? Do you think you will persuade anyone to your point of  
view through intemperate, judgmental language like "vested  
interests", "created the mess", "bloated language", "screaming  
'interoperability'", etc? Is it helpful to make it sound like browser  
vendors working together is some sort of sinister conspiracy?

Please reconsider your tone and try to engage in this process  
politely and with reasoned arguments. Assuming bad faith on the part  
of all browser vendors collectively (who, after all, showed up here  
to engage in the standards process) is unlikely to be very persuasive.


> But "interoperability" as they are choosing to define it is
> exactly the same as the boy with the football : it's his
> ball, so he decides who plays and to which rules.  And
> as Tina has frequently pointed out, "compatibility with
> the web" simply means accepting that virtually all the
> tag soup that has been churned out in the past is, in
> fact, "valid HTML", so long as you are willing to redefine
> "valid" using Humpty Dumpty's definition [*].

But "valid" is exactly what someone chooses it to mean. Why is it  
that omitting the </P> close tag is valid HTML, but omitting </PRE>  
is not?(*) There is no a priori rule from which we can derive that  
one is right and the other is not. It is simply an arbitrary set of  
conventions. And ultimately, much though we may grow fond of it, a  
specification is just an arbitrary set of conventions that creates a  
contract among content producers and content consumers. It has no  
moral standing. The way we choose what convention to adopt by  
figuring out which is more useful, not which is more correct by some  
universal standard.

Regards,
Maciej

* - Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting we change this.
Received on Tuesday, 1 May 2007 00:24:56 GMT

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