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Re: Why Microsoft's authoritative=true won't work and is a bad idea

From: Boris Zbarsky <bzbarsky@MIT.EDU>
Date: Mon, 07 Jul 2008 14:21:14 -0400
Message-ID: <48725E9A.3000004@mit.edu>
To: Henrik Nordstrom <henrik@henriknordstrom.net>
CC: HTTP Working Group <ietf-http-wg@w3.org>, "public-html@w3.org" <public-html@w3.org>

Henrik Nordstrom wrote:
> HTTP already specifies when sniffing is allowed or not. Major browser
> vendors have over time and by intent choosen to ignore this part of the
> specifications

Indeed, though as far as I can tell all of them except IE did this in the face 
of the #1 most-commonly-used HTTP server having a "feature" which essentially 
forced them to do it if they were to have a hope of being compatible with 
commonly-used websites. That's for text/plain.  Feed sniffing was more a matter 
of standalone feed readers ignoring Content-Type altogether and treating 
everything as a feed, which meant that there was zero incentive to label feeds 
as such.  When browsers came to implement a feed reader, the status quo was that 
a large fraction of feeds (easily double-digit percentages) was mislabeled.

> and now their ignorance is coming back and biting them
> and their users.

Excuse me?  "Ignorance"?  Everyone involved knew exactly what they were doing. 
There were just no good solutions; the small amount of sniffing added seemed 
like the least bad of a set of bad choices.

> Does this mean that specifications should change to
> allow for these bugs to grow into a standard feature encouraging
> ignorance?

The specifications, the UAs, and the servers should change such that:

1)  The UAs implement the specification.
2)  The servers implement the specification.
3)  The specification defines error-handling.
4)  The ensemble is a stable equilibrium (Ideally no one has incentive to
     change behavior).
5)  At no point in between here and there is a UA required to do something
     that would cause its users to stop using it (an obvious non-starter
     from a UA point of view).
6)  At no point in between here and there is a server required to do
     something that would cause administrators to stop using it (also an
     obvious non-starter, I would think).

I have no opinion as to what the final state should be, subject to the above 
constraints.

> It also seems that some noticeable players have lost faith, thinking
> that things won't improve over time and things will stay as bad or worse
> over time.

That's an empirical observation of the last 10 years, for what it's worth, not 
just a "think".  If you think the next 10 years will somehow be different, I'd 
love to know why.

-Boris
Received on Monday, 7 July 2008 18:22:00 GMT

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