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Re: w3process-ISSUE-124 (WHATWG-blacklist): Normative Reference policy should explicitly black list WHATWG specs [Normative Reference Policy]

From: Daniel Glazman <daniel.glazman@disruptive-innovations.com>
Date: Sat, 04 Oct 2014 20:43:46 +0200
Message-ID: <54303FE2.8060301@disruptive-innovations.com>
To: public-w3process@w3.org
On 03/10/2014 19:25, Ian Hickson wrote:

> Well, it turns out that in the years of asking people why they want stale
> snapshots of specs, only two reasons that make any remote sense have ever
> been presented to me [1]:
>
> 1. Patent lawyers, for litigation purposes, need to be able to reference
> specific text, so that courts can make judgements; court cases tend to
> last years, over which a standard may well evolve dramatically or even
> become obsolete, but the court system, run by government officials, only
> wants to make judgements for the precise time for which the case applies.
>
> 2. Governments frequently write contracts that need to refer specific
> versions, for political reasons. These contracts are effectively
> meaningless (it's not like all the people writing contracts that said
> "must write a compliant HTML4 site" ever meant it; they wanted people to
> write modern HTML that violates all kinds of HTML4 rules, like they wanted
> people to assume media="" defaulted to "all" not to "screen" as per HTML4,
> or they wanted people to use modern features like <video>), but, these
> being governments, there's no way to negotiate sanity into the contracts,
> they just have to be that way and are their specifics then ignored with a
> nudge-nudge wink-wink approach.

I gave you, face-to-face, a third example: large companies having to
control the deployment of browsers internally because their operations
rely on critical intranet web sites. I gave you this example in Santa
Clara during a TPAC a few years ago.
Such companies - and being the former AC-Rep of such a company, I faced
the issue myself - cannot let the browsers self-update w/o validation.
They would like to know exactly what is implemented and based on what
spec's level. But when a browser vendor says "X is implemented", it
doesn't refer to a given commit, it refers to a spec. If the spec is a
living standard, there could be changes between the state of the
implementation and the relevant prose in the living spec. This is hard
to deal with, I think we can acknowledge that.

Last time, I discussed this issue with a broader audience, I heard
someone (not WHATWG nor W3C) call such companies, I quote,  dinosaurs
of the past  and say these companies have no other choice but
updating their browsers faster and more often. Which is impossible.
I don't want to discuss if and why their requirements exist. They do
exist, it's a fact. We have W3C Members in this situation for example.

I find this issue much more important than "lawyers and governments"
but I admit I could be biased because of my professionnal past.

> Now in theory both of these could be resolved by pointing to repository
> versions -- for example, the HTML spec has been through over 8800
> different versions each of which could be individually referenced -- but
> patent lawyers and government officials both work in environments where
> that would, for some reason, be unacceptable.

In theory, the problem above would be solved if browser vendors could
say "our version X implements feature Y retrieved from commit ZZZZZ"
and if commit ZZZZZ was VERY easily reachable for people not used to
our versioning systems. I see this as a workable compromise: no need
to have snapshots, commits are snapshots, and your specs can remain
living standards.

</Daniel>
Received on Saturday, 4 October 2014 18:44:11 UTC

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