W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-archive@w3.org > December 2007

Re: Dissatisfaction with HTML WG

From: James Graham <jg307@cam.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2007 17:16:23 +0000
Message-ID: <476FE967.2070401@cam.ac.uk>
To: Dean Edridge <dean@55.co.nz>, www-archive@w3.org

Dean Edridge wrote:
> It's unfortunate that I'm forced to bring this up in public, but since 
> I have already expressed my concerns regarding this group privately 
> with: Ian Hickson, Anne van Kesteren, Lachlan Hunt, Mike Smith, Chris 
> Wilson and Dan Connolly, but with no success and no change in 
> attitude, I obviously need to mention them again here. I've also made 
> formal complaints with Mike Smith, Chris Wilson and Dan Connolly 
> regarding the openness and process of this group but those have not 
> been acted on. I have no option but to make my concerns publicly known.
> General concerns regarding the HTML WG and (X)HTML5
> I'm disappointed to see a lot of anti-XHTML sentiment within the group 
> considering that this spec is supposed to be both HTML5 and XHTML5 I 
> would have thought that people could be a bit more open minded than 
> this. We are, after all, supposed to be "Leading the web to its full 
> potential" yet some people insist on putting limitations on the web by 
> restricting it to only text/html.
> I don't think that the working group and specification is being run in 
> an objective, democratic and non-biased manner. For example:
> HTML5 Editor: Ian Hickson (Google)
> HTML5 Editors assistant: David Hyatt (Apple)
> HTML5 Design Principals co-editor: Anne van Kesteren (Opera software)
> HTML5 Design Principals co-editor: Maciej Stachowiak (Apple)
> HTMLWG staff contact: Mike Smith (ex Opera software)
> HTMLWG co-chair: Chris Wilson (Microsoft) (Nice guy, but he did put 
> his name on the first XHTML spec 8 years ago, then prevented over 6 
> Billion people from being able to use it.)
> HTML5 (not so democratic or balanced) author guidelines: Lachlan Hunt 
> (Opera software) Deliberately published his guide with the W3C logo 
> even though that day there had been several objections to his loose 
> choice of formatting within the public-html mailing list.
> The HTMLWG is becoming less and less democratic everyday. It has 
> become a dictatorship driven by three companies: Google, Apple and 
> Opera. These companies have there own interest at heart which may or 
> may not be in the best interest of the open web. Unless one happens to 
> be an employee (or a friend of an employee) of these companies, one 
> doesn't seem to have much say in the way that HTML5 and XHTML5 gets 
> developed.
> I have witnessed on many occasions people outside of these 
> organisations/companies have not had their ideas taken seriously or 
> added to the spec. I can think of Sam Ruby, Karl Dubost and myself 
> just to name a few people that have not only had their ideas knocked 
> down but have been personally mocked, ridiculed and attacked by Ian 
> Hickson & Co on the IRC channels just because the ideas or decisions 
> they made did not suit Ian and his group.
> I don't see what the point is in having 1000 or more people involved 
> in this work if only one person is in control of what gets added to 
> the spec? What's the point in having people put their ideas on the 
> table if at the end of the day Ian comes to the table and only picks 
> up the ideas he likes? I don't believe that such a process as 
> important as this should be controlled by just one man. Many ideas 
> have been put forward but rejected because they don't fit into Ian's 
> view of what the web should be.
> Ian has shown his lack of professionalism to me by publishing my 
> personal emails publicly on his web site and the CSS working group 
> member-only emails publicly. [1]  How can a person like Ian be left 
> with such control over a specification that over 6 billion people are 
> expected to use?
> The W3C staff members don't seem to be interested in defending the 
> open web given that I have made official complaints regarding Ian 
> Hickson and his sponsors, but yet had no active response from the W3C. 
> If the W3C can't stand up to this renegade group then what's the point 
> of having the W3C? It seems that anyone can hijack the web and dictate 
> to the world so long as they have enough money.
> I do appreciate all the work that has been put into (X)HTML5 by Ian 
> and the rest of the WHATWG, I just feel that it's time for certain 
> people to let go and let others have a say in the way the spec should 
> be. After all, it's supposed to be an "open spec" for the "open web" 
> isn't it?
> If the way things are done in this group doesn't change to a more 
> democratic model I'll be suggesting to the chairs that Ian Hickson be 
> replaced as Editor of the spec with someone more professional and 
> independent.
> In the mean time I hereby ask that the HTML WG chairs engage the 
> services of another person who is not an employee of Google, Opera 
> software, Apple/Webkit or Mozilla to be another co Editor and watch 
> Ian to see if he is taking everyone's ideas/concerns in to account and 
> not blocking democracy with his own personal views/ideals.

Dean, I disagree with almost everything you have said. As far as I can 
tell, the current process is working surprisingly well, input is being 
taken from a wide variety of sources and, given the difficulty of the 
task we have undertaken, good progress is being made. The idea that 
input is not being taken from people outside a select group is false; 
you mention Sam Ruby but his ideas about extensibility are something 
many people are interested in exploring; I had several discussions about 
incorporating SVG and MathML into HTML at the TPAC with Anne, Hixie, 
Doug Schepers, Patrick Ion from the MathML working group, and probably 
others who I forget. One way of adding these things to text/html is via 
a general extensibility mechanism. The difficulty is purely technical - 
how can we extend text/html without breaking compatibility with legacy 
parsers, whilst maintaining an easy-to-author syntax? If you want to see 
this problem solved the answer is not to kick up a fuss about the fact 
that someone else hasn't solved it, but to invest some time in finding a 

It seems that the heart of our frustration lies with the fact that the 
draft does not specify that UAs MUST support XHTML. I don't quite 
understand why you think changing this requirement will make any 
difference to companies who don't intend to implement XHTML; surely they 
will have no difficulty in ignoring the requirement. A much more 
effective way of getting implementations would be to make a ACID2-like 
test page that required XHTML to function, and work at getting the same 
credibility as the ACID test achieved. See how much positive PR 
Microsoft are getting for IE8 for passing those tests? That, more than 
the exact wording of a spec might sway manager's priorities.

However I think there are two further issues you should consider. The 
first is technical - can XML 1.0 work on the web? I don't believe it 
can; the fatal-exception-on-wellformedness-error behavior is likely to 
be unacceptable to any website that values its uptime. On almost all the 
XHTML websites I regularly visit I have seen fatal XML errors at one 
point or another, and I don't see anything compelling enough in XHTML to 
make that risk
worthwhile for people like Amazon or Ebay (note: I have experience using 
XHTML and XHTML+MathML). I think that XML 2 with a (perhaps-optional) 
no-fatal-errors mode will be needed for XHTML to become a success.

The second issue is the way that you are participating in the working 
group. In my mind, coming in, arguing forcefully, not seeing the changes 
you want and then escalating the issue, whilst at the same time 
personally insulting several members of the group calling them, for 
example, "unprofessional" and "[a] smart a%$ kid", makes your arguments 
seem less rational and more emotional, thereby devaluing them. For 
comparison, there have been other groups and individuals who found that 
the spec was not entirely to their liking and were cynical about the 
prospects for change. However, in at least one case, it happened that 
once they tried to be open minded about the methods that have been used 
for developing the spec, progress could be made [1].

[1] http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2007Dec/0253.html
Received on Monday, 24 December 2007 17:16:38 UTC

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