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examples where fixed spec targets are useful (was Re: Please explain the role of the W3C in the continuing development of HTML)

From: Danny Ayers <danny.ayers@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2011 23:46:05 +0100
Message-ID: <AANLkTi=23KwsAm2A2-Q3wj=qSYJRSGpFB7Dj=-qbYS5b@mail.gmail.com>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: www-archive <www-archive@w3.org>
[trimmed ccs]

On 15 February 2011 12:05, Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch> wrote:

>> I for one can't see how that model alone can fulfil the demands of
>> organisations which rely on fixed specifications to decide policy (and
>> developers to build against).
> That's a different topic, but since I'm here: I hear often about people
> wanting "stability" and needing "fixed" specs to refer to, but nobody ever
> seems to notice that RECs aren't stable nor fixed, and nobody ever seems
> to mind that when people refer to RECs they immediately ignore what those
> RECs say if they have bugs, as if the specs had in fact been updated.
> (Indeed sometimes, as with XML, the specs even are updated, in place,
> despite the claims that stability is needed.) Could you elaborate (maybe
> with a somewhat trimmed cc list) on what exactly it is that these
> organisations demand, and maybe more importantly, why they think that the
> W3C model serves their needs?

I can't put the viewpoint of any orgs without doing a pile of
research, but I can describe two situations in the last few weeks
where I personally found named/versioned HTML specs useful:

Setting up a CMS for a site which will feature music releases, I
wanted something in which I'd be able to use RDFa to annotate the
product descriptions - the fact that Drupal 7 supports XHTML+RDFa out
of the box made this a no-brainer. Even if I hadn't wanted the RDFa,
I'd still have checked the supported doctypes to help confirm 'modern'
markup support and cross-browser compatibility.

(This latter part is essentially the same role specs often play in
other engineering scenarios. If I was making computer hardware and
wanted it to interconnect, I'd be better off building to a particular
fixed standard (USB 2.0, 3.0...) rather than trying to test my
hardware against all the different USB devices out there.)

I've been building a little Java app that will need a lot of
documentation nearby. Sun had the foresight to use HTML as the
document format for their JavaHelp system, making it pretty much ideal
for my requirements. But I found that a lot of my existing docs would
be unsuitable as-is, in fact the JavaHelp indexer failed entirely on
some. But it didn't take me long to discover the cause: JavaHelp was
built for HTML 3.2. Although the markup version wasn't my only
consideration, finding the Oracle branch of JavaHelp, OHJ - which
supports HTML 4 - essentially cured this problem.

If I hadn't got the spec versions as reference markers, I'd have had
to go through trial and error on all the features, and probably still
risked uncertainty with future docs.


Received on Tuesday, 15 February 2011 22:46:42 UTC

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