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Re: some technical thoughts about incremental improvements to forms

From: Mark Birbeck <mark.birbeck@x-port.net>
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2006 16:12:20 +0100
Message-ID: <640dd5060609060812s508a30d7h5c313abe78d89bb3@mail.gmail.com>
To: www-forms@w3.org

Hi Lachlan,

> In the past, when Netscape was the dominant browser and IE was a
> newcomer to the playing field, Microsoft invested a lot into reverse
> engineering Netscape so that they could handle pages built for it.  In
> the process, IE also introduced its own fair share of bugs and
> extensions, and eventually took over the market.  After this, more and
> more authors began writing for IE only and, as a direct result, other
> browsers have had to reverse engineer IE.
>
> It's a cycle that, I'm sure you will agree, must stop.  It's not only
> one of the reasons why HTML was considered a dying language and the move
> to XML began, it's a cycle that will continue to repeat for as long as
> pages are built in a market of non-interoperable browsers.  New browsers
> will enter the market, the market leadership will eventually change and
> authors will either write broken pages only the new dominant browser, or
> spend a long time working around all the different bugs between it and
> the competition.

This is all interesting stuff, but it's easy to imagine another
scenario; what if the Ajax libraries just keep getting better and
better, and continue to 'hide' the differences between browsers? Then
we actually get an *increase* in conformance, not a decrease. Authors
are able to write for all browsers rather than the "dominant" one, and
at a certain point, which browser your customers use becomes
increasingly irrelevant.

The browser war is then over, not because any one browser has won, but
because developers could care less about the browsers, and users will
tend to use the one already installed on their computer, or the one
that is mandated by their employer.

(Actually, to be more precise, what will increasingly happen is that
users will choose a browser on the basis of features such as tabbed
browsing, built-in features like RSS readers, photo sharing and
blogging tools, and so on. That's a far better basis on which to
choose a browser than which version of CSS it supports...why should a
user care?)

At this point the cry will go up: "Why so many Ajax libraries? Can't
we standardise on these browser enhancements?" (Well, that cry will go
up amongst developers--the end user cry will be "Why doesn't my new
browser work with Flickr/Blogger/GCal like my old browser did?"...but
that's progress for you.)

Luckily, people in the XForms WG have been working for years on
exactly the kind of standardisation needed. (I'd throw SMIL into the
mix, too, since it covers another large part of most Ajax libraries,
but you get my point.)

Regards,

Mark

-- 
Mark Birbeck
CEO
x-port.net Ltd.

e: Mark.Birbeck@x-port.net
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Received on Wednesday, 6 September 2006 15:12:44 GMT

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