Re: Standards, Work Groups, and Reality Checks: A Radical Proposal.

Arjun Ray (
Fri, 22 Sep 1995 21:23:07 -0400 (EDT)

Date: Fri, 22 Sep 1995 21:23:07 -0400 (EDT)
From: Arjun Ray <>
Subject: Re: Standards, Work Groups, and Reality Checks: A Radical Proposal.
To: Benjamin Franz <>
In-Reply-To: <>
Message-Id: <Pine.3.89.9509221942.A4501-0100000@alpha>

On Fri, 22 Sep 1995, Benjamin Franz wrote:

> The HTML development effort is now into about stage 6 of a project 
> (Punishment of the Innocent). 

"Praise for the Non-Participants" is closer to the truth.


> The HTML group is justifiably perturbed by the bizarre things claiming 
> Content-type: text/html. They want the newcomers to *be* test/html if 
> they say they are, and don't understand why they refuse to stand on some 
> other content-type if they aren't. 
> Its easy: 
>           Most browsers read and do *something* reasonable with
>           text/html. Big potential audience.
>           Most browsers just D/L test/x-html to a file, assuming the
>           server I am using even knows about '.mynewextention and
>           experimental mime type'. Small potential audience.

> Right or wrong, in market driven by *economics* rather than standards 
> - they are *going* to serve it up as text/html.

Indeed. The *name* counts, doesn't it? There's a conclusion to be drawn 
from this that's more damaging than the arguments you've put forward.

> So how does the WG get away from this morass?
> Content-type: text/sgml

> The development of HTML of *all* levels should be officially ended 
> with the acceptance of HTML 2.0 (whenever that happens...) 

Why? Why not *abandon* HTML 2.0? Why deliver a freebie to people whose 
cooperation has been conspicuous by its absence?

> I move to dis-establish the HTML working group.

And reorganize itself with a new charter that makes no mention of HTML.
I suggest W3ML. The W3 Consortium hasn't been disbanded. Their mandate to 
foster and coordinate development of the Web hasn't been confounded. On 
the contrary, what they bring to the Web -- insofar as it continues to be 
a part of the Internet -- is the critical factor of *legitimacy*. The 
Consortium needs a language (a "lingua franca") -- who said that the 
*name* of this language has to be "HTML"? Or that what HTML is allegedly 
being made into by current practice and "market forces" *must* be 
standardized simply because it happens to have that name?

And if in fact "text/html" is irrecoverably a mishmash, the simplest
solution is to delegitimize the name, and let its puissant appropriators
do with what they please -- only that, to get a *standard* out of it,
they'll have to start from scratch, and shift for themselves. Is the IETF
in any danger of being snowed under by half-baked ideas from people who
can't even get a parser right? Maybe it's time to put *that* to the test. 

The Internet Standards process has a rigor that the Working Group has 
worked very hard to meet. But all these standards -- because they share a 
common context of at least *trying* to be interoperable -- have their 
origins in goodwill and consensus. This Working Group has been bedevilled 
by too little of the latter exploiting too much of the former, a house 
divided from the beginning.

It's time to realize that there are players here who seek legitimation
only. All the things that go into a real standard -- goodwill, commitment,
patience, and discipline to implement things the *right* way -- are being 
upheld by the WG and trivialized by others too clever by half to be smart.

Arjun Ray
(I speak for myself only.)