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

Steve H Rose (
Sat, 23 Sep 1995 08:40:21 +0059 (EDT)

Date: Sat, 23 Sep 1995 08:40:21 +0059 (EDT)
From: Steve H Rose <>
Subject: Re: Standards, Work Groups, and Reality Checks: A Radical Proposal.
In-Reply-To: <Pine.3.89.9509221942.A4501-0100000@alpha>
Message-Id: <>

On Fri, 22 Sep 1995, Arjun Ray wrote:

[material deleted]

> 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?

Yes, after all, what does a name mean?  A name like "C" for a programming 
language, a name like "computer" for a computer.  Why not write a 
language called "D" and try to convince tens of thousands of programmers 
that your language is the REAL "C" and everybody should switch?  Why not 
use a name like "informationer" for your brand of computer, and insist 
that it is NOT a computer, but an informationer, and that everybody 
should buy informationers in the future, and not computers?

In case my sarcasm is not obvious, the reason is that THERE IS POWER IN
THE NAME FOR THINGS.  There are hundreds of thousands of people who know
the name HTML.  That name means something.  To try to invent a totally new
name for something that people already use as a label for is a total waste. 
This is NOT to say that people would be unable to understand something
else which is truly different -- the obvious thing in this case would be
SGML.  People could "get" that there is something "new" and different, and
potentially better out there, called SGML, and some people would be
willing to switch.  But, once people have a "slot" for something (like
HTML) it will be almost impossible to get them to switch that name to
something else. 

But, there is a more important point.  IMHO, trying to change the name is 

Please let me explain that, before responding.  Many people in the WWW 
community think that they have lost because the standards aren't being 
fully followed.  But, this is assuming that the standards for HTML should 
be like standards for electrical circuitry.

I think this is the wrong analogy.  HTML is a language for 
communication.  And, IMHO, it is <em>the most successful standard 
language for communication ever!</em>  Compare the 
number of people who "speak" HTML to the number who speak Esperanto, or 
any other previous attempted standard "universal" language.  There are 
certainly a lot more people who speak English worldwide, but this is not 
a manufactured language -- and I submit, is much less standardized than HTML.

So, the proposal to try to change the name HTML would snatch defeat from 
the jaws of victory :-)  For all its flaws and dialects, HTML isn't bad, 
and offers the potential of remaining a valuable tool for world-wide 
communication.  Just because it can't be everything some of us hoped it 
would doesn't mean we have wasted our time.  What is needed now is a bit 
of humility in accepting that other forces are at play, that we have done 
and continue to do valuable work towards standards -- and that we need to 
continue such work without expecting that we will necessarily be able to 
control EVERYTHING that will happen in the future.


Steve Habib Rose
HomePage Associates
Clear Nets Training and Consulting
Developer of The HTML CyberClass