Re: HTML 3.2

Paul Prescod (
Thu, 9 May 1996 09:37:53 -0400

Date: Thu, 9 May 1996 09:37:53 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: MegaZone <>
From: Paul Prescod <>
Subject: Re: HTML 3.2
Cc: (Gregory J. Woodhouse),

Before criticizing people as idealists, perhaps you should read what they write.

Nobody has argued that we are going to be able to wean the members of the
"HTML Writer's Guild" off of <CENTER> and <BLINK>. They don't care about
standards. They never have. They never will. In this sense, _HTML 3.2_ is
the mental masturbation. It is W3C pretending it is in the "thick of things"
when it isn't, never has been and never will be. Period. Only Netscape and
Microsoft control the "mass media" HTML spec and the best that W3C can do is
suggest useful extensions like style sheets, OBJECT and math. If Netscape,
Microsoft and "the market" like them, they will use them. If they don't,
they won't. A "standard" for them is irrelevant. It only serves as a
marketing move to make W3C look "involved" and Netscape look "visionary".

W3C could propose the exact same standard "extensions" (styles, objects,
conditonal sections) as extensions to a robust HTML 3.0, and the vendors
would still pick and choose what they want to implement. But at least the
minority that cares about standards would have something they could use. And
as far as minorities goes, it is a rather large and influential minority
including many governments, large organizations, standards organizations,
industry consortia, large software companies and thousands of individuals.
Nobody outside of this mailing list listened to them last week (before
Wilbur) and now many of those who would have listened before, are rethinking it: writes:

> I am considering recommending to my company that we 
> standardize on HTML for all of our internal documents 
> for the same reason.  It will be easier for us to 
> convert them to whatever visual-based format we need, 
> they will be easier to search and index, and they will be 
> directly viewable on any computer in the building without 
> special software. I may have to revisit this decision if 
> HTML continues down the visual-based road.

W3C has sold its influence in the community of those who care about
standards and in my opinion, it has gained _nothing_.

Let me repeat my central point so that you don't have to misrepresent it
again: HTML is out of control. It always has been and always will be. Given
this fact, W3C might as well get on with the business of developing robust
standards for those of us who care about them and let the masses pick and
choose the features that they like according to market forces. According to
the logic of "if the masses don't care about it it isn't important", LaTeX
should be RTF, SGML should be WinHelp, C++ should be basic.

At 12:12 AM 5/9/96 -0700, MegaZone wrote:
>The W3C had lost leadership, if they even attempted to create a new spec
>without first acknowledging the de facto standard first they'd be ignored.

Too late. A standard HTML is DOA. W3C can't enforce it. All they can do is
make a robust HTML _variant_ that people who care about standards will
choose over the other HTML variants. They can create an alternative instead
of duplicating the work of the half dozen or so "market HTML" DTDs floating

>The idealists need to wake up a bit and realize *business* is involved here.
>The W3C needed to get their cooperation and interest, and participation, 
>in order to do anything but mental masturbation in developing a new spec.

Not true. When something is needed badly, like TABLEs, OBJECTs and STYLE
SHEETs, the vendors will look around for a spec. It is easier than writing
their own. They will take the spec, bastardize it, and implement it, whether
HTML 3.2 exists or not. This is where W3C can have an impact as DSR did
before there was a W3C.

>If you read what is available, HTML 3.2 provides a new base to work from.
>It recognizes the things most authors are doing anyway, gives then an official
>DTD to allow all browsers easy implimentation without reverse engineering,

I can mail you six of those DTDs with a half an hour of looking around my
hard disk.

>Another thing to note - I've been in the HTML Writers Guild for a bit now
>and on all of their mailing lists.  That is a lot of writers.  Off the top
>of my head I don't recall a single question on <MATH> - but many questions
>on inserting things (<OBJECT>) and on Style Sheets.  <MATH> is not 
>important to the majority of the people writing HTML - comercial businesses
>and personal homepages.  So if some people really want it, maybe they should
>help write the spec instead of whining that other people aren't doing it.

I agree. Nobody should depend on W3C to implement HTML-perfect. But I can
still feel (and express) that W3C has made a big mistake with Wilbur.

>HTML 3.0 has been a farce for months, 

For you, yes. For some, no. Several people here have indicated that they
require HTML 3.0 features like DIV, CLASS and FIG. No they aren't the mass
market, but they are probably the majority of the market that will ever read
the Wilbur spec or care about it.

>stop clinging to it, join reality,
>stop griping, and work on the future.  It is over and done - the public
>is going to follow 3.2, all but maybe complete fringe browsers are going
>to follow 3.2 

Nobody ever denied that. The "fringe" browsers are the browsers that need a
spec. The "major" browsers already have a spec: Netscape compliance.

> - and if AT&T and M$ had to drop proprietary schemes and
>embrace HTML because the market was so forceful as to reject their solutions,
>do you think you have a serious chance to make anything that is going to
>replace it?

Nope. And I don't care. _That_ is the point.

 Paul Prescod