W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > March 1999

Re: Vanquishing the "Digital Divide"

From: Braden N. McDaniel <braden@shadow.net>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 21:35:48 -0500
Message-ID: <01b601be701e$ef5c83a0$343a11cf@boneone>
To: <www-html@w3.org>, "Walter Ian Kaye" <walter@natural-innovations.com>
----- Original Message -----
From: Walter Ian Kaye <walter@natural-innovations.com>
To: <www-html@w3.org>
Sent: Tuesday, March 16, 1999 7:27 PM
Subject: Vanquishing the "Digital Divide"

> From: Braden N. McDaniel
> Date: Tue, 16 Mar 1999 17:32 -0500
> Subject: Re: XHTML
> >If you don't see the value of a version of HTML expressed in XML rather
> >SGML, then simply *don't use it*. I don't see the rationale beind all
> >harping against the notion of the very existence of such a thing. If it's
> >*really* the bad idea some of you think it is, it will fail on its own.
> There is also the matter of whether XHTML will be accessible by every
> platform which can currently access HTML. The *last* thing we should
> ever do is widen what Jesse Jackson called the "digital divide". The
> NUMBER ONE priority should be extending access to third-world countries,
> ghetto neighborhoods, the homeless, the infirmed, and everyone else on
> the planet. The World-Wide Web is supposed to bring us together; it must
> NEVER do the opposite. If XML is to be the new language, then developers
> MUST write XML browsers to run on EVERY platform which currently has an
> HTML browser (and they'll run in a smaller footprint, right?). This
> means DOS 3.3, Win3.1, MacOS 6.0, AmigaOS, PalmOS, NewtonOS, NextStep,
> etc. If it can dial into the 'Net, it will need an XML browser.

Like all those platforms enjoy full access to the HTML (and attempts
thereto) available on the Web now? Yeah, right. I agree that there's a
problem here, but XML ain't it. In fact, the rigorous checking offered by
XHTML (versus HTML) is probably a bigger part of the solution than you

> If you have a high-paying job, you can afford to buy a new machine.
> If you're unemployed, homeless, or live in some poor remote village,
> you can't -- you have to make do with old hand-me-downs, which might
> be an old PC-XT.

And few software developers can afford to write software for which they can
never receive any kind of monetary compensation. Even "free software" (in
the FSF sense) would rarely qualify in this regard.

> These people need FULL access to information, and
> we MUST help them become and stay connected to EVERYTHING that we
> can access. To do any less is unconscionable.

Do let us know when you near completion of your browser for underpriviledged

Okay, maybe that was harsh, but these problems are *easy* to identify: they
are just the current manifestations of problems that have a long history in
society. Solutions are harder to find, and I didn't see anywhere in your
message where you even hinted at solutions--you just provided some
hand-waiving suggesting that XML will make the problem worse. This, as far
as I can tell, is total FUD.

HTML--as it is practiced--is currently a mess. As far as it's concerned, the
W3C standards aren't worth the electrons they're written on--acceptable HTML
syntax is instead a cloudy subject defined by whatever looks acceptable in
some user's browser. *That*, right now, is the "EVERYTHING" that any
browser--including one on an older platform--is expected to deal with. So do
you mean to claim that this state-of-the-art is currently being maintained
on the platforms you listed?

XML's requirement for well-formed documents means that browsers will be
easier to write. I don't know if they'll get written for every platform you
mention, but there is no insurmountable technical barrier.

Received on Tuesday, 16 March 1999 21:36:14 UTC

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