W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > February 2001

RE: Point of order!

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2001 18:24:33 -0800
To: <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <003d01c08fe3$f1e68b20$0100a8c0@aries>
On Monday, February 05, 2001 7:19 AM, Dustin Kreidler wrote:
> pinning your "solutions" on future technologies is kinda
> like saying that the cure for California's power problems
> is the development of solar and wind power.  Tell that to
> the people with no lights.  They don't care about what you
> could do with 5 years and a great big budget.  Use what you
> have and fix it now.


The danger with analogies is that people mistake them for the truth.
Analogies can help us to understand, but they can also be used to distort
(often unintentionally). The above analogy is false, but it can be restated
in a more appropriate way.

The problem is that this analogy implies that it's an all or nothing
proposal, i.e., that if web site developers switch to W3C technologies,
their sites won't work ("no lights"). Here is a better analogy:

Let's presume for the sake of argument that 75% of California's power is
generated from renewable sources (would that this were true!). Now, the
equivalent to the W3C's position would be asking California residents to cut
power use by 25% and to insist that the power companies base all new
generation on renewable resources and rapidly phase out polluting sources.

That is essentially what XHTML Strict is all about. These old presentational
tags are dirty and polluting. Here is a lean and clean source of markup that
enforces the separation of structure from presentation. To use it, you'll
have to tighten your belt just a little. But if you use it, if you encourage
others to use it, and if you insist that user agent and authoring tool
manufacturers support it, in the *near* future we will have a cleaner, more
reusable web. And you'll still be able to do almost everything you want to
do today.

Now the analogy is actually a pretty good one. For years we've been waiting
for corporate America (or wherever) to give us Green Energy. Where is it?
Still a long way away. But if we demand Green Energy, and we significantly
cut back on power use until renewable energy is a reality (or better still,
build decentralized Green Energy sources and cut ourselves off from the
grid), you'll see a very sudden interest in Green Energy among the energy

It's interesting that this analogy should come up now. I have a cousin
working on a Ph.D. at UCLA in urban planning. He is currently living in an
"eco-village" in L.A. He is off the grid, and generates all his own power
using photovoltaic panels. This isn't in a wealthy neighborhood, but a poor
one. If this sort of thing catches on, look to CA power companies to
significantly ramp up investment in Green technologies. In fact, I am
currently revising a web site for Roseville Electric in Roseville,
California. They are now offering their customers a chance to buy
electricity either 50% from Green sources or 100% from Green sources.

It's the same thing with the web. As long as we continue to build sites with
5-year old technology, new user agents will be slow to arrive. But start
using the new technology and pushing the envelope, and the big corporations
will react quickly. Insist on standards-compliance and they will respond. If
they don't, they know that some small upstart will come along and fill that

In short, you do not advance by waiting for companies to create new
products, then creating a need for them. You create the demand first, then
the companies will respond. We must lead. They will not. (If they do, it
will not be in the direction that is most beneficial to the Web or to us,
but to their bottom line.)

Charles F. Munat
Received on Monday, 5 February 2001 21:17:11 UTC

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