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Re: complexity (was: Re: XHTML and RDF)

From: David Woolley <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004 07:43:58 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <200404080643.i386hwX04228@djwhome.demon.co.uk>
To: www-html@w3.org

> is coming up with these specs, the people coming up with the specs don't 
> have to implement them or use them with the possible exception of the XML 
> and HTML working groups. It may not occur to them how complex or unruely 

For HTML and CSS, the problem is that the people who come up with the
implementations don't have to write a complete and concise specification,
or comply with policies on things like separation of form from content
as they are only interested in satisfying people using their products
to produce a particular visual effect.  The implementations lead the
specifications!

W3C then has to try and reduce what they have done to a simple, complete
and self consistent set of rules that both matches the policies for
the technologies and is as close as possible to matching the de facto
behaviour of the common products in the straighforward cases, in spite
of the border cases all really being handled by secret code in the
developed products.

I would therefore say that it is the developers that are irresponsible.
By developers, I really mean marketing departments, as actually programmers
often know that what they are doing is a bad use of the available
technology in all fields, whether the technology is PC hardware and
operating systems, or is HTML + CSS, etc., and web browsers (i.e. this
applies to web page authors as much as to web browser programmers).

Generally standardisation is done after the fact.

If you take SVG, it seems to me that this is very much being driven
by the developers.  If the W3C philosophy were driving it, I think
SVG would take more note of integration with HTML, but instead, it
happily uses EMBED, and the original promise of a universally available
language for simple vector diagrams has been forgotten (you need to
load plugins), in favour of competing with Flash.

One of the problems with standards is bloat.  Something that gets
standardised starts with a concept that is well adapted to a particular
niche, but the standardisation process eventually bloats it to be
a universal product.  That is driven by marketing considerations, not
by computer science.  HTML is actually exceptional, in that HTML 2 is
an attempt to regain focus.  SVG is more typical. 

CSS is funny in that it was created as part of trying to clean up 
HTML but is being driven by marketing driven feature creep.

> do about that. Perhaps what the W3C should concentrate on is culling back 
> existing standards and simplifying them. Sometimes less is better than more. 

This is what they have been trying to do with HTML since the beginning.

> Perhaps it would be best if the W3C suspended activities on new specs to 
> work on simplifying the specs they've already written.

As I've tried to argue, the complexity is created by the commercial
side, not by W3C.  That complexity is hidden in the details of the
proprietory source code but gets revealed in the standards when you 
try to write a complete and self consistent document.
Received on Thursday, 8 April 2004 02:55:07 GMT

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