W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-html@w3.org > February 2004


From: Mark Birbeck <mark.birbeck@x-port.net>
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2004 11:12:42 -0000
To: 'Tantek Çelik' <tantek@cs.stanford.edu>, "'David Woolley'" <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk>, "'Ian Hickson'" <ian@hixie.ch>
Cc: <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <005401c3fc59$74231150$0d01a8c0@W100>

Tantek Çelik wrote:
> Sent: 25 February 2004 23:45
> To: David Woolley; www-html@w3.org
> Subject: Re: XHTML and RDF
> On 2/25/04 2:32 PM, "David Woolley" <david@djwhome.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> > 
> >> I posit that the lack of namespaces was not in small part
> >> for this success. That is to say, I would guess that every
> >> added to a language will dramatically reduce it's ease of use for 
> >> authors. I know
> > 
> > I'd agree.
> I would too.

Of course this is all a matter of opinion, since all the three of you
are able to say is that you believe that some technology that took off
fast, would *not* have taken off so fast if it had made use of some
technology that at the time when it *did* take off fast, hadn't yet been
invented ... phew! I don't think you run the risk of finding anyone who
can prove that proposition wrong!

It does however leave you with the awkward opposite question - if XML is
regarded as a substantial improvement over SGML, then how come HTML got
anywhere? Is it possible that there is more to the take-up of HTML than
simply 'ease of authoring'? (That's assuming that the notion of 'ease of
authoring' is accepted, since there is just as strong a case to say that
the 'tolerance' of browsers to inaccurate mark-up was more significant.)

I think it's worth distinguishing between the end-users of a product,
and the people who produce that product. Underpinning discussions like
this one is often the assumption that the 'end-user' of HTML is an
author; I would suggest that the end-user is the person booking the
holiday, trying to find a part in their company's inventory, researching
their PhD - and at the moment a lot of this stuff is more difficult to
do than it need be.

And the authors - to their immense credit - are the ones who are trying
to help people do these things, and are using the tools that are
available to them. In my mind the majority of authors are characterised

(a) Their willingness to learn

My recollection of the early days of HTML was of a real 'buzz' with
people knocking out great web-sites using nothing more than notepad. I
even recall that the common criticism of products like FrontPage was
that they "messed-up my mark-up". I used to see people on the train with
great big HTML books (and JavaScript ones, for that matter), eager to
learn whatever they could.

(b) Their willingness to do something complicated, if it solves a

These people are already working around the limitations of both the
languages (HTML, CSS, etc.) and the implementations. Authors are
delivering useful sites now, despite the efforts of us experts. Whether
it's working around the inconsistencies between CSS on Mozilla and IE,
or using JavaScript to give their users powerful menus, toolbars or
validation, or using XSLT and XPath to get more control and flexibility,
they are certainly not 'average Joe-blow authors'.

So, I'd rather not take as our starting-point that 'the author' is
incapable of grasping anything more complicated than a horizontal line
and a break - let's treat them with some respect!

And if we do agree that we want better functionality for the end-user -
and in particular we want to 'unlock' the wealth of information
contained in HTML documents, so that the user can do cleverer things,
faster - *then* of course we should move on to looking at how to make
that as easy to author as possible.

But to paraphrase ... "it should be as simple to author as possible, but
no simpler".



Mark Birbeck
x-port.net Ltd.

Received on Thursday, 26 February 2004 06:12:44 UTC

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