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Introducing NetscapeML

From: Thomas Reardon <thomasre@microsoft.com>
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 1996 13:16:09 -0700
Message-Id: <c=US%a=_%p=msft%l=RED-76-MSG-960629201609Z-16796@tide21.microsoft.com>
To: "'www-style@w3.org'" <www-style@w3.org>, "'html-erb@w3.org'" <html-erb@w3.org>, "'www-html@w3.org'" <www-html@w3.org>
I want to be the first to let the world know what wonderous new things
Netscape has done for us this week.  They just posted the release notes
for beta5 of Navigator 3.0 which includes *HTML* elements for
multi-column layout and whitespace.  This of course contradicts their
stated commitment to working on style sheets.  It is a surprise to those
of us working in the W3C HTML working group who have assumed all along
that the reason Netscape is there is to cooperate in the development of
standards.  

Its also interesting that Netscape chose to post this stuff AFTER other
browsers started implementing whitespace control in stylesheets, and
AFTER active discussions started on next-generation stylesheet syntax
for things like 2D layout and multicolumn text flows.

The last time the community got something this completely proprietary
from Netscape was the FRAMES non-spec.  Yuck.  Microsoft has some
temporary extensions to improve existing frames (still not strategic nor
standard, CSS is the way to go, no question) and these extensions were
proposed openly to folks working on W3C HTML specs before we shipped a
beta.  We even went the extra step and provided those suggestions
directly to Netscape.  

Contrast that to the MULTICOL and SPACER elements, which are intended
for one thing only: to torpedo an existing standards effort so that
Netscape can own the syntax for web documents.  Now Netscape will make
some kind of statement about 'market demand for new HTML tags' but of
course this is a smokescreen, like the Soviet 'invitation' to
Afghanistan.

It is one thing to go ahead and introduce innovation and try to get
concensus on the innovation, it is quite another to counter an emerging
standard with desperate last minute random proprietary extensions.  The
one mitigating factor is that these recent hacks don't come close to
matching the functionality already available in browsers using style
sheets.  Its only sad that some customers will confuse this with real
innovation.

Either way it's ok with us, Netscape to be really open or be
proprietary, but if you're going to be proprietary, as recent actions
have shown, then please stop the pretense, don't claim openness and
support of standards when you're refusing to accept standards and just
working hard to undermine them.  There is nothing "open" or
"standards-based" about what you're doing, please have the honesty to
admit it; or live up to your words (which are in contradiction with your
actions) and adopt the open, standards-based approach.

You can go do your own proprietary thing, the rest of us will
collaborate on the standard.  A year ago you could introduce whatever
you wanted and assume rapid adoption.  Now there are a number of vendors
and researchers writing code around emerging standards, and customers
and developers can now choose which path to follow, NetscapeML or HTML.

-Thomas Reardon
Microsoft

ps: check out the hacks for Javascript syntax, lovely stuff that, and
again non-standard, despite a meeting on scripting standard *last week*
Received on Saturday, 29 June 1996 17:24:09 GMT

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