W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > August 1997

Re: Bad CSS implementations

From: <S.N.Brodie@ecs.soton.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 1997 19:39:06 +0100 (BST)
Message-Id: <22008.9708041839@mccarthy.ecs.soton.ac.uk>
To: dave@verso.com (David Siegel)
Cc: www-style@w3.org
David Siegel wrote:
> I believe part of the problem is that the W3C never had an adoption
> program, never had any plans for verifying implementations, and generally
> pulled up short on insisting that the browser companies build something we
> can all use. 

The browser companies are core members of the W3C though ...

> I think what we can learn from this thread is that the W3C and the browser
> companies have a lax attitude toward implementation standards.

The problem is that the W3C has no means of enforcing the standards.
The browser companies DO have a lot to gain from making their s/w
incompatible with the others (although they will never admit it because
it would be too damaging to do so publically) and appear to actively
pursue those (JavaScript/JScript/ActiveX/VBScript/layers etc.).  This
is a conflict of interest that lies at the heart of the W3C.  That's
what you get with a vendor consortium though.  A non-vendor
organisation would just be dismissed as irrelevant by the vendors,
IMHO, so it's the lesser of two evils.

What would happen in the W3C came out and ticked Microsoft/Netscape off
for having buggy/incorrect implementations?  The W3C has no sanctions
it can impose on them except perhaps expelling them from the consortium
- then the companies would just say "well we have to develop features
that we want because we can't talk to the other interested parties
because we were expelled".  Arguably, this would lead to even more
problems.  The W3C then becomes irrelevant because none of the major
players take any part in it.

Sadly, the web is no longer open.  CSS1 is just about hanging on to its
standardness but the rest of it is largely gone.  The number of sites
that require JavaScript (and don't say which variety of it) or VBscript
or ActiveX is increasing rapidly (although the only evidence I can
offer is increasing volume of user complaints about inability to access
sites).  All three of those are proprietary technologies, although
Microsoft has made noises about making ActiveX more public.  Another
criteria I use for openness is:  could I sit down and write a browser
from scratch on a platform not supported by either Microsoft & Netscape
using just freely available documentation such that it (eventually) is
capable of performing the same tasks as NN and IE.  The answer is
clearly no.

I find the idea of competing browser vendors thinking that co-operation
with a competitor on compatible implementations is useful, amusing.
From the marketing manager's point of view, how can it possibly to be
useful to have customer companies decide to throw out your product in
favour of the competitor's without some kind of compatibility cost or
tie-in to deter them?  Maybe "the big two" are seriously attempting to
be openly compatible and just failing miserably.  More believable,
IMHO, would be that there are people within those organisations who are
in favour of compatibility and standards and other people who are not
and that the people who are not are in more senior positions ...

Stewart Brodie, Electronics & Computer Science, Southampton University.
Received on Monday, 4 August 1997 14:41:19 UTC

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