W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > July 2005

Re: CSS is doomed (10 years per version ?!?)

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Fri, 1 Jul 2005 03:01:11 +0000 (UTC)
To: Orion Adrian <orion.adrian@gmail.com>
Cc: www-style@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.61.0507010250080.7173@dhalsim.dreamhost.com>

On Thu, 30 Jun 2005, Orion Adrian wrote:
> Point granted. However, until I actually see 2.1 implemented fully in 
> IE, it's a dead standard as long as IE retains its position as 80%+.

The whole point of the original statement that you took issue with (namely 
that it takes 10 years for a spec to from concept to wide deployment) is 
that a standard is dead so long as it isn't implemented.

So I don't really understand what you are trying to say.

> > So what, you want Web browsers to implement five dozen styling 
> > languages? Implementors will never do that. Implementors are already 
> > reluctant to implement new features, let alone new languages; if 
> > entire new languages were being released every other year, replacing 
> > the previous ones, the standardisation process would completely fail.
> Exaggeration doesn't make your case. I think they would want 4 languages 
> which are all simple over the three (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) they 
> currently have.

But by your model, all three of those languages would have been replaced 
three or four times by now (we're 16 years into the Web's life). So that's 
at least 9 to 12 languages just to get to today.

> Simplicity wins in my book over complexity. If I can remove the layout 
> properties of CSS, I've greatly simplified the language and then it 
> becomes both easier to implement and easier to write for.

It's not easier to implement since, as you point out, you still have to 
implement the older version (so that existing content that uses those 
features continues to work).

> In your mind how many languages is the target? 1? I'd hate to see the 
> monstrosity that woud be one monlithic language.

Let's see. Unicode, UTF-8, XML, XHTML, CSS, DOM, JavaScript, PNG, JPEG. So 
that would be about nine (orthogonal) specifications.

> > Not to mention that each language would need a whole separate test 
> > suite (who is going to write that? We have enough trouble getting test 
> > suites written for the "old and crusty" CSS specs).
> Separate test suites that are each simpler to write than the previous 
> ones. N-tier has been very popular because it abstracts each layer 
> allowing each layer to match the mental models of the people using it. 
> Each layer also provides the tools necessary to accomplish the tasks 
> that need to be done without having to worry about the whole (a very 
> cumbersome problem).

I have no idea what you are trying to say here.

Writing test suites takes years. It's been my professional career for 
several years now. There is no easy way out. Even simple specs like xml:id 
need large test suites; anything near the complexity of a rendering spec 
(e.g. one that includes the Unicode bidi algorithm) involves tens of 
thousands of tests.

> > And of course if you keep replacing languages, you're very quickly 
> > going to lose the interest of Web authors, who, by and large, have 
> > enough trouble learning one language without having to start over 
> > every other year. They would just stick with what they knew and ignore 
> > the new languages.
> The consistency argument only wins when you have a winning solution
> already, but we don't.

I didn't say anything about consistency. I said authors don't like 
learning new languages.

> CSS layout isn't where it needs to be. It was a failed experiment and 
> saying, let's not rework the problem because authors might have to 
> adjust to not being stabbed in the eye (my own personal exaggeration), 
> is a flawed argument. Yes users will have to learn where the new 
> knobbies are, but they'll like the end result.

Maybe the first time (HTML2 to <font>) or the second (<font> to CSS) but 
the third or fourth time, they will give up. (XSLFO?)

> > > but honestly breaking existing pages is the group's own fault. 
> > > Versioning was invented for a reason.
> > 
> > Versioning is a cop-out solution that doesn't actually solve anything 
> > and introduces a raft of new problems, for example lack of backwards- 
> > compatibility with existing UAs, and the requirement that every user 
> > agent implement every past version of the spec as well as the current 
> > one, massively multipling the cost of implementation (requiring 
> > exponentially more test suites, exponentially more testing time, and 
> > resulting in exponentially more bugs).
> Technically it's geometrically, but hey exponentially has a better ring 
> doesn't it? Whether or not versioning, the cop-out (sounds like a movie 
> title doesn't it?), could be argued as necesarry or not, the system CSS 
> has been using hasn't been fairing much better.

Actually, it's been faring MUCH better. There is no way browser 
manufacturers could possibly keep up with the work required of the system 
you advocate. We're swamped as is, just implementing and fixing one 
version of each technology. We don't have the resources to be implementing 
and fixing three versions of each.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Friday, 1 July 2005 04:50:59 UTC

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