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

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Sat, 2 Jul 2005 01:27:02 +0000 (UTC)
To: Orion Adrian <orion.adrian@gmail.com>
Cc: www-style@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.61.0507020118480.13594@dhalsim.dreamhost.com>

On Fri, 1 Jul 2005, Orion Adrian wrote:
> > 
> > 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.
> 1) The specs take too long to reach the public. The iterative design 
> process doesn't really work when you've got 10 years between start and 
> implementation.

It's between start and _wide deployment_, not implementation. 
Implementation often precedes the specification stage (prototyping ideas 
and proof-of-concept implementations are common for Web standards).

> 2) Because it takes so long, there is no iterative design process. The 
> language suffers. Major players whose job it is to sell easy to use 
> development software abandon the standard to promote their own more 
> usable version.

I don't really understand what you mean by "iterative design process".

> > 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.
> Huh? No, I'm not for replacing languages for the sake of doing so.

So you think JS and HTML are perfect?

> > 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).
> The older version however is already implemented. You don't even really 
> have to maintain it, except for security since you want it to work 
> exactly as it's always worked.

This is not true. all the implementations will be subtly different, some 
of them will be very buggy, etc. In order to make content that used those 
versions compatible with all UAs, the UAs will have to continue fixing 
bugs with those technologies.

> > 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.
> I used to write test suites in previous jobs as well and I can tell you 
> that it's much easier to test many simple non-interactive things, than 
> to test one thing that forces interaction. It's the whole point behind 
> Interfaces (contract-based programming).

It may be "easier" but it isn't "easy".

> > > > 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.
> There is an implicit consistency argument made any time you are talking 
> about change.

That's as may be, but it would be helpful if you would respond to the 
arguments I put forward and not arguments you think I may be implying.

> > Maybe the first time (HTML2 to <font>) or the second (<font> to CSS) 
> > but the third or fourth time, they will give up. (XSLFO?)
> People have successfully managed to migrate from version to version of 
> software over the years and managed to do alright.

No, they haven't. Many people still use Windows 2000 (heck many people 
still use Windows 98 and NT4). Many, many people have simply stopped 
upgrading their Office installations.

People are still using HTML 3.2. People still use DOM Level 0. People use 
old video codecs. And so forth.

> > 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.
> Well the idea is to let go eventually and leave old versions alone.

Given that browser vendors are regularly required to fix bugs with long 
obsolete features (e.g. how the "align" attribute works in tables), I 
think it is naive to believe that what you describe could come to pass.

It's as if you are assuming that all browsers are compatible. They are 
not. All browsers are continuously working to become more compatible with 
each other in every respect.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Saturday, 2 July 2005 02:00:21 UTC

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