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Re: TAG Comments on XHTML 2.0 and HLink

From: Shane McCarron <shane@aptest.com>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 09:20:01 -0500
Message-ID: <3D931791.133F1A01@aptest.com>
To: www-tag@w3.org

[Speaking as a private person, not as the principal editor on XHTML 2.0]

I find it extraordinary that a body such as the TAG would have the
unmitigated gall to 1) make such a recommendation publicly without
inviting the HTML Working Group to present its case, and 2) to go so far
beyond the scope of the TAG's brief.  This is a travesty on a level I
have
not personally encountered at the W3C up 'til now.  I should have waited
a 
couple of days to write this note, but I decided that my indignation
needed 
to come through - small children and thin-skinned standards mavens, read
no further.

[Speaking as the principal editor on XHTML 2.0 and other XHTML
specifications]

The HTML Working Group has demonstrated that XLink is manifestly
inadequate for the needs of the community we are trying to serve.  
Our constituents, the millions of people who author and maintain web
pages,
cannot be expected to throw out their knowledge base that is HTML 4 and
XHTML 1.  Nor can they be required to use a bunch of arcane attributes
on every linking element just because there is some approved W3C
Recommendation that is sort of in this space that _could_ be used. 
(Note: I am fully aware that XHTML 2.0 is not fully backward compatible
with XHTML 1.1.  However, the HTML Working Group follows "the principle
of least surprise" with our evolution of HTML, and breaking every link
in
every document as people were trying to migrate them to XHTML 2.0 would
be very surprising indeed.)

XLink has never addressed the requirements of XHTML.  The XLink working
group chose to ignore our last call comments, and chose not to support
the requirements that were in their own original goals for their
recommendation.  The W3C Advisory Committee recognized this two years
ago and clearly indicated there should be a more friendly approach to
linking semantics that would not require they be explicitly described on
every link in every document.  Sadly, this has yet to appear.  As a
result,
the HTML Working Group was forced to proceed without a solution, and
forced
to present our case [for not using XLink] to our community through 
discussion lists such as xml-dev and XHTML-L. We have received
substantial 
understanding of  and support for our position.  When we delivered a
draft 
HLink document, we received even more support, and many excellent
suggestions 
for turning that draft into a generic solution that will serve our
community well.

The HTML Working Group is in the vanguard of W3C activities.  We often
fall afoul of the problems caused by the ill-considered actions of other
standards groups and governing bodies.  When this happens, we work to
address the problems in conjunction with those groups.  When we cannot
address the problems (e.g., broken XML Namespaces, DTD locations on the
W3C servers, absolute vs. relative URIs in W3C recommendations,
byzantine 
publication policies, etc.) we find some way around them so that our
user 
community is served.  

At the end of the day, that is all that matters.  The members of the
HTML Working Group attempt to represent our user community.  XLink in
its current form is unusable by that community.  It not only imposes an
unreasonable burden on content authors, it makes it all but impossible
to do language extension or language integration - the primary purpose
of XHTML Modularization and the modules that make up XHTML 2.0, XML
Events, XForms, SMIL, MathML, etc. The position of the TAG clearly has
not taken these issues into account.  I personally welcome the
opportunity to present these issues to the TAG so that they can fully
appreciate the situation.

[Note: since many of things referenced herein are from W3C internal 
communications and events, and since I am not certain which of these 
are now public, I have not included specific links to the discussions 
and documents that are cited herein.  Should the TAG need these
references, 
I will be happy to supply them.]
-- 
Shane P. McCarron                          Phone: +1 763 786-8160 x120
Managing Director                            Fax: +1 763 786-8180
ApTest Minnesota                            Inet: shane@aptest.com
Received on Thursday, 26 September 2002 10:18:00 GMT

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