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Technical specifications are worthless?

From: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2008 13:21:11 -0800
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
CC: "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <8B62A039C620904E92F1233570534C9B0118C8161C65@nambx04.corp.adobe.com>

In reply to: 

> My argument is that the W3C and the IETF should be in the business of 
> writing "Applicability Statements", as you describe them, and that 
> "Technical Specifications", as you are describing them, are worthless.

and 

> All serious 
> specifications that are intended to help achieve any useful level of 
> interoperability must describe implementation requirements in enough 
> detail that different classes of user agents can all interoperate without 
> having to reverse engineer each other.

When you program in a programming language and you need to look 
something up, do you  look to a compiler implementer's guide, or
do you go to a language reference? Is a specification that describes 
the  language without reference to the processing model of the parser
or complier worthless?

When the C++ committee (ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG21) produces a document,
are they producing a Technical Specification of the language, or
an Applicability Statement on compiler implementation?

Yes, authors of C++ programs that wish to run cross-platform
need to exercise some caution in keeping within a subset that
is portable, but does mandating that all future C++ implementations
must contain the recovery behavior of all current C++
implementations help anyone out?

Overwhelmingly in the history of standards, technical specifications
which provide for "interoperability" in the wikipedia sense have 
been the primary product of value. While applicability statements and
other specifications that detail additional implementation behavior
may well be highly desirable for some, they have not been
the primary purpose or most valuable output of any standards
organization.

To claim that, in general, technical specifications that don't
nail down the details of implementation behavior in error conditions
are "worthless" -- well, I'd have ask for whom? For you? For everyone? 
For all W3C members?

Larry
-- 
http://larry.masinter.net
Received on Tuesday, 30 December 2008 21:21:57 GMT

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