Re: The spec evolves...

Marc Andreessen (
Sun, 6 Dec 92 22:41:10 -0800

Date: Sun, 6 Dec 92 22:41:10 -0800
From: (Marc Andreessen)
Message-Id: <>
To: Dan Connolly <>
Subject: Re: The spec evolves... 
In-Reply-To: <>

Dan Connolly writes:
> Very true. I think the A tag is _highly_ overloaded. One click on an
> anchor might take you anywhere from the next sentence to somewhere
> in New Zealand. 

This is part of the beauty of HTML and the Web, and should not be
abandoned lightly -- complete user-oriented transparency lifts the
concept of information up from its physical grounding
(network/machine/directory/file) and removes the need to think of it
as anything *but* information.  Who cares where it comes from, so long
as it's there?

Granted, better navigation mechanisms are needed to keep track of
position and orientation in this kind of environment, but that's
always been the case in hypertext -- not a new problem, but one
becoming even more ripe for active research.  Why not just consider
location transparency to be a challenge?

> Meanwhile, I think it's time to redesign HTML. 

I emphatically disagree.  With all due respect (and a lot is due) to
your efforts with formalizing HTML, it's high time to shoot the
engineers and stabilize the product.  Widespread success of the
current implementation will be the single best reason for further
redesign, which can take place well down the road in the form of HTML
version 2, after lots of real-life experiences with the current system
can be catalogued and analyzed -- something currently lacking.  In the
meantime, HTML and the Web need to work on becoming entrenched and
widely and generally used, or God help us, we're all gonna be using
Gopher five years from now.

> Python -- I read a bunch of stuff about that a while ago. I wonder
> if the Midas language used by the Midaswww browser could be subsumed
> by Python. Aside from the pascalish syntax, I think Python is just
> what we need: an object oriented language for distributed applications.
> I've been hoping GNU smalltalk would mature, but maybe I should
> look at Python again. Tony: have you heard of it?

These object-oriented toolkits and interpreters and interface builders
and so on are all wonderful, but keep in mind that (1) sustained use
of interpreters impacts performance; (2) sustained use of any of them
impacts long-term viability of systems based on them, particularly
when it comes time to start embedding HTML browsing in other tools;
and (3) look at the proliferation of different systems already in use
and removing all hope of abstracting more than a very small amount of
common code (Viola, tk/tcl, Midas, VUIT, NeXT interface builder,
etc.).  Doesn't it make more sense to just use portable C (or,
possibly, C++) and allow others to benefit from and build upon your
labors without forcing yet another toolkit/language/interpreter on
them, and more often than not forcing them to reinvent the wheel?


Marc Andreessen
Software Development Group
National Center for Supercomputing Applications