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Re: WWW: Interoperability Crisis?

From: Sean B. Palmer <sean@mysterylights.com>
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 01:13:41 -0000
Message-ID: <014901c08347$b81b7de0$faec93c3@z5n9x1>
To: "Aaron Swartz" <aswartz@swartzfam.com>, <www-talk@w3.org>
Cc: <www-html@w3.org>
> The problem I have with HTML is: what is it?

HyperText Markup Langauge: a language for hyperlinking documents together.
At least, that was its original aim... then along came multimedia and
screwed it up a bit, but "it's still good, it's still good". Onwards:-

> What problem does it try to solve? What subset of documents
> should it be used for?

Anything where "a" links to "b". Well, at first that was true; just a
document format that has links in it... but it became apparent that HTML
could offer so much more just by adding in tags here and there, and that's
what "corrupted" it. If everyone who suggested a tag had it added, HTML
would have several thousand tags by now. All that was really needed in HTML
was a core suite of tags, and we have that now with m12n.

The great thing is that although people think the Web is expanding at a
rapid rate, it is actually getting smaller, because as time wears on, some
peoples pages aren't going to be viewable any longer (I hope) because they
didn't follow common sense, and instead decided to go with flashy
animations, and all that junk.

> Clearly HTML cannot do all things. Right now it is meant to be
> used as a display medium which it certainly is not.

People use it as a display medium, but only because they don't understand
it. Well, some people understand that, but most people still look upon
<font> as the best tag in HTML... I hope that people will learn eventually,
when the Web come to that crux where nothing works unless you spend several
hours downoading the latest software. People will say "enough", and just go
elsewhere. I do it now. If something asks me to download something, or
brings up any forms of error, I just go elsewhere: it's not worth spending
my time sorting out the problem.

I was recently reading some articles about "What makes a decent homepage?",
and it does seem that people have the basic idea straight, when they sit
down and think about it - but who sits down and thinks about how usable
their page is to a PWD (person with disability/ies)? Not many, I'm sure.
But the damage is done.. Marc Anderson gets celebrated as a Web hero, and
most people going about their business on the WWW not thinking about how
permanent or accessible, or interoperable it is.

So, what does make a good Web page? Content and interoperability. Usually
you can achieve interoperability with minimilization, i.e. simplicity.
"img/jpeg" might not be used in 20 years time, but I can't see plain text
ever going out of fashion, can you? Stuff like the humble hyperlink <a
href="[...]"> and paragraph tags <p> etc. were built to last, and I believe
will do so for a while. This should still work in 10 years:-

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
<head>
 <title>My Document</title>
</head>
<body>
 <p><a href="./2/">My other document</a>.</p>
</body>
</html>

Yes, your page should validate, but wer'e assuming that text/html is going
to be around for a long time. I think the question is always backwards
compatability. There are 1,000,000,000+ Web pages out there now in HTML,
and if you made a browser that doesn't grok them, then you've lost a lot of
audience. All of this XML stuff is useful because it means we can parse
through well-formedness, without a DTD, but on the whole It hink even 3G
technologies will eclipse current Web browsers by the end of the decade, so
the only major problem is interoperability: getting stuff to work on
everything.

I think that 2.0 could go towards achieving that goal, but I don't think
the chances are all that high. Best to stick with XHTML 1.1 forever
perhaps?

> So, please tell me, what is HTML?

It's just a few simple SGML markup tags, that when added to plain text,
stop it from being linear. What people didn't see coming were the
interoperability problems: plain text is great, and HyperText is even
better, but when you add MarkUp, you must agree on its meaning.
Interoperability is a near impossibility.

--
Kindest Regards,
Sean B. Palmer
@prefix : <http://infomesh.net/2001/01/n3terms/#> .
[ :name "Sean B. Palmer" ] has :homepage <http://infomesh.net/sbp/> .
Received on Saturday, 20 January 2001 20:16:20 GMT

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