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Re: WWW: Interoperability Crisis?

From: Aaron Swartz <aswartz@swartzfam.com>
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001 19:50:49 -0600
To: "Sean B. Palmer" <sean@mysterylights.com>, <www-talk@w3.org>
CC: <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <B68F9C7A.209FC%aswartz@swartzfam.com>
Sean B. Palmer <sean@mysterylights.com> wrote:

>> The problem I have with HTML is: what is it?
> HyperText Markup Langauge: a language for hyperlinking documents together.

So you seem to imply that it's not a language for creating documents, simply
linking them together. If so, how come it makes requirements about <html>
and <head> and <title> tags? Do I have to use these?

> All that was really needed in HTML was a core suite of tags, and we have that
> now with m12n.

This is what I don't understand -- do I drop HTML into my own file formats
or do I drop my file formats into them?

> 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.

<hypothetical>
What do you mean "didn't follow common sense"? After using the Web for a
while, I saw all the cool flashy graphics and colorful fonts people were
using and I wanted to get in on the fun. So I went to my local bookstore and
bought "HTML for Complete Idiots with No Sense of Design". I spent hours
trying to make my pages flashy and colorful, with lots of animations, so I
could show off pictures of my cat.

Now you tell me that after all that hard work, I did something wrong?
</hypothetical>

> People use it as a display medium, but only because they don't understand
> it.

Even those who do understand it have no other choice -- how else do I get
pictures of my cat to be displayed all over the world? How else do I make
flashy graphics appear on people's screens? Hih?

> So, what does make a good Web page? Content and interoperability.

There are two problems here:

    1) getting things to work on current browsers (i.e. solving an immediate
problem) which gets the most attention and
    2) getting things to last (i.e. thinking long-term) which is something
that simply isn't done.

People don't like to do extra work, especially when they don't get any
benefits. I've said this before (with RDF) and I'll say it again now. If you
want most people to do number 2, you're going to have to make a
side-effect/requirement of doing one.

>> 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.

Oh, so HTML is a way of adding links to plain text? Why didn't you say so?
Oh, and what's with all these extra tags -- can't we just make the whole
thing simpler?!

-- 
[ Aaron Swartz | me@aaronsw.com | http://www.aaronsw.com ]
Received on Saturday, 20 January 2001 20:51:10 GMT

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