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Formal Objection in Questions 1 and 3 on the Ballot

From: Terje Bless <link@pobox.com>
Date: Sat, 5 May 2007 00:07:36 +0200
To: Chris Wilson <Chris.Wilson@microsoft.com>, Dan Connolly <connolly@w3.org>
cc: W3C HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <r02020000-207-1049-ppc-6890FF0CF7664B11B84B91151203EBC7@pounder.neutri.no>

I vote “No” — that is, I Formally Object — to Questions 
1 and 3 on the current WBS WG Ballot, on the following grounds:

*** Shall we Adopt HTML5 as our specification text for review?

1) It is premature to vote on the wholesale adoption of a body 
of work
    the weight of “HTML5”. Its adoption would too greatly 
limit the WGs
    freedom to arrive at its own solutions; the extant text and fundamental
    assumptions would create a cognitive barrier to considering alternate
    paths. The underlying assumptions color the entire body of 
work and
    would be essentially impossible to weed out by incremental revision.
    It is also natural to assume that simple inertia would make changes
    more difficult to achieve.

    The proposed Editors (Ian Hickson, specifically) have volunteered
    contingent on the HTML WG's main deliverable being identical
    ("preferably the same document"), or substantially similar, 
to the
    evolving work of the “WHAT WG”. This means proposed 
changes would need
    to meet the test of whether its importance is greater than 
the threat
    of the Editor resigning or divergence from the external 
work, rather
    than actual merit. As a result, the adoption of the “HTML5”
    submission would unduly burden the WG with artificial constraints.

    Furthermore, the submission was made on April 9th and a mere month
    is insufficient time to even superficially review and make an
    informed choice on a body of work as large and dense as “HTML5”.
    The WG is still amassing members at a significant rate, and their
    voices should be heard on this matter. Significantly, I 
observe an
    increase in the number of new members whose interest and expertise
    lie in the area of Accessibility.

2) The Charter sets the scope to «A language evolved from HTML4…».
    It is debatable whether the “HTML5” submission is, any longer,
    meaningfully «evolved from HTML4». The natural way to achieve
    the Charter's deliverable is to actually start from HTML 
4.01 and
    evolve the deliverable from there (possibly by adding large parts
    of the “HTML5” submission and other extant sources).

3) The “HTML5” submission appears to be actively 
incompatible with
    previous versions of HTML (W3C and ISO specifications). 
While the
    Charter admonishes that the WG should not «…assume that 
    parser is used…», neither does it (nor, indeed, could it) 
say that
    it should be incompatible with an SGML parser. Regardless of 
what the
    general desktop browser vendors have implemented, currently specified
    variants of HTML are based on SGML (defined largely i terms 
of it)
    and SGML parsers do have a need to consume web content (the content
    predating the Recommendation of the “HTML5” submission, 
if nothing

- In order for this Formal Objection to be removed, the 
following must
   be put in place;

  a) Some reasonable measure to prevent the fundamental 
assumptions of the
     “HTML5” submission from being adopted without due 
consideration by
     this WG's deliverable. Also to prevent the extant text from limiting
     the room for exploring alternate approaches and solutions. Further,
     that measures be put in place to prevent the Editors' 
threats to
     resign to artificially limit the available alternatives of 
the WG.

     I cannot currently see what measure would achieve this, but 
would be
     happy see such measures identified.

  b) Some reasonable measure to ensure that the resultant specification
     is meaningfully evolved from HTML4. This would ideally be 
to use the
     HTML 4.01 Recommendation as a starting point (the basis for review),
     with the “HTML5” submission relegated to “merely” 
the most useful and
     relevant external source (and quite probably ending up 
comprising the
     vast majority of the eventual text). I believe this would 
satisfy the
     actual requirements, if not the preference, of all 
interests; including
     the “HTML5” submission's backers.

  c) Some reasonable measure to ensure compatibility with extant consumers
     of web content, specifically that SGML parsers can be used 
to process
     content that by definition is SGML based. That is, some 
measure must
     be put in place to ensure that the result of accepting the “HTML5”
     submission does not prevent an SGML parser from consuming existing
     content (by, e.g., redefining the meaning of apparent SGML content
     served under the text/html media type or making itself
     indistinguishable from existing content).

     One possible way to achieve this is to require “HTML5” 
documents to
     conform with SGML rules up until the end of the prolog, and 
to identify
     itself under SGML rules as a particular FPI, such that an 
SGML parser
     may discover that the document is one it cannot handle (and possibly
     hand it over to a “HTML5” parser). On review and 
discussion in the WG
     I am confident such methods can be found which satisfy the 
needs of all

Note that I have as yet not identified any substantive issue 
with the “HTML5” submission that makes it unacceptable as 
such. However, by accepting it as a basis for review we 
effectively close avenues for making it suitable for fulfilling 
the requirements of the members of the web community not 
currently considered by the “WHAT WG”, while the opposite is 
not true; using HTML4 as our basis does not significantly hinder 
our ability to fulfill the requirements expressed as the current 
“HTML5” submission (the more so should one accept the claim 
that “HTML5” is in fact “evolved” from HTML4).

I fully support the stance that the HTML WG should meet the 
requirements of the WHAT WG, who also claim to represent the 
majority of the HTML WGs natural constituency, but not at the 
expense of less well represented parties (and not, obviously, 
“at all costs”).

Also note that I have serious misgivings about the current 
Charter, and indeed have had to remove issues from this 
objection due to them being sanctioned by the Charter and thus 
out of scope for this Vote, and strongly believe all interests 
could have been better maintained had not the charter limited 
our scope for action.

*** Shall the editors of HTML5 be Ian Hickson and Dave Hyatt?

1) Ian Hickson has made his acceptance of nomination contingent 
on the
    WG's adoption of the “HTML5” submission as its basis for 
review. It
    is thus inappropriate, or at least unclear/confusing, to ask 
for a
    Vote on whether he should be the Editor before that issue 
has been

2) Making the acceptance contingent on the WG's willingness to satisfy
    arbitrary demands is inappropriate. Either he accepts the 
role of
    Editor or he does not; threatening to resign if the WG does 
not choose
    to meet his preference is highly inappropriate.

- In order for this Formal Objection to be removed,
   the following must be done;

  a) Ian Hickson must give a clear statement that he accepts the role
     of Editor in the WG, that is not contingent on how the WG chooses
     to produce its deliverables. Further, that he will not make 
use of
     his possible resignation as a treat or argument to 
influence how
     the WG chooses make its decisions or to produce its deliverables.

Note that there is obviously nothing that hinders Ian from 
resigning this role in the future if he should, for whatever 
reason, find himself unable to contribute the needed time or 
resources, or because he finds his interests lie elsewhere, or 
for whatever other reason. I also do not doubt Ian's 
qualifications for the role or his good faith should he take it 
on — indeed, I would endorse him on those merits alone — and 
would strongly prefer that a way be found that would allow me to 
remove this Formal Objection and for Ian to act as Editor.

I also quite support Dave Hyatt, for similar qualifications, but 
he appears too uncontroversial in manner to merit much hoopla 
here; you should make more unconsidered and wildly controversial 
statements Dave! :-)

Finally, I was considerably ambivalent over whether to lodge a 
Formal Objection on this Vote due to worry it would 
significantly delay progress. Thus I would be happy to discover 
ways to resolve these issues to the point where I find myself 
able to remove my Formal Objection and change the Vote to Concur 
if not outright support on both questions.

Terje Bless
I have lobbied for the update and improvement of SGML. I've done 
it for years.
I consider it the jewel for which XML is a setting.  It does 
deserve a bit of
polishing now and then.                                        
-- Len Bullard
Received on Friday, 4 May 2007 22:08:00 UTC

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