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Templateid seems dangerous to innovation and competition

From: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2008 13:33:01 +0200
Message-Id: <AAA445E9-9FB1-4421-B0D3-FBE4189F6A89@iki.fi>
To: public-pfwg-comments@w3.org
Cc: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, Maciej Stachowiak <mjs@apple.com>, david.bolter@gmail.com

According to http://mindforks.blogspot.com/2008/03/aria-templateid-explained.html 
> Whenever an assistive technology (AT) sees this template ID it can  
> provide customization to improve the UX. For example, a screen  
> reader like JAWS or Orca could load a script for adding keystrokes  
> to open the Gmail inbox etc. If another web product embeds Gmail the  
> AT can still pick up the the template id and apply some customization.

I think this is a problem for innovation and for competition.

It is a problem for competition, because if JAWS or Orca give magic  
preferential treatment to Gmail, a competing Webmail service cannot  
get the same accessibility advantage by writing to an open spec. The  
playing field is not level in that case. The only way for the  
competing service to gain the same advantage is to reverse engineer  
what the template ID causes JAWS or Orca to do and then carefully  
craft their own UI to match the structure that the magic behavior  
expects. What's the point of an open spec like ARIA in that case?  
Moreover, such crafting might be too impractical for entire UIs like a  
Webmail UI. The reverse engineering scenario could be a realistic  
recourse for an Ajax library when the template ID is associated with a  
specific widget of a competing Ajax library as opposed to the whole UI  
of an app. In either case, the anti-competitive effect is not good.

It is a problem for innovation, because Gmail is getting preferential  
treatment for a particular version of its UI, updating the UI in an  
innovative way would regress accessibility. With the glacial update  
cycle of AT, it isn't reasonable to expect new AT versions to be  
shipped instantaneously. Hence, aria-templateid would cause a  
disincentive to change anything that has once gained preferential  
treatment from AT.

I suggest removing the aria-templateid feature as anti-competitive and  
as innovation-stifling.

P.S. If aria-templateid stays nonetheless, please specify that the  
value is an absolute IRI and that it is compared as an opaque string  
of Unicode code units without any IRI equivalence normalization.

Henri Sivonen
Received on Monday, 24 March 2008 11:33:44 UTC

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