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"Do we really care if it's part of the core Web browser engine or not?"

From: Baldur Bjarnason <baldur@rebus.foundation>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2018 15:24:29 -0500
Message-Id: <92EB5708-76F6-4CA1-9223-3915C003DA79@rebus.foundation>
To: W3C Publishing Working Group <public-publ-wg@w3.org>
This email is prompted by the discussion in issue #291[1] where Hadrien Gardeur wrote:

> Do we really care if it's part of the core Web browser engine or not? 

And earlier in the thread Romain Deltour wrote:
> At the end of the day, it sounds (to me) like we're almost only getting consensus by exhaustion, or at least because a very little number of people still have the drive to still follow the technical discussions.

This touches on how many of the technical discussions in this WG seem to turn into exhaustion marches: consensus tends to go to the viewpoint that simply lasts longer than the rest. 

But, primarily it gives me the opportunity to provide context for why many of us can’t justify regular participation in this WG to our employers any more (and, in my case, haven’t been able to do so in quite some while). And I’d like to make a small suggestion that might make future discussions less of a slog.

Specifically, even though this question was almost certainly intended to be rhetorical, it is _the_ question that decides for many of us whether we are going to participate or not:

> Do we really care if it's part of the core Web browser engine or not? 

The answer for a _lot_ of us is yes, absolutely yes. That is what we really care about at the Rebus Foundation. It is the only thing we care about. And the fact that it looks exceedingly unlikely to happen at this point is a big disincentive to participation for those of us whose mandate is primarily to to make the web proper (i.e. what the core browser engine supports) a better platform for publications and web sites/services that have publication-like characteristics. 

It isn’t a question of drive but of economics. I can’t justify spending my employer’s time, resources, and money on these specifications given the likely outcomes. I suspect the same applies to many others who have dropped out of the discussions.

Again Hadrien Gardeur:
> For many standards, the politics are not clear. I don't think it's a good way to look at this problem.

I think the politics of this WG and this spec are very clear to many outside observers. It is primarily for publishing industry use cases, apps, and platforms. It is not for extending the core web's feature set to better support publications and things that look like publications. 

You could achieve the goals of the former by building on the latter but that approach would mean that this WG wouldn't be able to achieve its stated goals on the timeline it's chartered for and my impression is that the needs of the publishing industry are becoming acute.

If you make it publicly at least semi-official that this WG’s Web Publication work is focusing on publishing industry concerns and not on adding features to web browsers proper then that would probably make consensus easier. It would bring expectations in line with the probable outcome. By taking potential browser implementation out of the picture, a lot of the questions surrounding the spec will become clearer and implementation questions become simpler to answer. You only need to deal with dedicated reading apps and polyfills.

Such a decision wouldn’t preclude bringing more low level publication-oriented features into the web browser core at a later date. In fact, having a publishing industry-oriented Web Publication spec implemented by the EPUB ecosystem might be help us figure out what browser features would be helpful additions to the platform.

This wouldn’t be such a big shift from the WG’s stated mission as helping other WGs add features useful for publication use cases is what it’s already doing. Acknowledging that the Web Publication family of specifications (WP, PWP, and next-gen EPUB) aren’t for core browser implementation and stating outright that they should at most be implemented in ways similar to how PDFs and EPUBs are supported today would, I suspect, clarify a lot of those conversations.

I know that I’m not the only person who has come away from this WG with the impression that it is primarily a standardisation venue for publishing industry interests. If that is the intent then making that explicit and obvious will only make this WG’s work go easier. If that _isn’t_ the intent then I really don’t know what to say except that you have some work left to do to make sure the WG’s actual practice and people’s perception of that practice matches that intent.

[1]: https://github.com/w3c/wpub/issues/291

- best
- Baldur Bjarnason
Received on Thursday, 15 November 2018 20:24:54 UTC

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