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Re: WebIDL Spec Status

From: Ryosuke Niwa <rniwa@apple.com>
Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2014 09:46:11 -0700
Cc: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>, Glenn Adams <glenn@skynav.com>, Boris Zbarsky <bzbarsky@mit.edu>, WebApps WG <public-webapps@w3.org>
Message-id: <FC9EB7C8-E446-4C75-8D01-935E8DC74A62@apple.com>
To: Domenic Denicola <domenic@domenicdenicola.com>

On Jul 2, 2014, at 9:26 AM, Domenic Denicola <domenic@domenicdenicola.com> wrote:

> From: Ryosuke Niwa <rniwa@apple.com>
> 
>> Snapshotting a specification is valuable for implementors as well.  If I refer to a living standard page, then fragment ID or terminology used in the specification may change in 5-10 years, and I would have no idea what kind of specification the person committed a given code change was following.
>> 
>> It's also valuable to ensure the self consistency of such a snapshot since editors often "refactor" specifications to better structure, etc... but that tends to introduce dangling definitions or references and other inconsistencies in them.
> 
> While I generally agree with Hixie and other living standard proponents, I want to acknowledge that these are real and practical concerns that we have not spent enough time addressing, IMO.
> 
> Off the top of my head, a good solution would be to produce URLs for every changeset, so that you can reference how the spec looked at a point in time. (Similar to the GitHub URL you get by pressing the "y" key on any page, e.g. [1].) This would help reinforce the idea that the implementation captures the state of the spec as of the time the implementation was written, without lending any false legitimacy to the likely-outdated snapshot. In other words, it is clearer to future readers that if the spec has changed from the version listed at the given URL, then the code is outdated and needs updating.

Yeah, I always encourage patch authors to do this in WebKit.

Just as an example, a hyperlink I got in Feb 2013 [1] to the WHATWG HTML spec no longer works today.  To me, Feb 2013 is not a long time ago and the fact I don't have an easy way of figuring out what the specification looked like at the time, or how it has changed since then is a serious problem since I don't have the luxury of following every spec. change due to the time restraints.

There are other ways to mitigate these issues in addition to publishing every revision of a given specification.  For example, spec authors could list & support every historical terminology and fragmentation ever introduced.  We could even create some service/database to map such historical names to the new ones, explaining the difference.

[1] http://whatwg.org/html#the-difference-between-the-field-type,-the-autofill-field-name,-and-the-input-modality

- R. Niwa
Received on Wednesday, 2 July 2014 16:46:41 UTC

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