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RE: publishing new WD of URL spec

From: Domenic Denicola <domenic@domenicdenicola.com>
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2014 21:58:49 +0000
To: Arthur Barstow <art.barstow@gmail.com>, public-webapps <public-webapps@w3.org>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <e9fb3e2622b4467c9eac62a9ec22b05f@BN1PR05MB325.namprd05.prod.outlook.com>
This is a formal objection to the publication of this specification.

My arguments against publishing this specification include that copying the spec from the WHATWG is an unnecessarily combative way of working with another standards body, especially with regard to the URL Standard wherein we/they have been trying hard to address the issues of IP coverage and stable references on the W3C's terms. I would rather see this talked through and agreement come to regarding how the W3C can work to reference WHATWG specs in the same way that they reference Ecma or IETF specs.

On the technical side, I argue that previous efforts to copy WHATWG specs, even well-intentioned ones like the DOM, have led to out-of-date snapshots permeating the internet, and causing developer and implementer confusion. (See links in [1]; see also the contrast between one implementer's policies at [2] and another's at [3].) We can't even fall back to "never look at TR because it is always out of date; use ED instead!" because in the case of e.g. DOM "4", the ED is five months out of date.

I acknowledge that Dan is going to great lengths to make sure that this copying is done "right", insofar as it can be. E.g., he is copying not plagiarizing; he is stating that he wants feedback to flow through the upstream version instead of diverging; and he says that he will add more clear signposting to the document to help direct implementers and developers to the upstream version. However, I think this plan is merely a band-aid on a larger problem, akin to feeding the W3C's spec-copying addiction with a nicotine patch instead of a full-on cancer stick. An improvement, but I'd really prefer we break the addiction entirely.

There are a number of remedies that would address this formal objection. The most preferable would be for the W3C to work amicably with the WHATWG to figure out a way to treat them and their specs as legitimate, instead of constantly copying them. This could include e.g. issuing a call to the AC reps in the webapps working group to commit to patent protection via the WHATWG's patent mechanism [4]. In the category of "these proposals MAY be vague or incomplete" [5], I would like the W3C to consider seriously how to react to the world wherein standards best serve the web by being living, and find some way to get out of the outmoded and bug-encouraging mode of thinking that stands behind "stable references."

An alternate way of addressing the formal objection would be outline a very clear process for avoiding the dangers that have cropped up in previous WHATWG copies. This would include, among other things: an automated system for ensuring that the latest version of the upstream spec is always copied to TR; a blacklisting of outdated snapshots from search engines via robots.txt; some way of dealing with the fact that webapps patent commitments will be made to an outdated snapshot, but that snapshot should not be given any prominence for implementers or authors visiting the W3C website; and a public acknowledgement that implementers should not look at any outdated snapshots such as CR (so, the normal "call for implementations" would have to be modified, so we don't get ridiculous situations like HTML 5.0 is currently undergoing where you call for implementations of a spec that is multiple years behind what implementations actually need to implement for interoperability).

[1]: http://wiki.whatwg.org/wiki/TR_strikes_again
[2]: https://github.com/mozilla/servo/wiki/Relevant-spec-links
[3]: http://status.modern.ie/
[4]: http://blog.whatwg.org/make-patent-commitments
[5]: http://www.w3.org/2014/Process-20140801/#FormalObjection

-----Original Message-----
From: Arthur Barstow [mailto:art.barstow@gmail.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2014 18:40
To: public-webapps; www-tag@w3.org
Subject: PSA: publishing new WD of URL spec

[ Sorry for the cross-posting but this is about a joint WD publication between WebApps and TAG. ]

This is heads-up (aka PublicServiceAnnoucement) about the intent to publish a new WD of the URL spec (on or around Sept 16) using this ED as the basis:


As previously agree, and codified in WebApps' current [Charter], the WD will be published jointly by WebApps and the TAG.

I realize some people do not support W3C publishing the URL spec, so as reminder - as defined in WebApps' off-topic discussion policy
([OffTopic]) - if anyone has any _process-type_ comments, concerns, etc.  about this publication - please send that feedback to the public-w3process list [w3process]. Please do _not_ send such feedback to public-webapps nor www-tag.

-Thanks, AB

[Charter] <http://www.w3.org/2014/06/webapps-charter.html#liaisons>
[w3process] <http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-w3process/>
Received on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 21:59:20 UTC

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