Formal Objection to One vendor, One Veto

I believe the process to register a formal objection is to send an email 
to this group, and label it as such. If there's another group I should 
contact, please let me know.


I'm quite concerned about what is happening with the HTML 5 
specification, particularly in regards to the "one vendor, one veto" 
that we're seeing with Video, and which we'll potentially see with SVG, 
MathML, the Canvas element, the accessibility markup, and so on.

In the public-html email list, Robin Berjon wrote [1]

"At this point I'm only aware of one browser vendor having said they 
wouldn't do this. Am I wrong? Since when does a single vendor get a  veto?"

I wrote in a follow-up note [2]

'Robin hit on what I think is the most important point on this decision: 
it gives veto power to a single company. That is a dangerous precedent 
to create.

What if Microsoft were to come along and say, "We're not going to 
implement SVG". Do we then pull the SVG section?'

Ian Hickson responded with [3]

"Unless the W3C gains some kind of enforcement power, the implementors 
will  _always_ have the ultimate veto, swayed only by their desire to gain
market share. Implementors have the ultimate veto on any implementation 
requirements we put in our specs not because we allow them to, but 
because in every literal sense if they don't want to do what we tell 
them to do, then they don't have to.

Specification authors -- the W3C, the IETF, the WHATWG, you, me -- have 
_zero power_ to enforce implementors to do what we put in our specs. We 
only get what we write to be implemented if what we write is what 
implementors are willing to implement. (This is why I work so closely 
with browser vendors and other implementors to find out what they want.)

We could put Theora into the spec, but then the spec would not be the 
description of reality that I set out to make it when we started HTML5.

 > At this point we have multiple implementations of a feature that has
 > strong backing in the community, and that we have no reason to believe
 > isn't interoperable. That's reality. I'm all for listening to vendors,
 > but once in a while they'll get something wrong and change their minds.

I'm happy to change the spec when that happens.

 > If Theory really does not fly in the end, then there's plenty of time to
 > remove it later. But at this point it is premature and unrealistic to
 > remove it.

I didn't remove it recently. It hasn't been in the spec for over a year 
now, if I'm not mistaken.

On Tue, 7 Jul 2009, Shelley Powers wrote:
 > Robin hit on what I think is the most important point on this decision:
 > it gives veto power to a single company. That is a dangerous precedent
 > to create.

The relevant implementors have veto power over the parts they are 
intended to implement whether we like it or not.

 > What if Microsoft were to come along and say, "We're not going to
 > implement SVG". Do we then pull the SVG section?

Not immediately, but if we can't convince them that SVG is the way 
forward, then yes."

--end quote

Just to confirm, I asked Ian one last time to confirm one vendor/one 
veto [4]

"I wanted to clarify that you're using a one vendor/one veto approach to 
determining what goes in, or doesn't go into, HTML 5.

I don't believe many of us were aware that any one vendor among the 
larger browser companies had absolute veto power over the HTML 5 and its 

I'm assuming that the companies that have this veto power are Apple 
(Webkit), Microsoft, Opera, Google, and Mozilla. Do I have that right, 
or are their other vendors with this absolute veto power?"

Ian responded with a link to an email in the WhatWG email list [5], 
which contained the following (repeated in its entirety to prevent 

--begin quote

On Mon, 6 Jul 2009, Kartikaya Gupta wrote:
 > Seriously? If I were to declare that I, as a browser vendor, will not
 > support anything in HTML5 that wasn't in HTML4, would you actually
 > remove all the new additions from the HTML5 spec?

Not immediately, but if you had notable market share and we could not 
convince you to implement these new features, then yes, I'd remove them 
and then work with you (and everyone else) to try to come up with 
solutions that you _would_ agree to.

Even if you did not have notable market share, I would work with you to 
understand your objections, and try to resolve them. (Naturally if your 
goals are substantially different than the WHATWG's goals, then this 
might not go anywhere. For example, if Microsoft said that we should 
abandon HTML in favour of Silverlight, without making Silverlight 
backwards- compatible with HTML, then this would be somewhat of a 
non-starter, since backwards-compatibility is an underpinning of our work.)

 > I'm not talking about the direction of the Web. I'm talking about the
 > text that resides at
 > The two are not the same thing.

If they're not one and the same, then I'm not doing my job.

 > So let me re-ask my question: if a browser vendor has an installed base
 > of greater than "a percent or so", and they flat-out state they will not
 > implement, e.g. all the new <input> types in HTML5, will you take them
 > out of the spec?


 > If the answer is yes, I would like specifics as to where that "percent
 > or so" number comes from. There's lots of different ways people use to
 > measure market share, which one are you using?

I haven't needed to exclude a browser vendor before, so this hasn't come 
up. In practice, it's any browser vendor that has enough influence that if
they fail to implement something, it'll affect broad deployment of the 
feature. Generally speaking, that would be the browsers that are important
enough for sites like Wikipedia to include in their reports, e.g. on:

...but again, so far I've not had to decline the feedback of any browser 
vendor, including a number that were much smaller than those on that page.

--end quote

The Wikipedia article references the browsers IE, Firefox, Safari, 
Opera, and Chrome, reflecting the companies Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla, 
Google, and Opera--with Microsoft having the greatest impact.

There has always been a chicken and egg approach to web standards 
development, but there is such a thing as determining a course to take 
that has at least significant support and hope to, over time, convince 
reluctant parties to join in. This approach was the only way that we can 
hope to progress in the future beyond the limited web environment we had 
yesterday, and have today.

If we continue to allow one vendor/one veto to be the underlying 
philosophy of the HTML WG, then we might as well end working on it at 
this point, because I can't see it being anything more than a race to 
the bottom, with each vendor looking to cripple open web development in 
favor of its own proprietary effort.

Worse, this process completely and totally disregards the community of 
users, of web developers, web designers, accessibility experts, and 
gives ultimate power to five companies: Google, Apple, Microsoft, 
Mozilla, and Opera--with Microsoft having the largest veto power. The 
rest of us might as well go home, because we have no say, no input, 
nothing of value to add to the future of the web. Not unless we crawl on 
bent knee to each vendor and ask them, "Please sir, I want some more."

I would rather think that this decision wasn't with the concurrence of 
the W3C. I would rather think this decision to support one vendor/one 
veto was a misunderstanding coming about because of the dual 
organization nature of the groups developing HTML 5.

Therefore, I am formally objecting to the the concept of one vendor/one 
veto that is underlying the decision processes about what to include, or 
not include, in HTML 5.

At one point in time, I believe, the W3C operated with a philosophy that 
if it had implementation, or promise of implementation, from three 
vendors (three being the majority), that would be sufficient.

A commitment from three vendors would allow the specification to 
advance, and provide enough support to hopefully put pressure on the 
recalcitrant companies to implement the specification.

Only requiring a commitment from three vendors would also ensure that no 
one company would have such a veto power again. This would allow the web 
to advance, and not be hindered by proprietary interests. A three vendor 
commitment would also give the user community a chance to have some 
influence in the future of the web. Not an unreasonable influence, 
resulting in decisions that would make it difficult for all vendors to 
comply. Enough influence, though, that the web of the future would be 
the web for everyone, not just one small group of browser vendors.

Thank you

Shelley Powers


Received on Tuesday, 7 July 2009 23:28:02 UTC