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Re: Please explain the role of the W3C in the continuing development of HTML

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2011 11:05:34 +0000 (UTC)
To: Danny Ayers <danny.ayers@gmail.com>
cc: Ian Jacobs <ij@w3.org>, jeff@w3.org, timbl@w3.org, plh@w3.org, www-archive <www-archive@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.64.1102151047350.28618@ps20323.dreamhostps.com>
On Tue, 15 Feb 2011, Danny Ayers wrote:
> While it's hard to judge the perception at large, it's not hard to get 
> the impression that the W3C's development of HTML was subverted by the 
> WHAT WG, with XHTML 2.0 going out of the window and the focus moving to 
> Hixie's vision and plan for HTML5, the W3C being dragged along, 
> sometimes seemingly reluctantly.

What happened is that despite begging for the W3C to let us develop HTML 
at the W3C, the W3C said no, so we created a mailing list outside the W3C 
and did it there, and then a few years later the W3C asked if they could 
work with us, so we said yes, and now the spec is co-developed. (Though it 
often feels like the W3C staff would feel happier if they were the sole 
responsible party instead of cooperating with another.)

(Also, I _wish_ that HTML was moving to my visions for the Web. 
Unfortunately for my ego, reality doesn't agree with a lot of my opinions, 
and the spec is written for reality. For example, I'd have done away with 
the style="" attribute, with <div>, with the <!DOCTYPE>, with the inane 
complexities around <script> parsing, etc. But we can't, because we're 
following the HTML design principles that the W3C published, and others in 
similar vein, to focus on pragmatism and interoperability.)

> Beyond HTML5 the WHAT WG ("Maintaining and evolving HTML since 2004") 
> appear to be unilaterally asserting their role as the centre of HTML 
> development with their 'living' standard.

For the record, the WHATWG has no desire to compete with the W3C, and 
desires only to cooperate. To that end, every chair of the HTML working 
group has been invited to join the WHATWG (though so far only those who 
were members of the WHATWG list before becoming HTMLWG chairs have ever 
been on the WHATWG list), and the WHATWG tries to always list both the W3C 
and the WHATWG specs when linking to specs, and tries to always mention 
the W3C when making blog posts, etc. Unfortunately, the same courtesies 
have not been extended to the WHATWG; indeed, it took over a year to even 
convince the W3C to allow us to mention that WHATWG spec is under a more 
liberal license under the copyright notice in the W3C spec, for instance, 
and W3C messaging on HTML never mentions the WHATWG, despite the W3C now 
apparently even benefiting financially from the work we have done over the 
past few years.

I would welcome the W3C moving to the "living standard" model so innate to 
the way the Web works for all of its Web specifications. It's already 
effectively been using it for CSS and XML for the past ten years, and for 
HTML for the past four. The WHATWG has no interest in monopolising this 
model; we're using it because we honestly believe it's the best way of 
improving the Web, not to lay claim to the center of HTML development.

> I for one can't see how that model alone can fulfil the demands of 
> organisations which rely on fixed specifications to decide policy (and 
> developers to build against).

That's a different topic, but since I'm here: I hear often about people 
wanting "stability" and needing "fixed" specs to refer to, but nobody ever 
seems to notice that RECs aren't stable nor fixed, and nobody ever seems 
to mind that when people refer to RECs they immediately ignore what those 
RECs say if they have bugs, as if the specs had in fact been updated. 
(Indeed sometimes, as with XML, the specs even are updated, in place, 
despite the claims that stability is needed.) Could you elaborate (maybe 
with a somewhat trimmed cc list) on what exactly it is that these 
organisations demand, and maybe more importantly, why they think that the 
W3C model serves their needs?

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Tuesday, 15 February 2011 11:06:07 UTC

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