Re: Standards, Work Groups, and Reality Checks: A Radical Proposal.

On Fri, 22 Sep 1995, Benjamin Franz wrote:

> The HTML development effort is now into about stage 6 of a project 
> (Punishment of the Innocent). 

"Praise for the Non-Participants" is closer to the truth.


> The HTML group is justifiably perturbed by the bizarre things claiming 
> Content-type: text/html. They want the newcomers to *be* test/html if 
> they say they are, and don't understand why they refuse to stand on some 
> other content-type if they aren't. 
> Its easy: 
>           Most browsers read and do *something* reasonable with
>           text/html. Big potential audience.
>           Most browsers just D/L test/x-html to a file, assuming the
>           server I am using even knows about '.mynewextention and
>           experimental mime type'. Small potential audience.

> Right or wrong, in market driven by *economics* rather than standards 
> - they are *going* to serve it up as text/html.

Indeed. The *name* counts, doesn't it? There's a conclusion to be drawn 
from this that's more damaging than the arguments you've put forward.

> So how does the WG get away from this morass?
> Content-type: text/sgml

> The development of HTML of *all* levels should be officially ended 
> with the acceptance of HTML 2.0 (whenever that happens...) 

Why? Why not *abandon* HTML 2.0? Why deliver a freebie to people whose 
cooperation has been conspicuous by its absence?

> I move to dis-establish the HTML working group.

And reorganize itself with a new charter that makes no mention of HTML.
I suggest W3ML. The W3 Consortium hasn't been disbanded. Their mandate to 
foster and coordinate development of the Web hasn't been confounded. On 
the contrary, what they bring to the Web -- insofar as it continues to be 
a part of the Internet -- is the critical factor of *legitimacy*. The 
Consortium needs a language (a "lingua franca") -- who said that the 
*name* of this language has to be "HTML"? Or that what HTML is allegedly 
being made into by current practice and "market forces" *must* be 
standardized simply because it happens to have that name?

And if in fact "text/html" is irrecoverably a mishmash, the simplest
solution is to delegitimize the name, and let its puissant appropriators
do with what they please -- only that, to get a *standard* out of it,
they'll have to start from scratch, and shift for themselves. Is the IETF
in any danger of being snowed under by half-baked ideas from people who
can't even get a parser right? Maybe it's time to put *that* to the test. 

The Internet Standards process has a rigor that the Working Group has 
worked very hard to meet. But all these standards -- because they share a 
common context of at least *trying* to be interoperable -- have their 
origins in goodwill and consensus. This Working Group has been bedevilled 
by too little of the latter exploiting too much of the former, a house 
divided from the beginning.

It's time to realize that there are players here who seek legitimation
only. All the things that go into a real standard -- goodwill, commitment,
patience, and discipline to implement things the *right* way -- are being 
upheld by the WG and trivialized by others too clever by half to be smart.

Arjun Ray
(I speak for myself only.)

Received on Friday, 22 September 1995 21:23:04 UTC