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RE: ACTION-308 (part 2) Updates to 'The Self-Describing Web'

From: <noah_mendelsohn@us.ibm.com>
Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2010 16:52:51 -0500
To: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
Cc: John Kemp <john@jkemp.net>, "www-tag@w3.org WG" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <OF64200092.CD98B3A8-ON852576A3.0077370B-852576A3.0077DB22@lotus.com>
Larry Masinter writes:

> I am strongly opposed to promoting content-type sniffing to be
> an architectural principle.
> 
> I find it only marginally acceptable to ALLOW content-type sniffing
> by conforming receiving agents, when there is clear, compelling and
> overwhelming evidence that there is a significant amount of
> of content that *needs* sniffing, and in that case, the "sniffing"
> specification should not *mandate* sniffing but merely allow it,
> and discourage its use.
> 
> However, no future design, context, application, W3C recommendation
> or other specification should be encouraged to "sniff" content
> and interpret message content based on unreliable heuristics
> overriding unambiguous content labels.

I agree.

Furthermore, the draft text really doesn't explain how allowance for 
sniffing would change the rest of the SDW story.  After all, we give 
examples in which providers of data are held legally accountable for 
having published certain content, precisely because the chain of normative 
specifications makes clear their correct interpretation.  In a world where 
people start to "sniff", am I accountable for the (mis) interpretation of 
something served as text/plain that just happens to resemble some other 
media type?  The whole point of SDW is to tell stories like that.

So, I agree with Larry that we should steer clear of elevating sniffing to 
being even a good practice at the architecture level (it's not a 
"principle" in the sense of AWWW principles in any case);  even if we do 
want to acknowledge that widespread use of sniffing in practice in a 
revised SDW, I think it behooves us to carefully explain how the core 
stories about accountability and lack of ambiguity are affected.  I think 
we have two choices:  1) leave SDW alone -- it tells a quite coherent 
story at the architecture level, and we can view instances of sniffing as 
deviations from the architecture or 2) do a very careful job of explaining 
just what does and doesn't change in the SDW story given that sniffing 
happens.

Noah

--------------------------------------
Noah Mendelsohn 
IBM Corporation
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
1-617-693-4036
--------------------------------------
Received on Wednesday, 6 January 2010 21:50:37 UTC

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