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Re: New resource: Normative References to W3C Standards

From: Daniel Glazman <daniel.glazman@disruptive-innovations.com>
Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2013 09:48:16 +0200
Message-ID: <5170F6C0.908@disruptive-innovations.com>
To: www-tag@w3.org
CC: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>, "Henry S. Thompson" <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>, "Ian B. Jacobs" <ij@w3.org>, Noah Mendelsohn <nrm@arcanedomain.com>, Philippe Le Hegaret <plh@w3.org>, Marcos Caceres <w3c@marcosc.com>
Marcos Caceres wrote:

>> The "standard" serves as a stable reference point for multiple parties to agree across the world, but it requires the implementors
>> and independent asynchronous review of the SAME spec.
> No it doesn't. The WHATWG's HTML specification trivially proves that.

Trivially, eh?

I read the thread containing the message above with great interest for
multiple reasons. The one hat I'm wearing right now is an implementor's
one, for our own products and the ones we write for customers. Let me
summarize what Disruptive Innovations is:

  - an html5 editing tool vendor
  - an EPUB3 editing tool vendor, EPUB3 being based on xhtml5
  - a very small company, with very limited resources
  - a company relying on some other company's rendering engine (Gecko)
  - a contractor for large corporations and academia all around the world

With respect to the above, we're unable to cope with the always changing
state of the WHATWG html specification. The fact it is a so-called
"living standard" generates _extreme_ pressure on us. Let me give you
a concrete example: the hgroup element was recently removed from the
W3C html5 spec; it is still present in the WHATWG spec... So not only
we have to possibly remove it from our implementation but we also have
to make a choice about the html spec we want to follow. Adding an
element and removing it afterwards while it was already considered
a "standard" from WHATWG's point of view is suboptimal, to say the
least. It is a clear indicator of a wrong process.

The "living standard" is, seen from here, a way of making standards that
can be followed only by _major_ players having large teams able to cope
with the crazy speed it imposes on implementors. We're not playing in
that field, unfortunately, but it does not mean we're not implementors.
It only means our industrial constraints are totally ignored, on
purpose, by the WHATWG.

The fact the WHATWG spec is a "living standard" also makes it totally
impossible for a third-party to validate a webapp against a given state
of the art. Between one day and the next one, the spec can change so
drastically with respect to a given feature some of my customers both
in Europe and the US are complaining about it: they're writing critical
applications, for instance for the automotive or bank industries. I
heard from famous names in the recent past such companies are
"dinosaurs of the past". Most probably, yes. But last time I checked,
such dinosaurs were still allowing us to drive, use electricity,
eat or fly. These companies represent millions of employees, and
billions of customers.

EVERY TIME I meet such companies, they reaffirm the fact the WHATWG html
spec in not a Standard for them because they cannot freeze a given
version of it, because the browser vendors follow it too closely. They
desperately need the W3C version and they also report they need that one
to reference only Standards of the same magnitude: frozen, *testable*,
stable in time for at least 12 to 24 months. A very, very famous name
in the computer industry recently told me two months ago « this Living
Standard thing is out of control, we now see it as a deep mistake ».

Browsers and the WHATWG html specification are the only things around us
able to drastically change *every six weeks*. Even the mobile
industry has a greater latency. There is not a single other industry
working that way, and it is not going to change any time soon, in my
humble opinion.

Larry was perfectly right. The fact you disagree only indicates you're
trapped in the browser vendors' microcosm - someone could call it
the browser vendors' reality distortion field. I suggest you reach out
to the "real" industry out there, companies producing tangible goods
outside of the computer/mobile domain, and relying on the Web for
hyper-critical apps, or a public administration. You'll hear a very
different message. (FWIW, yes, I know what I am talking about, I
was many years the AC-Rep for Électricité de France, the largest
electricity and nuclear power provider in the world, with such
hyper-critical web-standards-based apps).

With the background I highlighted at the beginning of this message, let
me summarize:

  - the majority of industries out there need a html spec that can
    freeze and that's what they _all_ call a Standard; a fast update
    process may also be needed, that's a different issue.
  - they need these documents to normatively reference only
    similarly frozen, stable, testable documents.
  - referencing Working Drafts, Editor's Draft or "Living Standards" is a
    deep matter of concern to them.
  - the WHATWG html spec fails to address the three items just above.


Received on Friday, 19 April 2013 07:48:53 UTC

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