W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-tag@w3.org > July 2014

RE: Food for thought (resurfacing)

From: Domenic Denicola <domenic@domenicdenicola.com>
Date: Fri, 11 Jul 2014 22:52:56 +0000
To: Marc Fawzi <marc.fawzi@gmail.com>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <1405119176558.95762@domenicdenicola.com>
Hi Marc,

Happy to have your thoughts, and glad you felt welcome to contribute :). That's what we're here for.

The immediate issue I see is, what is the incentive for browser vendors to do this? There is none I can see. And the fact that they haven't done so implies either their business strategists have never come up with this idea, or have already decided it is not worth the cost. And that cost is substantial---if you have ever looked at the plumbing code between the UI layer, the rendering engine, the JavaScript engine, the add-on system, the developer tools, and all the other components of a browser, you'd find that swapping in rendering engines or JS engines is not at all an easy task.

Which then transforms the question into, who is going to force browser vendors to do this, despite it being against their best interests? The W3C? They could try, but would be laughed into obsolescence. The government? Unlikely.

There is lots of other interesting points to address in your thread, and I hope someone else can chime in with how browser game theory governs the market, and the tenuous hold the W3C has on influence even today. But let's start with the practicalities.

From: Marc Fawzi <marc.fawzi@gmail.com>
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 18:07
To: www-tag@w3.org
Subject: Food for thought (resurfacing)

I was told that it's OK to contribute.

Here is a contribution I would like to resurface in case it got lost in the debate about the potential for manipulation of W3C standards by certain browser vendors which has been a very agitating/frustrating debate to watch, and I'm sure more so for those directly impacted by it.

What if the W3C moved away from being a club of major browser vendors whose employees get to decide the future of the web and instead the W3C would get the browser vendors to agree to running each other's browser engine in a runtime-selectable manner inside their UX/UI shells (think Chrome on iOS, which runs the same engine as Safari Mobile), so that in this way users of the web get to pick the browser with the best UX for themselves while the web developers who builds the apps can finally get to decide which singular engine to run their apps on thus saving them (us developers) a ton of time that's being wasted right now making the apps work cross-browser, which the W3C has failed to do for us (maybe billions of dollars have been lost in developer productivity as a result, but I'm not sure how much of an exaggeration that is. I simply know that it takes me 2X the time and money to develop something then make sure it runs Ok on all browsers than it does when developing for just one browser...)

IE already allows the swapping of its own browser engines which is very useful for debugging across the various versions of IE using just one instance of the browser and OS.

It's not only about saving time/money for developers. It solves the whole contentious issue of who primarily gets to drive web standards by allowing every vendor who opts into this "running multiple 3rd party and own browser engines under their own branded UX" scheme to do whatever they want innovation wise without being held back by so-called web standards, which, to be fair, have worked OK for their intended context, but not OK enough to eliminate productivity losses incurred every day by developers.

So vendors can go on and innovate like wild fire without having to agree on standards (I know Google will probably lead the pack, but so can Microsoft and Apple, they all have great people and tens of billions of dollars in the bank) And standards work doesn't have to stop either as it serves a very useful purpose as "take it or leave it" spec that vendors can try out and then embrace and extend, drop, or not even have to bother with (if they don't like the spec after all is said and done)

What do you guys think? Why would this be a bad idea. I'm trying to understand how things work because my life is directly impacted by decisions made about web standards. I work with what the W3C produces on daily basis, and while I can pick and choose what technology to embrace it is really frustrating when I've finally built something (say 10,000 lines of code) and then having to discover the discrepancies and short comings between browsers and sometimes running into "Safari or IE can't do this" whoops moments after much code has been written. For me to test everything on every browser it means my flow would be interrupted and without flow it's really hard to keep building something and so I tend to do the cross browser stuff after I have something working, and on so many occasions the vendors who were part of the spec making process fail to implement the spec fully or religiously, leading to a ton of time wasted.

I'm repeating the same point over and over about productivity but I think it would also be a shift in paradigm that could benefit the vendors in terms of productivity and making progress, so it's not just about the developers.

I've looked at projects like node-webkit, which supposedly uses Blink now, and it may work as the rough basis for a browser that could have multiple browser engines. I'm not well versed in this part but I suspect that if the idea of browser vendors "running multiple 3rd party and own browser engines under their own branded UX" is plausible then someone well versed in this area could develop a prototype.

You may think it has nothing to do with the W3C, but that would be very dismissive; it could change the very premise on which the W3C is built upon, moving it from a consensus reaching organization to a suggestion making organization, and letting both vendors and developers have the freedom to make their own optimized choices.

Thanks for reading this far, and I hope it has some value, at least intellectually, something to think about... as I don't think the W3C the way it is can last indefinitely, without losing influence, especially as browser vendors diverge in their interests/opinions as the browser technology becomes ever more complex.

Received on Friday, 11 July 2014 22:53:29 UTC

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