David Baron's weblog: June 2004

Friends & Colleagues

Monday 2004-06-21

Intranet mode? (14:41 -0700)

If Microsoft is going to develop IE again, I challenge them to move most of their non-standard behavior out of quirks mode and into an “Intranet mode”.

Most of the quirky behavior of IE for Windows isn't actually needed to display Web sites correctly. It's needed for “Intranet” sites that have been designed to work with only one browser. Backwards-compatibility for corporate, academic, and government “Intranets” is a perfectly good reason to want to produce software that continues to display such sites, but it's no reason to inflict such software on the Web. This would make IE's handling of most web pages much more standard and lessen one of the main ways IE's near-monopoly discourages competition.

Wednesday 2004-06-09

The W3C (17:06 -0700)

The responses (and lack thereof) to the essay I published a few weeks ago and the events at the recent W3C Workshop have led me to believe that the W3C is no longer the primary organization to which we should look for future standardization on the Web. The W3C is foremost a consortium—a collection of member companies. It does what its members want it to do. Its members, today, are mostly interested in standards used in closed, controlled, environments (where interoperability doesn't matter) such as:

The W3C solution for the latter two of these areas is SVG and XForms, occasionally mixing in SMIL and XHTML.

SVG and XForms weren't even designed for the Web. SVG was designed by graphic designers who wish the fact that Web pages aren't printed on paper would go away and by mobile phone businesses who want vector graphics for sending non-Web content to their mobile phones. Never mind that it ignores one of the key architectural principles of the Web. The main arguments for XForms always seem to relate to “intranet” forms (where companies can earn money), not Web forms (where they can't earn nearly as much, since they can't charge for clients).

The W3C community apparently decided years ago that HTML (as distinguished from XHTML) was not the future of the Web. That would have been fine if the W3C had made the transition from traditional HTML to the new standards easier:

So the W3C may have decided years ago to replace the Web with XHTML, but they've clearly failed to do so, and I don't see any signs of that changing.

Postscript: Why the Workshop made me mad at the W3C

Attending the Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents, especially its conclusion, made me quite pessimistic about the future relevance of the W3C. The theme that seemed to be repeated over and over during the workshop was that Web browsers are no longer relevant and that the Web as it is today is no longer relevant. The workshop ended with a bunch of “straw poll” questions asked by Dean Jackson. These seemed to lead towards the predetermined conclusion that SVG, perhaps with the help of XForms and XHTML, will save the Web by replacing it. Note in particular the following segment of the draft minutes:

Steve Zilles: A third question: If there is to be a profile, who thinks it should be done in the W3C?
Dean Jackson: 19 Elsewhere? 0.
TV Raman: Attach a timeline.
Dean Jackson: ASAP? 21? Ad not ASAP? 0?

The question of whether there should be a profile at all was never asked. (Can you guess why I didn't vote on where or when it should be done?) And note that there were about 46 people in the room. After the straw poll questions were put to a vote the workshop was hastily ended a half an hour early, without nearly enough chance for discussion of the polls just taken (especially by the more than half of the room who didn't vote at all).

Monday 2004-06-07

More about the workshop (12:01 -0700)

Another link related to the workshop: Brendan Eich's weblog entry.

Friday 2004-06-04

Travel & Meetings (15:47 -0700)

I've been to three meetings in the past three weeks: the W3C Advisory Committee meeting in New York, the CSS Working Group meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the W3C Workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents in San Jose. I also visited my parents (near Philadelphia) between the first two.

I'll probably write more about those meetings later, particularly the last one. But since Ian Hickson also attended the latter two of those three meetings, and wrote much more about it than I will, it's worth reading what he wrote.