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   Re: Offtopic: Web Standards Project

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  • From: Steven Champeon <schampeo@hesketh.com>
  • To: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
  • Date: Sat, 8 Aug 1998 19:18:29 -0400 (EDT)

On Sat, 8 Aug 1998, Tim Bray wrote:
> At 12:02 PM 8/8/98 -0500, W. Eliot Kimber wrote:
> >So I'm wondering what the true motivation of the WSP is: publicity
> >generator? counter to the W3C? public action group ala Nader's Raiders? The
> >Green Peace of the Web? 

(Confidential to Eliot: we start sinking French spy ships Monday at noon)
> Well, IMHO, the W3C has done its job in getting some potentially useful
> standards published.  The W3C has not been effective as an advocacy or
> bully-pulpit organization, and it's hard to see that happening, in part
> because of some of the reasons raised by Eliot.

Several of the founding members of the WSP are also members of the W3C
working groups, or are otherwise involved with HWG, AIP, or non-browser
software folks, like NetObjects, Allaire, and so forth. One thing that
came up repeatedly was that the W3C couldn't risk pissing off the major
vendors, and so those W3C members have stayed out of some fairly volatile
discussions as a result. The W3C is in a delicate position when it comes
to *enforcement* or *punishment* for non-observance or non-implementation
of standards. They can't exactly say "You can't play, Microsoft, because
you're putting Rob Glaser through such hell and IE4/Mac treats DIVs as
inline elements."

It just wouldn't work that way.

> It seems quite possible that the people who organized the WSP, mostly 
> big-time site builders who spend other people's money to build highly 
> visible Web presences, are well-positioned to get some attention and do
> some useful advocacy.  Which is why it interests me.

I think this is a key point - I spend other people's money, though I
generally do more on the backend than the front end, and I /know/ that
most of my clients don't know enough about standards and incompatibility
to really care. They do understand that if they want bells and whistles
it costs more, but many of them don't seem to understand that the core
work is done in a couple of days and then we spend weeks tweaking things
to make sure they're cross-browser compatible and/or degrade well. (One
of our clients, Oxford University Press, needs its site to work in lynx,
for example, including the order forms.)

So I think that one of the duties of the WSP is to raise awareness - not
among the designers and developers - we already know how broken everything
is, and how risky it is to use anything beyond HTML1.0 for fear that the
client's customers or users will come back with complaints and it could
blow our credibility. Rather, we need to raise awareness among the folks
who are writing the checks, and let them know *why* it costs so much more
to deliver the cutting-edge stuff and somehow make it degrade well, or to
deliver standards-compliant stuff that doesn't work anywhere due to lack
of support for [insert browser-related standard here] or due to the need
for ugly klugy workarounds. 

We've got a long road ahead of us, though, and I think we're aware of that.
I mean, %$#!@, most of the suits I've worked for didn't know what 8-bit
ASCII was, much less the difference between HTML4.0/CSS-P and HTML3.2...

> One interesting
> discussion is, which standards to focus on... my personal bet would
> be XML/CSS/DOM, because the implementations are just happening.  Is
> it worthwhile, at this point in history, trying to retroactively
> save HTML?  Real question. -Tim

HTML is dead - it's not even cute and fuzzy. As far as I know, the big
goal right now is to try and get Netscape to ship the new layout engine
in 5.0, so we can count on full CSS support and some XML, with a solid
DOM. The timing issues are a problem, as we're not exactly there yet
with a complete DOM spec. That, more than anything else, worries me and
makes me wonder if the WSP has a snowball's chance. 

My main goal is to reduce the cost of maintenance of the sites I build.
Period. I have no hope that the browser vendors will come to Jesus and
magically support everything the W3C recommends (even if it's their own
recommendation). I'd be happy if I could count on the things that make
it easier to maintain a large-scale site, such as external CSS and
Javascript files, being implemented according to spec. It would be nice
to have a cross-platform-compatible DOM Javascript API, but that's easy
enough to work around for the stuff they both support, anyway.

There's been a lot of talk, here and on the WSP list, about how any org
promoting standards compliance should stick to the standards. I'd just
like to jump in here and say "that's horseshit". If the standards were
implemented correctly, you could. Otherwise, we'd be stuck with a gray
background bullet list. And frankly, that's not going to impress the
target audience. Please be a bit more realistic. Besides, the WSP has
not taken an official position /against/ innovation, rather, thay are
trying to get the stuff that's already standardized *implemented*.

I don't care if IE supports IFRAME and NS supports LAYER. I care that 
neither of them supports CSS the way I'd like. It makes my life more
difficult, my sites more costly to maintain, and my customers spend more
which reflects poorly on my company.

Any flames that start with "I ran your sites through the HTML validator
at the W3C, and ..." will be redirected to /dev/null.


http://a.jaundicedeye.com     <-- rants and writings
http://hesketh.com/schampeo/  <-- projects and info
http://dhtml.hesketh.com      <-- coming soon

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