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Maybe we should take a hard look at populism itself and
its implications for leaders who choose to lead by that means.
Perhaps XHTML simply isn't popular. Let me reask the
question I asked yesterday: if we put 'leadership'
aside for the moment, what governs the choice of
technologies and implementations? Is it the dominant
content type or the running code? Are these separable?
When looking at The Web or Blogs, or any populist
manifestation, we see the power law effect noted
by so many pundits. Power laws are feedback
driven. This does not mean a single signal source
typically, but multiple signal sources that are
roughly reinforcing each other. To overcome
their aggregate power, one would have to find a shared
component that is disruptive and immediate. I posit:
o XHTML has not been successful because the reasons
for switching to it are not persuasive to those who
have the means to make the switch, so no matter how
loud any given signal, it can be ignored. In the
worldview of HTML, XML is background noise.
o IE remains dominant because the brand within
which it is hosted is more popular than any of the
alternatives. There is no incentive for a mass
switching behavior and the work of the virtual
terrorists has not been persuasive. In the world
of business, they are background noise.
Why did XML become popular in the face of that?
Size matters. The scale of the power law distribution
of HTML users is quite large but the scale of
HTML browser developers was infinitesimal.
The community that had the means to make the
switch was quite small and easily lead at the
time when the decision was made. The problem
was that HTML itself was a monoculture and that
increasing the available number of application
languages without unduly increasing the complexity
of the HTML browser was a real goal and easily met. SGML
with a bit of cleanup and no real invention needed
was recognizable and easy to accomplish. By
grandfathering HTML at every opportunity, the
browser developers and the W3C gave up its one
opportunity to change the ecosystem systemically.
Instead, it caved in to the populist sentiment.
Is that a failure of leadership?
The problem of the W3C is that it succeeded
wildly but witlessly and now cannot undo that
success despite any acquired wisdom because
it does not have the means and those that do
do not have the incentive. It is a classic
Nash equilibrium. So far, there is no compelling
reason to change the rules.
In other words, the browser wars are still a
skirmish and background noise in the overall
spectrum of concerns.
From: Michael Champion [mailto:email@example.com]
On Jul 8, 2004, at 10:00 AM, Bullard, Claude L (Len) wrote:
> it may be time to "send in
> the clowns".
To be fair, the W3C started out as a Clown Collective that swept up
after the mess that the various browsers were creating and attempted to
herd the elephants in the same direction. At some point they
apparently decided that this task was too dirty and smelly and left it
to WS-I, WHAT, et al., and aspired to the position of ringmaster (or
whoever it is that traditionally leads the circus parade).
In other words, the responses to my original query make it clear to me
that the W3C has stopped doing what it used to do that made it an
invaluable forum during the browser wars. Now that the browser wars are
starting to be less of a one-sided slaughter, the W3C has "other
priorities" (as Dick Cheney would say).
To be even more fair, a lot of this is because the "elephants" won't
follow the W3C's lead, e.g. with XHTML, SVG, XForms, etc. It's at
least open to debate whether the role of a leader is to keep pressing
on and figure that the herd will catch up when they realize that the
direction was right after all, or whether the leader should go back to
simply trying to keep the elephants bunched up and moving in more or
less the same direction.