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   RE: [xml-dev] Browser innovation efforts -- where's W3C in this p icture

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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:mc@xegesis.org]

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.


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