[whatwg] Re: http://dubinko.info/blog/2005-06/openlettertowhatwg

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Fri Sep 30 11:14:47 PDT 2005


You wrote (back in June):
> http://dubinko.info/blog/2005-06/openlettertowhatwg
> Open Letter to WHATWG

You forgot to actually post the letter to us! :-)

> Concrete suggestion: Make uniting the community a specific written 
> objective of the overall WHATWG work.

I don't know how that would help. What is "the community"? How is it not 
"united"? Don't forget that one of the primary factors that caused WHATWG 
to be formed was the impression that the relevant working groups were 
completely out of touch with "the community".

> Concrete Suggestion: Don't use the confusing name "HTML5", unless you 
> get W3C approval first. Pick a name that highlights a complementary 
> role.

Complimentary to what? The Web Apps 1.0 spec is a substantial revision and 
extension of all of HTML4, XHTML 1.x, and DOM2 HTML. It drops features 
that were formerly deprecated, poorly supported, rarely used or considered 
unnecessary; it adds new features that have been requested by authors; it 
significantly clarifies and defines previously vague semantics; it 
introduces important conformance criteria in areas that the relevant specs 
previously left undefined.

In every respect, it is simply a new version. HTML5 seems to be the least 
confusing name to give the effort.

> Take Web Forms 2.0, for example. It is being pulled in many directions:
>    1. It's a manifesto against namespaces (yay)

It isn't intended to be. The "manifesto" was the Mozilla/Opera joint 
position paper published last year:


WF2 simply puts those principles into practice.

>    2. It's a manifesto for restarting development of HTML 4

Again, the manifesto for this position is the paper above. WF2 is just 
going ahead and doing it.

>    3. It's a manifesto for strict backwards-compatibility


>    4. It's a demonstration of willingness to work outside of W3C

That's a side-effect of the W3C not allowing the work to continue within 
the W3C, not a tier-one reason-for-being for WF2.

> That's a lot of baggage for one little spec to carry. It's not 
> surprising that it's missing other important things, like goals of 
> community unification (above) or transitional compatibility (below).

I don't really understand what you mean by either of those.

> Concrete Suggestion: The namespace propaganda is critically important, 
> but out of place in Web Forms 2.0. Drop it. Find another channel for 
> that. I'll help.

What, specifically, would you drop from WF2? There is nary a mention of 
namespaces being bad, indeed the entire spec is specifically written to 
apply to both namespaced and non-namespaced environments, and even 
introduces a namespace of its own (section 6).

> Concrete Suggestion: I feel your pain about HTML 4 development, but that 
> should be a bonus feature, not a core requirement--it's doing too much 
> damage to your forwards-compatibility story.

Again, given that WF2 is completely HTML-vs-XHTML agnostic, I don't see 
what is being damaged.

> I noticed that Hixie's presentation at 
> http://www.hixie.ch/advocacy/whatwg-presentation/ doesn't seem to be 
> working very well in either Firefox 1.0 of Tiger Safari, or at all in 
> Opera beta 8. I'm not saying this as criticism, as his presentation was 
> great at XTech.

The presentation was actually given using both Firefox and Opera (I 
switched half-way, not that anyone noticed, in order to seamlessly 
demonstrate the features of one and the features of the other).

However, the presentation was never intended to be cross-platform or 
cross-browser; it was designed for one particular purpose and one 
particular computer with a very specific software setup.

I don't really see how that is relevant to WHATWG.

> It's just that when I look at things like FormFaces, and see how well 
> these guys do at making XForms markup work in current browsers, 
> including Firefox, Safari, and Opera, I feel like I'm not getting the 
> whole point of making a whole separate language that's "backward 
> compatible", but apparently still quite hard to get working in current 
> browsers.

There are four separate points:

 1. Ensuring old markup works unchanged in new browsers.
 2. Ensuring new markup works acceptably in old browsers.
 3. Ensuring old markup can be easily extended to use new features.
 4. Ensuring new markup uses the old markup language as a base.

They are also known as forwards compatibility, backwards compatibility, 
having a clean migration path, and leveraging author knowledge.

All four are absolutely critical. WHATWG is working on all four of these 
goals in all its proposals.

> Concrete Suggestion: Make forwards-comp ability to XHTML 2.0, including 
> XForms, an explicit written goal of WHATWG work, specifically Web Forms 
> 2.0.

Why? What is so great about XForms and XHTML2 that it should be where the 
Web is going?

I don't really understand how WHATWG, which is working on HTML4 and 
XHTML1.x, can possibly make those languages forwards compatible with
languages that _by design_ are not intended to be compatible. Nor do I see 
how it is the WHATWG's job to ensure the success of other WGs' work.

> Concrete Suggestion: Make forwards-compatibility to SVG an explicit 
> written goal of WHATWG work, specifically Web Apps 2.0.

Why? What is so great about SVG that it should be where the Web is going?

Assuming we grant that SVG is how vector graphics should be done on the 
Web (something that is highly debated, see e.g. [1], especially as the 
SVGWG continues to try to boil the oceans with SVG 1.2), then in what way 
is HTML4/XHTML1.x/HTML5 incompatible with SVG?

[1] http://dbaron.org/log/2005-09#e20050908a

> One final suggestion. I believe that during the critical formative 
> phase, the EXSLT group consisted entirely of people affiliated with 
> non-W3C member companies, though they still kept up communication. 
> WHATWG, on the other hand, is principally made up of W3C member 
> companies, which causes poor perception and sundry whispered questions 
> about motives, moral authority, etc. I think the questions are 
> unfounded, but understandable.

Such whispers are quite silly, given how open the WHATWG group has been 
about its motives and about its work.

> Concrete Suggestion: Individuals in WHATWG that work for W3C member 
> companies need to join the appropriate Working Groups.

We have. For example, Opera was represented on the HTMLWG for many years. 
My understanding is that Opera left the HTMLWG when it became clear that 
the HTMLWG's goals were not aligned with Opera's. Both Mozilla and Opera 
are involved in the CDF group (I was the Opera representative for a while, 
although recently two other Opera employees have taken up that role).

Most of the WHATWG members have been active in the W3C for many years. We 
would like to be doing this work in the W3C. The problem is that our 
opinions do not match the majority of W3C members', and as a democracy 
that means the W3C itself is, in this context, not aligned with our goals.

Thanks for your suggestions.

an Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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