[whatwg] The political and legal status of WHATWG

Krzysztof Żelechowski giecrilj at stegny.2a.pl
Sat Dec 15 03:43:53 PST 2007

Dnia 15-12-2007, So o godzinie 14:24 +1100, Shannon pisze:
> Ian, thank you for your answers re: video codecs. I agree with you now 
> that everything that needs to said has been said regarding the change 
> itself and I think most parties have made it clear how they feel and 
> what they hope will resolve it.
> It's clear the opinions of all parties cannot be reconciled. The current 
> text has not reconciled the views, nor did the previous, nor can a 
> future one. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this will not 
> end well. I am quite certain the issue at stake here cannot be solved at 
> the technical or legal level at all. This is truly a political/financial 
> matter. Which brings us to the hard questions at the crux of the matter:
> 1.) When a browser vendor acts clearly outside of the public interest in 
> the making of a public standard should that vendors desires still be 
> considered relevant to the specification?


> 2.) When an issue is divided between a vendor (or group of) and 'the 
> public' (or part of), what relative weight can be assigned to each?

Zarro.  The decisions should be based on consideration, not on voting.

> 3.) When a vendor makes false or misleading statements to guide an 
> outcome should there be a form of 'censure' that does not involve a 
> public flame war?

False statements and misleading statements are subject to criminal
penalties and civil litigation.

> 4.) If the purpose of the group is to build interoperability should a 
> vendor be 'censured' for holding interoperability to ransom without 
> sufficient technical or legal grounds?

No.  The group should invent a way out.

> 5.) What methods exists to define a disruptive member and remove them 
> from further consideration?

I assume that there should be some policy everyone has to accept before
joining the group.

> 6.) Should a standards body make a ruling even though some members claim 
> they won't obey it?

It depends on the ruling.

> 7.) Should a standards body bow to entrenched interests to keep the peace?

No.  Thou shalt not bow except to thy Lawd.

> 8.) Does the WHATWG consider itself to be a formal standards body?

I am not in position to answer that question but I would be surprised if
it did.

> 9.) Should HTML5 be put back under direct control of the w3c now that 
> they have expressed interest in developing it?


> 10.) Is is appropriate for members to have discussions outside of this 
> list, via IM, IRC or physical means not available or practical to the 
> public?


> 11.) Does the group consider HTML5 to be a 'public standard' or a 
> 'gentlemen's agreement' between vendors?

Actually, a public specification.

> 12.) Is it even legal for the majority of commercial browsers to form 
> any agreement that could (directly or indirectly) result in higher costs 
> for end-users? How do you prevent a 'working group' from becoming a cartel?

Yes, it is.  Only a government can prevent a formation of a cartel and
only a court can dismantle one.

> These are not questions that anybody can easily answer. Some have 
> probably been answered in this list but not, at least to my reading of 
> it, in the charter, the wiki or the FAQ (none appear legally binding in 
> any case). It is possible the lack of clear answers in an obvious place 
> may threaten the impartiality and purpose of this group, damage your 
> public image and inflame debate. I believe the reason for much of the 
> 'heat' over the video codec is due to all parties (including 
> non-members) coming up with their own answers in the absence of a formal 
> position. That and a lot of mistrust regarding members corporate priorities.

It is very good that all parties try to present their answers.  That is
what the group is for.

> I've read the charter but it doesn't define many rules. The w3c has 
> rules but my understanding is that WHATWG is not a formal part of w3c 
> (even if some members are).
> Public acceptance of the standard may not, in practical terms, be as 
> important as vendor acceptance (to vendors at least) but since the 
> public is, in many ways, doing much of the vendors work for them it 
> would beneficial to have a clearer statement of how these contributions 
> are weighed. To cite a theoretical example: if some altruistic 
> billionaire was to write the 'missing codec' that exceeded h.264 in 
> compression, used 64k of ram, ran on a 386 using 50 lines of code and he 

The number of lines of code is irrelevant here.

> or she paid off all the trolls and indemnified vendors - what actions, 
> if any, would WHATWG members take to ensure it was accepted by members 
> with vested interests?

That is, by themselves?  There is hardly any need to answer that, it is
their business, not ours.

> If that last theoretical question cannot be answered then what hope have 
> we for a baseline video format?

We hope that the issue will be resolved in due course.


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