[whatwg] A New Way Forward for HTML5 (revised)

Manu Sporny msporny at digitalbazaar.com
Sun Jul 26 18:26:44 PDT 2009

Peter Kasting wrote:
>     Ian is really the only one that is actively allowed to produce anything
>     of significance in WHAT WG. In general, if he doesn't agree with you, it
>     doesn't go in.
> It's already been stated explicitly multiple times in the past that the
> HTML5 process is not ultimately consensus-driven, so this shouldn't be
> news to anyone.  I for one consider that a feature, not a bug.

I wasn't offering it as news - it was merely a paragraph in a longer
explanation of what I saw as the greater issue. I've since re-written
the introduction in an attempt to more clearly explain what I was
attempting to convey to David Baron:


I also assert that I'm fine with CTR, and see it as a good feature, when
it comes to making progress on most aspects of HTML5:


Peter Kasting wrote:
> the HTML5 process is not ultimately consensus-driven

Well, that depends on what you mean by the "HTML5 process". If you mean,
the WHAT WG process that generated the current HTML5 specification, you
are quite correct. If you mean "the process that the W3C uses to publish
specifications, such as the forthcoming HTML5 specification.", then you
are mistaken. I'm asserting that the "HTML5 Process" is ultimately the
"W3C Process", which /is/ consensus-driven. Anne Van Kesteren explains:

> Anne Van Kesteren wrote:
> Eduard Pascaul wrote:
>> I do not doubt of Ian's good faith, nor of his huge effort in making
>> HTML5 the best possible thing it might be. However, I doubt of the
>> sanity of having an individual to have the final say about any
>> topic,
>> even above expert groups that have been researched and discussed the
>> topic for years.
> But he does _not_ have a final say on _any_ topic. The HTML WG has.
> And ultimately the Director.
> ...
> If the WHATWG members (see the WHATWG charter; full disclaimer: I'm
> one of them) decide that Ian is no longer making good decisions they
> can override him as well.


> I think it's fair to say that one needs to have a pretty
> significant chunk of time on their hands as well as technical chops to
> make a contribution to the HTML5 specification.
> Incorrect.  All sorts of people have made contributions of small
> corrections, opinions on issues, spec proposals, etc.  Ian has publicly
> committed to reply to every email and so far I see him doing precisely
> that; frequently this results in spec changes.  When people's opinions
> are ultimately rejected, it is not without due consideration first.

Yes, taken out of context, that paragraph looks like I implied that
nobody has been able to make a contribution to HTML5. Just to clarify, I
never meant to imply that NO/FEW/LITTLE contributions have been made to
the HTML5 specification given the current process. Clearly, there is a
section at the bottom of the spec that lists roughly 430 people that
have contributed by providing feedback.

Now, placing that paragraph in context. You removed the preceding
sentence in that paragraph (which was a key part of the idea):

"To put an HTML5+RDFa proposal together, I had to go outside of this
community. I think it's fair to say that one needs to have a pretty
significant chunk of time..."

I was specifically talking about authoring the HTML5+RDFa specification.
Doing that required me to join the HTML WG, generate and register SSH
keys with the W3C, figure out how to generate the HTML5 spec, figure out
how Anolis worked, write the Makefile rules to generate both the
HTML5+RDFa specification and the RDFa section module, write some code to
concatenate and filter Ian's source document, and heavily modify the W3C
header before I even got around to writing a single line of spec language.

Yes, people do have options on creating alternate language for the spec
- but why do you want to send those people outside of the WHAT WG
community? Wouldn't keeping people that are interested in making
positive contributions to the specification be beneficial to the overall
health of the WHAT WG community?

>     To approach the issue from another angle, we have roughly 1,000 members
>     on this mailing list and could have close to 1 billion people[1] that
>     could be using some form of HTML by 2012, a number of those are web
>     developers (read: a huge developer base).
>     The Linux kernel mailing lists have close to 30,000 members[2], and I
>     don't think it's a stretch to say that there are fewer kernel developers
>     in the world (read: small developer base) than there are web developers
>     and designers. So, I've been wondering about the 30:1 discrepancy.
> You're comparing non-analogous situations.  LKML is inherently of
> interest to all kernel developers, pretty much by definition.  The HTML
> spec creation process is not inherently interesting to all web developers.

Just to be clear, I wasn't attempting to use analogy for inductive
reasoning purposes, just trying to illustrate my point in another way.
To have an analogous situation, not everything has to match up
perfectly, just some of the attributes of the two communities.

I was asserting that there are more people in the world that care about
HTML than care about the Linux kernel, and I would expect to see that
reflected in the numbers on each mailing list.

> A closer analogy would be to the engineers working on HTML support in
> UAs.  I suspect that this mailing list _is_ inherently of interest to
> that group.

Sure, that's another analogy that could be used. It's one that I and
many others on this list don't fit into... I wouldn't be surprised if
only a handful of the 1,000 people on this list are actually UA
engineers. I think there are many other types of people on this list.

This, however, is tangential to the question I was asking:

What's keeping more people from joining the HTML5 effort?

>     We don't give anybody the impression
>     here that they could directly impact the specification if they so
>     desired.
> If people sending emails containing proposals, and having the editor
> directly respond to all of those emails, frequently by changing the
> spec, does not give you the impression you can impact the specification,
> I'm not sure what would.

Having a distributed source control system in place that would provide
the tools available to generate, modify and submit specification text
for HTML5. Having the ability to generate alternate HTML5 specification

>> I can git clone the Linux kernel, mess around with it and submit a patch
>> to any number of kernel maintainers. If that patch is rejected, I can
>> still share the changes with others in the community.
> Similarly, nothing prevents UA authors from coding any feature they wish
> and hoping it will gain traction.  Similarly, nothing in the HTML5
> process prevents anyone from proposing a feature that has been rejected
> by HTML5, and attempting to convince UA authors to support it directly.

The tools and mechanism doesn't exist to do this easily in the HTML5
community. The process is unclear and undocumented. I'm working to
resolve these issues.

>     They should be able to edit /something/ lasting, publish it for review,
>     and rise or fall on the merits and accuracy of their specification
>     language. They are not being given the opportunity to do so.
> Anyone can post a proposal anywhere on the web, which they themselves
> edit.  If they want the imprimatur of the WHATWG, then it seems
> reasonably to expect that that proposal would have to be accepted by the
> editor(s) of that group.

Again, yes, authors can do this now, but why aren't we providing the
tools to help them do this in WHAT WG or HTML WG? Let's provide the
tools. If nothing happens for a year or two, then no big deal. However,
if something does happen (and we see more contributions to the HTML5
specification), then we'll know that providing the proper tools was
important in helping others participate in sculpting the future of HTML5.

-- manu

Manu Sporny (skype: msporny, twitter: manusporny)
President/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Bitmunk 3.1 Released - Browser-based P2P Commerce

More information about the whatwg mailing list