[whatwg] Correcting some misconceptions about Responsive Images

Tab Atkins Jr. jackalmage at gmail.com
Mon May 21 17:19:07 PDT 2012

I don't wish to get into "he said/she said" discussions, but your
email contains some incorrect characterizations.  The mailing list
contains all the relevant history of the discussion for anyone wishing
to verify it for themselves.

On Mon, May 21, 2012 at 5:05 PM, Mathew Marquis <mat at matmarquis.com> wrote:
> Well, if nothing else, I can certainly speak to the Community Group’s frustration on this subject — and to a lesser extent, the development community in general.
>> However, it still looks like the most upsetting implication of his
>> timeline, namely that the WHATWG is prioritizing implementors over
>> authors, remains unclarified. Is it a misconception to say that the
>> levels of priority outlined in the W3C HTML design principles [4] are
>> not being followed here? Especially since it seems that we can extend
>> Tim's timeline with:
>> 7. Authors react negatively to the addition of 'srcset' in the draft.
> For myself at least, much of the frustration came from an eagerness to work with the WHATWG on solving this issue only to be met with sentiment to the tune of “that’s okay; we’ve pretty much solved this already.”
> `srcset` went from an initial proposal to addition to the draft within a handful of days, during which time we were told that we hadn’t followed the proper processes for proposing `picture`, and were lacking for proof, citations, and documentation. We were asked to furnish use cases, polyfills, a more formal proposal, and proof of developer sentiment on their preferred markup pattern. While we we working to provide these, `srcset` went from http://junkyard.damowmow.com/507 to a draft based largely on conversation in the IRC channel. Speaking for myself, one can’t help but feel as though we were given a separate set of rules and a process of our own.

I think the majority of this was some confusing argumentation in the
IRC channel.  Don't take that anything official - a lot of the people
in the channel that were talking about this weren't very familiar with
the CG's work.

*Some* were quite familiar, particularly Hixie, who used the CG's work
in defining use-cases to inform the eventual design of the feature.

> During this time, the most common argument was that some variation of `srcset`—or simply forgoing media queries altogether—would be easier for implementors, and that the `picture` markup contained too many characters. Where there’s no shortage of evidence that authors prefer the more verbose syntax, well, we were left with only one initial conclusion.

This is a mischaracterization.  Using MQ instead of the @srcset
microsyntax is not easier or harder for implementors.  However, using
MQ is *impossible* for solving some of the use-cases, as I explain in
my blog post at <http://www.xanthir.com/blog/b4Hv0>.  The initial
<picture> proposal, which only used MQs, thus couldn't be used

The verbosity argument is very relevant when choosing a solution to
put into HTML.  For example, the verbosity of many existing DOM APIs
is widely considered a design flaw - even something as relatively
small as "document.querySelector()" versus "document.find()" is
important.  We should similarly consider this when designing HTML
itself.  A verbose solution can often seem okay at first sight, and
only reveal how painful it is after being used for a while.

>> 8. The 'living' draft is not changed and the authors' anger eventually
>> fades into hopeless acceptance because once something goes in to the
>> draft, it is set in stone forever and for all time.
> I don’t think this is the case. The public has largely resigned this to “`srcset` is happening because the WHATWG said so,” for certain, and that doesn’t seem entirely false—but I don’t think “hopeless acceptance” is the situation at present. I’ve been off the grid for a few days, but as I catch up on the conversation it seems as though a number of the RICG’s members have been contributing to the incremental improvement of the `srcset` proposal. I’m all for it, of course, as the goal was never _this or that_ solution so much as a solution that covers our use cases in the most developer-friendly way possible—and above all else, a solution with the most benefit to users.
> The goal now—as ever—is the best possible solution. If we’re limited to `srcset`, then the goal is to make that as useful as possible. However, I’d be lying if I said it isn’t frustrating, feeling as though we’re all working from a forgone conclusion.

It's unfortunate that there was an expectation set early in the RICG
that their purpose was to produce spec-ready text to be included into
HTML.  Hopefully we'll do a better job in the future communicating
that what's necessary is use-cases to design a feature around, so we
don't run into similar expectation mismatches.


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