Beta

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The Abdication of the HTML Standard

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the caught-between-corporate-juggernauts dept.

Google 298

GMGruman writes "The end of numbering for HTML versions beyond HTML5 hides two painful realities, argues Neil McAllister. One is that the HTML standards process has failed, becoming a seemingly never-ending bureaucratic maze that has encouraged the proliferation of draft implementations. That's not great, but as all the wireless draft standards have shown, it can be managed. But the bigger problem is that HTML has effectively been abandoned to four companies: Apple, Google, Opera, and Mozilla. They are deciding the actual fate of HTML, not a truly independent standards process."

cancel ×

298 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Those Who Ship Win (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031692)

But the bigger problem is that HTML has effectively been abandoned to four companies: Apple, Google, Opera, and Mozilla. They are deciding the actual fate of HTML, not a truly independent standards process.

This reminds me of something that was promoted in a book I reviewed [slashdot.org] :

those who ship win

It's that simple. If this armchair talking head who wrote this article chastising the standards process were to magically code up a browser that better empowered me, a software developer, to deploy code to users that ran to my satisfaction then his standards would be realized first. And I might be tempted to use it and ask my users to use it so we can get good functionality.

Duh.

Back when the standards were still in flux (and still are) I was using Google Chrome to enjoy an Arcade Fire experiment [chromeexperiments.com] that used many HTML5 elements. And guess what? I started using Chrome and the implementation of their perspective of the standards gained just a planck constant more marketshare.

This guy can sit around and complain all he wants but for better or for worse: those who ship win.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (4, Insightful)

Saint Stephen (19450) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031780)

Gee, that sounds like - a De Facto standard. Like MS Word .doc format! Guess evil is in the eye of the beholder.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35031870)

While I hate eldavojohn as much as anyone, I don't see anything in his post that was saying this fact is 'good' or 'evil', just that it's a fact. And honestly, he's right. If you design by independent committee, that committee needs to move at the pace of development or it will be ignored. If software companies are putting out releases faster than the committee is putting out standards, then the committee is worthless. This is ultimately the reasoning behind the move to non numbered releases, as it at least gives the standard a chance in hell at succeeding. You can't expect companies to slow development to wait for some voluntary, independent group to tell them what they can and can't code, you need to speed up the group to match the developers.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35031988)

>If software companies are putting out releases faster than the committee is putting out standards, then the committee is worthless.
No. This is completely and utterly backwards thinking. The STANDARD is there for a reason, for releases to have a target to hit for making their core technology usable. Further releases should enhance the technology *surrounding* that standard, not try to "improve" upon that standard until they and others can agree on a new version of that standard to go forward.

Having browser makers defining the "standard" is the mess we needed to get out of in the first place. What, do we want to return to browser makers making up things as they go along, like goddamn IE?

How has backwards thinking like this become so prevalent in modern technology? I don't get it.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032702)

The problem is that the people responsible for the standards are failing. Too long phases between the key gateways, huge periods where the standard is effectively finalised but nor formalised, while the people developing browsers have to implement something or they get accused of not supporting the standards. IE gave the standards committee the perfect platform to sort this mess out but they have dropped the ball - I agree it's still the right way to do it but maybe they're not the right people.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032026)

Yeah that would be the "for better or for worse" that I said in my original post.

While I hate eldavojohn as much as anyone ...

Seriously, why do I even bother with this site?

Re:Those Who Ship Win (3, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032300)

Seriously, why do I even bother with this site?

Because you know that the majority are both more temperate and less vocal than the baseline stupid douche?

Re:Those Who Ship Win (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032372)

Because you know that the majority are both more temperate and less vocal than the baseline stupid douche?

That's the problem, the rest of the message was pretty informative so whoever made it might have been a douche but didn't exhibit any stupidity.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (4, Interesting)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031954)

Yes, yes it is.

The difference being that the group behind the de facto standard sees high value in being consistent, predictable, and having that pseudo-standard very well documented, because without those facts nobody can create content for them to consume.

With the .doc format, there's high value to Microsoft in obfuscating the "standard" documentation as much as possible since they both create and consume the documents.

Big difference.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032852)

Word isn't obfuscated. They published the entire standard publicly. It was just originally designed before XML and when the ability to run on very low powered hardware was at a premium. It was also made a decade before the internet and cross compatibility became a consideration.

Read this about it:
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/02/19.html

Comparing Word 97-2003 to HTML is apples and oranges. A better comparision maybe IE6 and its defacto standards and what it did to web design for the next decade or so and it is something I fear may come out of the big four who may all start adding in features for their browsers.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (3, Insightful)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032062)

ODT is as much of a de facto standard. If you give me an ODT file that conforms to the standard but triggers bugs in OpenOffice.org, what good is it? I'm not going to spend days setting up an OOo build environment, learning whatever awful framework they use, and bisecting this bug in order to read your few paragraphs.

The problem with .doc is not that it's a de facto standard -- all standards that are worth anything must be de facto at least as much as they are de jure -- but that it's a bad one, because it's hard for any program that doesn't share MS Word's internal data structures and algorithms to implement (because a .doc is, to first order, a memory dump of Word's data). HTML doesn't work like that, and it's hard to make it work like that if you tried.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (3, Insightful)

unwesen (241906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032328)

Nothing wrong with de-facto standards, if they're fully open.

Look at e.g. the Python programming language. The CPython implementation is the de-facto standard implementation, and the language specs actually refer (or used to) to the implementation saying if in doubt, that implementation wins.

Yet there are other, mostly compatible Python implementations out there, and nothing - not patents, nor secrets - stops you from starting a new one.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (5, Informative)

gig (78408) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032428)

It's nothing like Word get a grip.

Apple created canvas, submitted to W3C, Mozilla submitted changes, canvas was standardized, then Apple invested significant engineerig resources into changing their canvas implementation to match the standard.

If you want an academic standard with no real world use, XHTML 2 is available for your masturbatory needs. The Web needs a practical HTML standard that documents how you DO write HTML, not how you theoretically SHOULD write HTML.

Helping you with definition of evil (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032592)

Gee, that sounds like - a De Facto standard. Like MS Word .doc format! Guess evil is in the eye of the beholder.

Good is when you help other companies ship a product that supports a generally agreed upon standard - like HTML5 extensions. That way you compete in the market based on quality of product.

Evil is when you ship something you promote as a standard that you will not help anyone else ship a competing product for, like .doc.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032662)

evil? no. Beauty? Death? Petrification? Anti-magic? sure. Evil is in the alignment of a Beholder.

MS Word is not comparable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032856)

Files in MS Word's proprietary format are both written and read by that one same program. Nobody outside that program's authors are privy to the format.

Defacto HTML standards are different, because the people who wrote your browser are usually not the same people who wrote your website (though we do have an interesting exception happening with Google). Either how it works gets communicated with the world or else whatever makes this HTML variant unique, doesn't get used. Apple can add whatever proprietary twists to HTML they want to with Safari, but for it to really do anything, they need to open it up to the public so that you can read about it and implement it on your website. Except you won't implement it on your website if it causes Firefox to not be able to read your website. The result is that the extensions either need to be added in a back-compatible manner, or else they need to be extremely popular.

Go back to the MS Word thing. If someone saved a document in a newer version of the format and another user couldn't read it, that didn't stop people from saving. It just caused the other users to have to upgrade -- sometimes their whole computer or network; I once saw a case where one user's MS Word upgrade resulted in a small office giving up and spending nearly twenty thousand dollars, because their machines would completely lock up (not even bluescreen) sometimes when they opened the files saved by the lady who had the newer version. Do you see this happening with the web? I sure don't.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (2)

bberens (965711) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031920)

It sounds to me like we've finally gotten around to admitting the truth about how the system works instead of wasting a bunch of time and money with the standards process. It's not as if a particular browser saying it was HTML# compliant was really meaningful. You still had to test every feature and work around the bugs on a per-browser basis. IMO nothing really has changed except the illusion.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1)

sorak (246725) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032888)

I am curious if the attempt to strive toward HTML# compliance didn't result in more uniformity among them, however. I am trying not to fall into the trap of assuming that everything will become proprietary, but without an independent body saying "here's the standard, and here's where you are", then won't the compatibility problems get worse?

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032078)

Exactly. I'm not even sure if I'd agree with author's goal in an idea world.

What does he want, some independent body of academics, bureaucrats, public input, commercial bodies... setting up the HTML spec without any idea of how it will be implemented, used...

Oh no... as far as I'm concerned, you want to determine the fate of HTML, you build a browser (or some connected product) and join the committee. Fight it out.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (4, Interesting)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032176)

>>>HTML has effectively been abandoned to four companies: Apple, Google, Opera, and Mozilla.

Sounds like a lot of FUD to me. It used to be:
- 1999 and earlier: No HTML standard existed and Mozilla Netscape just willy-nilly added new features (blink tag for example).
- 1999 and later: Ditto Microsoft once their IE became dominant. IE5 and 6 were browsers that complied with nothing, and even today still cause problems for web designers.

Better to have four companies talking to one another and hashing-out HTML5 and HTML6, rather than the old (a) chaos of Netscape producing non-compliant features or (b) Monopoly of MS-IE. We don't want to have another Format war like HD-DVD v. Bluray on the internet. We want consensus first, even if that slows progress a little.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (4, Insightful)

gig (78408) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032562)

It's not 4 companies, that is BS:

1) in this context, Apple is the WebKit open source project

2) dozens of vendors use WebKit, including Google, and there are many contributors

3) Mozilla is a foundation

4) Microsoft and Adobe are also part of W3C, although they sometimes had to be dragged kicking and screaming, but that just shows that standardization works

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032788)

What, in this context, is the difference between a company and a foundation?

Re:Those Who Ship Win (4, Insightful)

morgauxo (974071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032312)

So, if I made a browser that used a flavor of html which made your job easier you would automatically begin coding your html for it? Really? And who would your customer be?

The sad thing for web developers is that it doesn't matter whose html standard is techically better or which one better enables development. It's which one/ones are being used by your target audience that matter. Otherwise you are coding a site just for yourself! It really comes down to a browser marketing issue, not an html standards one. Whoever markets their browser better gets to set the standard.

Re:Those Who Ship Win (1)

kabdib (81955) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032900)

Standards committees that didn't have to ship anything were responsible for a ton of late 80s to mid 90s disasters, like X.500, X.509 (certificates), and the whole of the ISO networking stack. There are borderline disasters such as SNMP. There are smoking radioactive holes where you don't want /ever/ want to go (SOAP is my favorite example here).

The proper path: Write working code, get users and customers, re-design and re-write a few times, THEN you can have a standard.

hah (0)

BenphemeR (1301865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031742)

W3C is a joke.

Re:hah (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031892)

Yeah, no great loss.

I proposed something to the W3C many years ago that would have improved web security (and if implemented would have stopped the myspace and other XSS worms). But the W3C are just interested in more and more "Go" buttons and they didn't even want a single "Stop" button.

Anyway, Mozilla has finally proposed something in concept (more encompassing but also more complex) CSP which might help: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Security/CSP [mozilla.org] .

Re:hah (1)

BenphemeR (1301865) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032822)

I'd be into anything Mozilla is behind. Thanks for the link

The Standards Really Never Have Been the Standards (2, Interesting)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031764)

The W3C has never really had complete control of HTML. Those who write the browser effectively can extend or cripple HTML features at will. Netscape added many new features [merlins.org] and everyone simply had to live with the results. IE did some nasty things to CSS and we all had to live with that, too.

Re:The Standards Really Never Have Been the Standa (2)

CynicTheHedgehog (261139) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032410)

It never had complete control, but it did its job. It established a level playing field and and brought parity (more or less) to four different browser engines. Now that there *is* competition, all four vendors are busy as bees trying to add new features and mimic the new features added by the other vendors. So we don't need a standard per se, as long as we have users that have iPhones expecting that a web page will work the same way on their desktops.

So kudos to the W3C for making it viable for other browsers to come to market and compete, and kudos to Mozilla for making that dream a reality. Now it's all about innovation and compatibility.

Re:The Standards Really Never Have Been the Standa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032438)

The biggest factor here is again Microsoft. MS is pushing it's Windows locked SL to secure it's os-monopoly. All MS is doing to HTML is trying to keep it from developing.
"All open standards are poison for monopoly."
Just check what happened to open document formats. ODF was gaining attention, MS forced OOXML as open standard but which is actually closed.
And now again, we do not have real competition in office applications, because everything is sill locked to MS-office.

If there was no monopoly, we would already have HTML5 in place and using browsers without Windows-locks.

Re:The Standards Really Never Have Been the Standa (1)

jewelises (739285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032768)

I believe that it's just WHATWG that has dropped the version number, not the W3C.

Re:The Standards Really Never Have Been the Standa (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032770)

IE did some nasty things to CSS and we all had to live with that, too.

Quid pro quo ....http://www.exploit-db.com/exploits/15746/ can't blame wc3 if Microsoft can screw up css parsing this bad. They still have it screwed up because of the crap they did in the IE6 engine! Sounds like there will be no fix for IE7 or 8. Good way for them to completely kill off both XP and Vista would be for them not offer IE9 with the advanced html5 css parsing capabilities without the legacy exploit. I really think they are getting super pissed with Google and Mozilla for offering a browser that keeps computers with XP and Vista usable...must be really putting a bone into their sales plans of ditching users and forcing upgrades because the OS that the computer shipped with is a piece of really bad swiss cheese. This also puts the lie to not being able to use Windows without the IE engine! Heck they do not need even need the core engine for ms update. I am almost willing to bet that it is possible to completely remove the flawed IE engine and still have a usable OS if upgrades can be pushed without out it.

Trouble is wc3 still has far too much legacy crap that is just there for the sake of and interest of Microsoft. Html5 can never become a "standard" as long as company based solely on planned software obsolescence has a say in the designs.

HTML *was* simple (4, Insightful)

drumcat (1659893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031772)

Remember when it was ok to use a "b" tag, and no one scoffed? How about table layouts? It's funny, the new standards aren't always better. This is why a format "of the people" isn't going anywhere. I could teach my grandparents how to edit HTML 10 years ago. Now, not so much. Is that better? I'd argue, no. It's not that editing is hard; it's not. The problem is that we're turning the browser into an application-level container. HTML should be more focused on making layouts easier, and faster. It should not be focused on animation. This is where MS Word has fallen off a cliff. If you want more adoption, focus HTML on what actually is important - layout that's understandable to the masses.

Re:HTML *was* simple (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35031934)

It was never OK to use a b tag for anything that didn't explicitly need to be BOLD, rather than emphasised or standing out strongly. Table layouts were never OK either. The move to CSS and that whole separation of content from layout was a great move.

You can't teach your parents to edit HTML now that it's entirely about putting in content and logical headings? If not, you're teaching the wrong thing. You grandparents should NOT be trying to learn how to make fancy websites before they know how to make websites.

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032148)

It was never OK to use a b tag for anything that didn't explicitly need to be BOLD, rather than emphasised or standing out strongly. Table layouts were never OK either. The move to CSS and that whole separation of content from layout was a great move.

Sure it was... before those tags were added.

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032228)

Or, in a /. comment, where not even an i tag seems to work anymore, while b still does.

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032536)

It took /. D3 to finally get me using the <em> tag...

CSS is horrible for table layouts (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032226)

CSS has no sane table layout syntax. The only way to do tables in CSS is to basically DUPLICATE the HTML table syntax using div tags with table properties on them - tell me how that is better in any way shape or form?

There is a difference between content markup, content layout, and content styling. The problem is people get them all confused and try to shoe-horn improper tools in each.

Re:CSS is horrible for table layouts (2)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032472)

If you actually want a table of data, then use the table tag. It's not deprecated, just assigned to be used for tables. If you are doing layout use divs or spans with floats and clears.

Re:CSS is horrible for table layouts (1)

Ian-K (154151) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032568)

ah... and to your experience that works the same across all browsers???

Re:CSS is horrible for table layouts (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032848)

In the sense that it can be made to work in all the major browsers, yes.

The GP is right - tables are for tables of data, not for laying out content that is not actually tabular. You wouldn't write a document in a spreadsheet just because that would mean not having to worry about tabstops, would you?

Re:CSS is horrible for table layouts (1)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032762)

floats are not meant for doing layouts.
using floats for even fairly simple layouts almost always results in horrible hacks.
Floats should be used for 2 cases:
  - you want to illustrate some text with an image (or a box, block, table...), and you want the text to fill the space on the side of it, then resume to full available width under it.
  - you have several boxes (or images or whatever) that you want to place side by side, filling the available horizontal space, then continue on a new line when there's no space available.

the only proper way to build layouts is css tables. but it doesn't work on IE. I guess it's not possible to do web design without horrible hacks.

Re:CSS is horrible for table layouts (1)

bricriu (184334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032484)

If you want to display data in a table, use table tags. That's fine. That's what they're there for. They're NOT there for general block-level content layout.

Wtf? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032500)

If it's (semantically) a table you use a TABLE element. Otherwise, you use DIVs (or whatever). Is that so hard to understand?

Re:CSS is horrible for table layouts (1)

eric_brissette (778634) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032558)

I'm not sure what you mean by "table layouts"

The table tag is a tool, and its job is to display tabular data. Using it for anything else (design and layout of a page) is where the shoe-horning happens.

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032358)

What in the world are you smoking? Granny's web site does not need to be ADA compliant, and she's not likely to "refactor" the layout. Tabled layouts are fine for Granny. Hell, some of the "solutions" to common css problems involve once again mixing layout and content. At that point, who cares if Granny encloses something in a DIV or a TABLE?

Re:HTML *was* simple (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35031958)

Any HTML your grandparents wrote 10 years ago still works fine today, so what are you complaining about?

If anything, HTML5 represents a shift back towards the 'vernacular' - for example, the B tag is officially a-ok for bolded text.

Re:HTML *was* simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032250)

By every quantifiable way having a standard for web development is vastly superior to having whatever the browsers come up with at the time. So you might argue no, and your grandparents would be happy. Everyone who matters to the industry wouldnt though so youd basically be categorically wrong.

Likewise your opinion on what it should be focused on is totally irrelevant. The web _is_ growing in to animation and multimedia, thats also a measurable fact with the growth of youtube and dynamic web pages practically everywhere.

This isnt insight, this is a rose tinted luddite fantasy.

Re:HTML *was* simple (5, Informative)

Rui Lopes (599077) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032324)

Remember when it was ok to use a "b" tag, and no one scoffed? How about table layouts? It's funny, the new standards aren't always better.

  1. 1) Download the NVDA screenreader [nvda-project.org]
  2. 2) Learn about the problems induced with your comment
  3. 3) Spread the word!

If you still think it's actually not better, sorry, but you should have 10 blind persons hit you with their canes...

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

lisany (700361) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032390)

Heh, sorry, tables were never okay to use tables for layout.

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

acklenx (646834) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032656)

tables were never okay to use tables for layout

But they were easy. Search for "3 column layout" and look at the infinite variety of wildly more, and more complicated solutions. Complexity depends of course on how closely you want to approximate a ridiculously trivial table layout that can have same size columns with or without background colors or images, fixed or fluid sized columns (or a mix!!), and whitespace, with a header pinned to the top and a footer at the bottom regardless of scroll height. Tables made it easy even cross browser without script of any sort. It's considerably trickier with just to meet some arbitrary standard that "tables shouldn't be used for layout". Tables were drop dead easy (until they started _removing_ table support from browsers).

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032882)

I'll reply to you, including your sig.

I haven't yet seen the principle that for a true groundswell of a phenomenon, you need a huge swath of "low end users" Just Doing Stuff. Then the experts could float on top pushing the edge.

I saw layout as a necessary evil to get a structure for information. I'm no Developer, so I only need to be a 1-trick guy if it "the consensus" says it works. Count me in the class of people who want to Just Do Stuff.

Taking the long view, we're just about to see the Decline and Fall of Flash. So I'm glad I never bothered with it. I hope my 1-trick for the next decade is to learn simple HTML 5 (in whatever state it ends up middle of the road).

Re:HTML *was* simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032850)

I've never seen a really strong reason why they shouldn't be. Conceptually, any need to divide a layout into columns and rows could use a table. There's no fundamental difference in HTML between text and numbers, and grid-based structures encompass more than simple tabular display of numbers.

It wouldn't have mattered if CSS had offered a simple replacement for the html table tags, but all the alternatives are overly complex.

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032398)

Remember when it was ok to use a "b" tag, and no one scoffed? How about table layouts? [...] I could teach my grandparents how to edit HTML 10 years ago. Now, not so much

Huh? The "b" tags still works. Here you go: bold. Tables still work too. If you want to use them, use them.

If you want more adoption, focus HTML on what actually is important - layout that's understandable to the masses.

Most people use GUI apps to create web pages. They couldn't care less whether the code produced by their GUI is done according to one standard or another. And suppose they did care. Are you claiming that a wave of popular support would then cause WHATWG to be successful, MS to support web standards, and patent holders to release their codecs under royalty-free terms?

HTML should be more focused on making layouts easier, and faster. It should not be focused on animation.

Well, first off, html 5 isn't just about frivolous stuff like making cartoons jump around on a web page. For example, it includes support for mathml; that's not exactly frivolous for a blind physics student who can't read equations that are rendered as bitmaps for compatibility with IE. And in any case "the masses" you refer to want animation. They want farmville, etc. The question is whether we're going to have a web where the only way to accomplish that is through proprietary browsers and proprietary plugins.

That's not what the masses want. Or need. (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032648)

The problem is that we're turning the browser into an application-level container. HTML should be more focused on making layouts easier, and faster

But that's not what "the masses" want, or even need.

The masses like doing things over the web, so any standards that improve the ability to do more things in the browser help people. The demand is obviously there from the growth of Flash.

The "masses" also NEVER wanted to edit HTML. Not directly. Because most people HATE AND FEAR code. You simply cannot make code in such a way that anyone but coders will want to use it directly, so making it simpler for someone who is not a coder is a fools errand. Instead it's better to add complex features that help enable better tools with better output, which is why we got CSS and a bunch of other things.

You may say HTML should be this or that but the reality is that the people directed HTML right to where they wanted to go.

Re:HTML *was* simple (3, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032676)

Remember when it was OK to use an "i" tag, and it worked on Slashdot?

Re:HTML *was* simple (1)

C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032728)

Remember when it was ok to use a "b" tag, and no one scoffed? How about table layouts? It's funny, the new standards aren't always better. This is why a format "of the people" isn't going anywhere. I could teach my grandparents how to edit HTML 10 years ago. Now, not so much. Is that better? I'd argue, no.

yeah, and 25 years ago i could teach my mother how to manually mark blocks and insert formating codes on text edited in an 8-bit computer. technology evolves, things get more complicated, then new tools apear to ease the process. so what if you can't create a good looking site using vi or notepad anymore ? use a goddamn authoring tool.

HTML should be more focused on making layouts easier, and faster. It should not be focused on animation. This is where MS Word has fallen off a cliff. If you want more adoption, focus HTML on what actually is important - layout that's understandable to the masses.

oh, and let animation be the focus of adobe flash ? video to real networks, microsoft or apple ? remember the same 10 years ago, we needed 3 different plugins installed so we could watch video, because you never knew if the site was using real video, ms avi or quicktime ?

people actually _want_ pages with animations, video and sound. people like superfluous eye candy. if not, why even bother with flashy GUIs like those on vista, leopard or kde ? so if eye candy it's gonna make it to the web, better that it's an open standard than another proprietary plugin that'll only be available on mac and windows.

"not a truly independent standards process" (1)

Asic Eng (193332) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031774)

Isn't that par for the course? It seems a lot of standards are driven by a few big players who have a strong interest in it.

Re:"not a truly independent standards process" (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031856)

Isn't that par for the course? It seems a lot of standards are driven by a few big players who have a strong interest in it.

True. When I read the summary, I thought that four players seemed better than the early days of the web, when HTML was driven by just the pair of Netscape and Microsoft.

Re:"not a truly independent standards process" (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032610)

That is the whole purpose of an industry standard. They are not written by some outside independent "expert". They are written by people that are direct competitors in order to promote their industry. I am a mechanical engineer. We have drafting standards from the ASME. This isn't some independent group. The members of the committee included people from Boeing, GM, Caterpillar, Raytheon, Thiokol, Ford, Lockeed, ect. All people that had a vested interest in coming up with a standard way to interpret drawings. The reason for the standard is so that drawings can be sent to subcontractors and they can be interpreted unambiguously. It didn't serve the industry well to have all different types of drawing standards. Also the standard only applies to the important things required to make hardware from drawings. It allows enough flexibility for companies to craft the standard to fit their way of working. This also helps the CAD software makers who can create software by giving them a start for a requirements document for the software. All of this helps the industry as a whole and isn't done to benefit one company over another.

W3C should retire (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031784)

I can't remember if W3C has ever really successfully moved the HTML language ahead. Much of the early improvements were due to Netscape and Microsoft throwing new features around willy-nilly. A bunch of those features would be chosen to be part of the standard, while the rest (layers, blink, marquee) would fade away into disuse. As soon as the major players focused more on following the standards rather than setting them, then everything seemed to just grind to a halt. It wasn't until browser makers started to come up with their own ideas again (WHATWG) that W3C seem to once again bebin to wake up.

The answer to good, standards-based improvements in the web is not massive versions of HTML and CSS that never get finished, and it is not a living standard that never gets finished. It is small, targetted minor versions. We should get a roadmap of what each minor version of HTML 5.1, 5.2, 5.3 etc will address. For example, 5.1 could focus on the local storage, 5.2 could be better form elements, and 5.3 could reintroduce the blink tag (maybe not). CSS 3.1 might concentrate on better print support (let's give TeX a run for its money), 3.2 might do columns, and 3.3 could give us a style for blinking (oh wait, it already has it).

The best type of standards body is a small, nimble group of interested people (like we have with Apple, Google, Opera and Mozilla). Sure they might get caught up with difficult decisions like the video tag, but W3C seem to have that dilema with EVERYTHING, even the non-controversial tags.

Re:W3C should retire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032010)

Actually, the W3C was crucial to preventing MSFT from just turning IE into a Frontpage renderer.

Re:W3C should retire (0)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032120)

Actually, the W3C was crucial to preventing MSFT from just turning IE into a Frontpage renderer.

and then where would we be? many of us cornered into having to use Sharepoint? That's terrible.

oh, wait.

Re:W3C should retire (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032200)

W3C did a great job with XHTML1->2, the results were excellent but a little too tricky for most webdesigners.

WHATWG preferred to help the illiterates and staged a coup against W3C by pushing a conservative successor of HTML4.

We lost 10 years of W3C work thanks to WHATWG and their html5 junk.

Re:W3C should retire (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032402)

Companies like Google are primarily a content delivery company with many services.. so they get to play some serious hardball like screwing over [pick a browser] users (*) every few months with browser sniffing bullshit. They are also playing games with the video tag, as if users were pawns to be thrown at the competition. It wasn't that long ago that Google was more than happy to support both Theora and H.264, professing loudly the fact that playing both was a strong selling point for its browser. Now they have their own format and have changed to what is essentially a "fuck everyone" stand that has this seemingly sweet-smelling bullshit spin attached by an army of drones.

In fact, I would dare say that Google is well into the conflict-of-interests territory. Its got near-monopoly services, a browser, setting up its own ISP, multiple rapidly growing OS's, producing multiple plugins for other browsers to make them behave "the google way", the primary financial backer of another top W3C member, and this could go on (tracking services, advertising, etc,,) I would not be surprised if a few years from now that we find out that Google completely dominates all decisions at the W3C.

(*) if it works when I identify as Firefox.. why does it not work when I identify as Opera? Why is that, Google? Got an explanation that isnt evil? Didn't think so.

Eh? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35031802)

HTML has effectively been abandoned to four companies: Apple, Google, Opera, and Mozilla.

And Microsoft is where?

Their Internet Explorer is used by most Internet users today ( http://marketshare.hitslink.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=0 [hitslink.com] )

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35031986)

Exactly what I was wondering. I know Microsoft is the company everyone around here loves to hate, but they are still very relevant. Much more so than Opera IMO.

Re:Eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032172)

Considering how much Opera does disregarding it in standard making is wrong.

Re:Eh? (2, Informative)

johnnysaucepn (1263108) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032178)

Microsoft haven't been active in developing the latest version of HTML5, while the others have. That's all they mean - it's no reflection of the size of the company or their reach to customers, but in their work on the standard.

same situation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35031820)

This was the same situation with IE6. When IE6 ruled it was the standard; At least this time there are more players in the ballgame..players who care about users. The W3C HTML Standards group have never decided the fate of HTML...or at least for a long long time. Get over it!

finally (2, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031872)

Finally, people are starting to realise (and argue) that today's HTML is no more "open" than Flash. It's just a cartel between a few major tech companies to promote particular implementations of particular technologies in their medium term interest. Apple's canvas is the most obvious culprit. Rather than freeing people from Flash, it gives such a seductive but incomplete alternative (to an already subpar platform) that developers are encouraged to write native Cocoa apps. It's msjvm deja vu all over again.

Re:finally (3, Insightful)

BHearsum (325814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032638)

Regardless of who is setting the standard, it *is* an open standard, implementable by anyone who reads the spec. Flash is not. Big difference.

Bad Thing? (4, Insightful)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031880)

Hey! At least a certain monolithic juggernaut ISV that is known for hijacking ALL standards isn't in the top four.

Re:Bad Thing? (1)

blarkon (1712194) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032244)

Of course with the four that are seemingly in charge, the mob that's been left out can say "fark it" and go their own way saying that they don't need to kowtow to Google, Apple, Mozilla and Opera, (the last of which has such a small audience that they are within the margin of error).

Could be worse (4, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031936)

At least the standards aren't determined by Microsoft.

HTML compliance is for wankers (-1, Troll)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 3 years ago | (#35031948)

Every place that I have ever worked had some wanker who was always running everyone else's code through some compliance checker/validator. Since 1996 I have never once been presented with a bug induced by non-compliant HTML(as opposed to simply broken). The major browsers just don't give a crap what you feed them. I have dutifully explained to each of these wankers as I kicked them off my project that our goal is to produce a working maintainable product not keep some academic happy in some remote corner of the internet.

Personally I will code to whatever standard works on the big three browsers and then move on. It could be called HTML Poop for all I care.
On top of that the W3C documents are all unreadable as a programming resource.
PS the only code validator should check for the "blink" tag.

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032092)

Nothing wrong with XHTML strict. If you are working professionally and can't code to that, I'd say it's you that's the wanker!

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (0)

graveyhead (210996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032258)

Hah yeah except for the huge stupid hack you have to use for IE ;-)

http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/2004/xhtml-faq#ie [w3.org]

Not long ago (within the past year) I've seen people *strongly* recommend targeting HTML 4.01, the most widely set of tags currently supported.

XHTML never really seemed to live up to the hype for me. Sure, it's easier to parse XHTML than HTML. But who cares? You should not be parsing web pages, it's the road to madness ;-) Always look for an API or a feed first.

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (1)

conspirator57 (1123519) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032156)

PS the only code validator should check for the "blink" tag.

and remove it.

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (1)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032182)

But I love the blink tag! :(

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35032588)

Marquee is where it's at.

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (1)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032832)

The proper way is to use a span with class="blink" and do the blinking in javascript.

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (4, Insightful)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032594)

Remind me to never hire you for a project. You sound like you are a nightmare to work with. I suspect you have never worked on a real site that needs to be used by a wide range of people across a wide range of circumstances. Blind people, colour blind people and people with upper body problems have to be able to pay online for their council tax, apply for planning permission etc.... Standards are vitally important for that.

Re:HTML compliance is for wankers (1)

Tim C (15259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032880)

The major browsers just don't give a crap what you feed them.

The same is not necessarily true of assisstive technologies such as screen readers.

Now if all you care about is the maximum return on investment that probably isn't important to you, but in that case I'd be wary of throwing the word wanker around too much...

smart ad (1)

mugurel (1424497) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032054)

Note the context-aware advertisement on page 1 of TFA...

What's with all the hate? (3, Informative)

graveyhead (210996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032068)

Last I checked, anyone could submit ideas, corrections, feature requests *RIGHT THERE ON THE HTML5 WORKING DRAFT*. "Feedback Comments" right at the top of http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/ [w3.org]

Now, if they ignore your idea, that's almost certainly because it sucks and is badly written. No really, it does suck. Follow the instructions there *carefully*, really think about this feature or tag or whatever you're requesting, and your ideas will get consideration.

I must be getting old (1)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032088)

I am from before the first browser war.

Standards are based on who shows up (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032134)

Standards always tend to be dominated by the people and companies that show up.

Welcome to corporate feudalism (2)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032192)

What's happening with this issue is a microcosm of what's happening in the world. Democracy and the rule of law wither, while wealth, in the form of organizations or a few super-rich individuals control outcomes.

patents, MS (4, Insightful)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032214)

It seems to me that everybody is moaning and groaning about what a bad job WHATWG is doing, when in fact WHATWG is just doing the best it can in an extremely difficult environment created by patents and Microsoft.

The confusion with respect to audio and video codecs only exists because of patents. A certain patent-encumbered codec shows up that's good enough, so it gets widely adopted, and then it's impossible to displace it because of network effects. This is not WHATWG's fault.

The html 5 feature that I really care about is mathml, and here it's very, very clear that MS is the bad guy and W3C and WHATWG have just been trying, unsuccessfully, to work around MS. Mathml worked fine in xhtml years ago, but MS never bothered to support xhtml in IE, which would have been technically trivial to do. They stated that their policy was to have independent vendors supply support for mathml rendering via plugins, and Design Science did their best to do that, but MS made it impossible for them to do that in a standard way, because the standard depended on xhtml, which IE didn't support. So xhtml died in the crib, and WHATWG decided to pour the svg and mathml namespaces into the flat html 5 namespace. Kind of an ugly solution, but they had no other choice. Now for the first time it is theoretically possible to write a web page coded in a standard way that has mathml in it and that might render properly in some future version of IE. But meanwhile big institutions are still sticking to IE 6 because they need compatibility with all its bugs, and preview versions of IE 9 have broken mathml support. [dessci.com]

The big problem is that commercial entities have interests that oppose the interests of their customers and internet users at large. MS wants users to be locked into their browser through proprietary plugins and bug-compatibility, and they don't stand to profit by supporting features like mathml, which are only used by a relatively small proportion of their users. (Never mind that blind people can access mathml but not bitmapped renderings of equations. Blind people aren't economically important to MS.) Owners of patents on codecs want to harvest licensing fees, and they don't care if that screws everybody else up and makes a mess out of audio and video on the web.

McAllister complains that WHATWG is dominated by a clique consisting of Google, Apple, Mozilla, and Opera. But that clique is basically a list of all the browser vendors, and doesn't that kind of make sense? These are the people who acually need to implement the standard, so of course they should be the ones with the most influence. The only browser vendor missing from the list is MS, which is only interested in subverting standards.

Re:patents, MS (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032744)

McAllister complains that WHATWG is dominated by a clique consisting of Google, Apple, Mozilla, and Opera. But that clique is basically a list of all the browser vendors, and doesn't that kind of make sense?

It makes sense to include them in the standardization process. It doesn't make sense to let the standardization* process be dictated by them, with no one else having a say on it, whether they are competing companies (MS included) or, ghasp, any of the thousands of people that make a living developing and maintaining the WWW.

* this isn't a standardization process per se. Once the WHATWG decided to abandon versioning numbers they effectively abandoned any attempt to define a basic set of features which any involved party should implement and/or expect to be supported by any implementation: in short, they aren't defining a standard. What they are doing is informally agreeing on a loosely defined set of features that any of those parties happened to implement in their product, which is something that only serves their own interests.

These are the people who actually need to implement the standard, so of course they should be the ones with the most influence. The only browser vendor missing from the list is MS, which is only interested in subverting standards.

You are forgetting about the countless people who invest their time and effort dealing first-hand with the result of these so called standards. The cumulative effort that goes into building sites is greater than ever effort that goes into developing any browser, and the responsibility to make sites work is also greater in the web developer's side than in the browser side.

Moreover, standards are defined so that anyone can independently develop their own implementation that provides and supports at least a basic set of features which guarantees interoperability. So, it's irrelevant if a set of browser companies is behind this sham of a standardization process. What is relevant is that no one else can be an active part of it. That means that the entire WWW is being held hostage by 4 corporations. And somehow you (and others) are ok with it.

What's wrong? (1)

mikeken (907710) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032268)

But the bigger problem is that HTML has effectively been abandoned to four companies: Apple, Google, Opera, and Mozilla.

Maybe this is true, but so far I am happy with the results.

3 more... (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032326)

That's 3 more than we used to have. And not to put to fine a point on it, but

Re:3 more... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032692)

I liked where you were going with that thought, a shame you had to leave.

Re:3 more... (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032774)

I kept typing after I hit the preview button. The preview looked fine, but then it posted that typing (not the preview) when I clicked submit.

I feel like there's something in that about Ajax and web standards...

Do I sense bitterness...? (1)

Ian-K (154151) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032336)

...in that MS is not among the companies deciding the future of HTML?

Today MS is harvesting all they have seeded with their utter neglect of standards in the last 10 years: they have now become irrelevant in the market. Maaaaybe they'll play nice with IE9, but they'll always be catching up, not leading the pack.

(much like in the mobile arena with WP7 and tablets running Win7... I'll be surprised if MS makes a dent on those markets in the next 2-3 years).

For all the FUD Mr MCallister is throwing, I can tell him that I've been quite happily coding HTML5 applications for over a year now without any complaints from our users, apart from those still using IE. So, we (developers, and I think I can safely speak for the rest of you) don't mind the "ever-evolving" html5 standards because they mostly and generally WORK!

Reference implementation (1)

Meneth (872868) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032426)

Most standards that actually work have open-source reference implementations. HTML and CSS do not.

Re:Reference implementation (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032596)

WebKit.

just being realistic (2)

boxwood (1742976) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032450)

The lack of version numbers is just being realistic. No browser is 100% compliant even with HTML 4.01, which has been around for how long now? And when is HTML 4.02 coming out? Seems to me they've abandoned the versions a long time ago. Everyone just uses HTML 4.01.

They can make a HTML 5.00 standard, and have most of the browsers implement 99% of it and then they release 5.01 and the browser makers will get to work implementing that, but totally abandon implementing that last 1% of the HTML 5.00 spec... because they would be too busy implementing 5.01, 5.02, etc. So a Web developer sets a HTML 5.00 doctype, uses a feature that isn't implemented yet hoping that someday browsers may support it. But there is no guarantee they will. So the web developer will just change the doctype to 5.01, 5.02 (or whatever the latest version of the spec is) every time he makes changes to a web page or CMS.

So they're just being realistic. No matter what standard they come up with, it will never be implemented fully by all browsers. Their standard won't be the law, it will be more of a guideline. Having version numbers is pretty pointless when all browsers aren't going to render a HTML 5.01 document exactly the same. Its easier for the web developer to tell the browser that this is a HTML 5 doc and the browser will use its latest code to render the page.

Seriously now? (1)

timw4mail (1282196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35032570)

Browsers are more consistent than ever in what they support, and that's somehow a bad thing? Clearly the writer of that article isn't a web developer.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?
or Connect with...

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>