Friday, February 12th, 2010

Adobe, HTML5, and the confusion of standards groups

Category: Adobe

<p>Sometimes the W3C standards body feels like a tycoons backroom. For such a public and important standard to live in a world of secrecy is plain wrong. Now and then we get sniffs of information but can’t put together the puzzle and thus are left with rumour and speculation.

For example, we have this conversation from HTML WG minutes:

Larry Masinter of Adobe (masinter): do I need to repeat objections?
paulc: the co-chairs are aware of the formal objection
rubys: it would be helpful to repeat the objection
paulc: it would be helpful to people who aren't reading w3-archive email
plh: we won't approve the FPWDs until the FO is resolved
masinter: sure, i'll forward my comment on scope
paulc: plh and larry, can you post the FO on the public-html list and the affects on the plans?
(plh and larry each agree)

What is that about? Hixie talks (on what he can) about how “the latest publication of HTML5 is now blocked by Adobe, via an objection that has still not been made public (despite yesterday’s promise to make it so).”

Time to make a full public statement Adobe. That way we can just see the facts and not the speculation. Don’t make the Tiger mistake of not owning your own news. Folks are eager to jump on Adobe, so if they don’t clarify their opinion, people will read into it.

You can see how confused even the folks involved are:

Shelley Powers:

At least two members of this team, Ian Hickson[1] and Anne van
Kesteren[2], representing Google and Opera, respectively, have been
writing this morning that Adobe is officially blocking publication
of HTML5. This type of communication could cause FUD among the
community of users, and should be addressed as soon as possible.

There was something in the minutes yesterday about a formal
objection from Larry Masinter [3], but the emails in this regard
went to a protected email list. However, Larry has discussed in the
www-archive list[4], a publicly accessible list, his objections to
the publication of Microdata, the RDFa document, and the Canvas 2D
API, but not the HTML5 document, itself. And the concerns I’ve read
in this list have to do with charter and scope — a reasonable
concern, I feel. Others of us have also expressed a similar concern.

Maciej Stachowiak:

So far as I am aware, any objections that have been made were in
Member-only space and via private contact to the W3C Team. Those with
Member access can see some of the relevant email here:

http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Member/w3c-archive/2010Feb/0100.html

http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Member/w3c-archive/2010Feb/0108.html

http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Member/w3c-archive/2010Feb/0110.html

Since w3c-archive is Member-confidential, I’m not sure if I can convey
any more information than that on a public list. It is up to the
persons involved to decide whether to post any information publicly.

Sam Ruby:

I can only say that my understanding is incomplete. I was not copied on
the Formal Objection, and while Paul requested that Larry post the
substance of his objection on public-html yesterday, and Larry indicated
that he would do so, to the best of my knowledge this has not been done.

The best I can piece together the substance can be found here (member only):

http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Member/w3c-archive/2010Feb/0100.html

Ultimately, it appears that the original request can be found here:

http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2010Jan/1436.html

And there was a related, but brief discussion which can be found here:

http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2010Feb/0006.html

I have yet to find any bug reports related to this matter. If anybody
finds one, I would appreciate a link. Additionally, if anybody can find
a way to achieve amicable resolution of this matter with Larry and
Adobe, I encourage them to do so.

Philippe Le Hegaret:

The current objection does not impact the HTML5 specification.
It does however impact the other documents: RDFa, Microsoft, and Context 2D API.

Here is Larry’s objection:

None of RDFa, Microdata or 2D Context, are in scope for the current HTML working group charter.

I suggested a compromise, which was that the working group might publishing these as Working Drafts (whether FPWD or Heartbeat) if the Status was very clear that these weren’t necessarily work items of the HTML working group, and there was no commitment to move them forward in HTML-WG.

This compromise was scuttled, in a pretty back-handed way.

I read that the chairs are responsible for keeping working groups in scope (i.e., it isn’t a working group decision).

So I object to the chairs’ decision that these documents are in scope.

I suppose a formal objection is decided by the domain lead, or appealed to the Director, and the team contact can help with this process? it’s not in the special HTML-WG-only process document how this group goes about appealing decisions which the chairs seem to have made.

If I need to use the word “formally” in there somewhere, or if there’s some “Formal Appeal Change Proposal” form I’m supposed to fill in, recapitulating all of the email arguments made to date, suggesting the documents “change” by disappearing, and written in iambic hexameter, please let me know.

Thanks!

Larry

Then Anne talks about how 2D was in scope (and decided two years ago), and the thread continues on about who exactly defines scope etc…..

Browsers have already (bar IE) put 2D in scope. That is the good thing…. browsers can use code to talk. These days the browsers are doing a lot of code talking.

Related Content:

Posted by Dion Almaer at 12:15 pm
26 Comments

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Well, it just happened less than 24 hours ago. It’s a little too soon for turning this into the classical “evil corporates trying to stall standards” drama.

It’s a working group, members have the right (and the duty) to emmit objections when they see something wrong. At least give them a few days before blaming them.

Comment by ywg — February 12, 2010

While the formal objection itself is not public, the substance of the complaint is available here: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2010Jan/1436.html

It relates to the whole RDFa vs Microdata argument, which itself is being used as a proxy for the W3C vs WHAT-WG power struggle. RDFa is the W3C’s solution for embedding meta-data into HTML, whereas Microdata is Ian Hixon’s baby. The W3C working group recently voted to split Microdata out of the HTML5 spec, something that Hixon, as editor, was not pleased about. He did it for the W3C spec, but not for the WHAT-WG, thus meaning the two specs are no longer in sync.

Whoever is right, Ian Hixon’s opinion should be only be considered in light of his personal stake in this issue, and his often demonstrated disdain for the W3C and its processes in general. Portraying the W3C as a secretive, compromised organisation helps to drive people toward the WHAT-WG. Of course, the WHAT-WG, being a smaller, invitation-only group of browser vendors, is in many ways more opaque than the W3C, it just lacks some of the bureaucracy around it.

Comment by Amtiskaw — February 12, 2010

As I corrected in a later message: s/Microsoft/Microdata/. Microsoft has actually nothing to do with the current discussion.

Larry has been asked to post the objection to the public mailing list public-html, so the secrecy shouldn’t last long. I indicated my own understanding of the objection in a public message already.

The W3C Director will address the objection asap with due process, independently of the organization raising the objection.

Comment by plh — February 12, 2010

If Adobe does not have a valid reason to object to the specification here – read: just wants to maintain their butt-tastic plug-in monarchy – I hope that the Web does all that it can to tar and feather them over the next two years as well as label all proprietary plug-ins as the new “IE6″ of the internet – something that sucks and must die.

JS, WebGL, JS to GPU FTW!

Comment by csuwldcat — February 12, 2010

This war between Adobe and HTML5 (we all know that Adobe only want to defends the Flash tehcnology here) is a nonsense. Adobe need to understand that HTML 5 is a reality now, that it is an answer to real user needs and that Flash is only a part of the web ecosystem.

If they really want to be part of the web as it is written now, they need to change the Flash Player to better be embedded in the open web, and the better option is to open it. If you think that’s a good solution too, please sign the petition asking that Adobe open source the Flash Player here : http://www.openplayer.net/

Comment by tekool — February 12, 2010

There is no war between HTML5 and Adobe, and no, I was not confused about what was happening. I was more astonished that folks were making statements about Adobe blocking HTML5, when there is nothing to substantiate this claim.

There was no back room secret negotiations. No clandestine, nefarious activity.

I posted what I did to get official clarification from W3C, which PLH was kind enough to provide. However, this attempt seems to do little to squelch the rumors, which are just so much more exciting then the actual truth.

Next time people: get the facts first, OK?

Comment by ShelleyPowers — February 12, 2010

There seems to be some confusion about this. I raised a procedural objection with the chairs that was publicly available since February 5 (http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2010Feb/0002.html). We expect this will follow the normal W3C process for handling issues raised.

Comment by masinter — February 12, 2010

There seems to be some confusion about this. I raised a procedural objection with the chairs that was publicly available since February 5 at ( http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2010Feb/0002.html ). We expect this will follow the normal W3C process for handling issues raised.

Comment by masinter — February 12, 2010

The objective of this post seems to be to call out Adobe for creating bogus FUD about HTML5, but based on the comments here from those close to the issue, the post is just creating its own bogus FUD about Adobe’s intentions.
.
I share the disdain for the Flash vs open technologies battle, but Adobe’s objection doesn’t strike me as a proxy in that fight.
.
That said, why are these types of conversations kept private in the first place? And why is Adobe being singled out like they are the only ones posting to the private lists? Surely they aren’t the only entity to have posted objections in private?

Comment by jlizarraga — February 12, 2010

@jlizarraga No its not common to post objections in the W3C’s private Member-only, at least in the HTML Working Group. It is highly unusual. The HTML WG is chartered as a fully public group, and the mailing list is open to everyone.

Comment by othermaciej — February 12, 2010

Unbelievable.
“w3c-archive is Member-confidential”
That’s your whole problem right there. The terms “w3c” and “private” should not be allowed to coexist.
All w3c communications need to be in the clear; the very concept of an exclusive membership is in itself abhorrent.

Comment by rdza — February 12, 2010

Pay no attention to the man commenting about the man behind the curtain. This is run-of-the-mill anti-FUD FUD and pseudodrama.

Comment by shepazu — February 12, 2010

othermaciej, more FUD. And this from an HTML5 co-chair, too. Unfortunate.

This was so much ado about nothing. What a pretty picture the WhatWG and HTML WG present to the world with this little escapade. I don’t know about anyone else in both groups, but frankly, I’m embarrassed.

Comment by ShelleyPowers — February 13, 2010

Hey Shelley, I was just correcting jlizarraga’s incorrect assumption. I didn’t even say anything directly about the recent incident. Is anything I said false or misleading? Prior to the last 30 days or so, I don’t know of any discussion relating to the HTML WG that happened on a Member-only list, contrary to the suggestion that it is common. If you know otherwise, please let me know.

Comment by othermaciej — February 13, 2010

I’ve just read through this entire thread, and I still didn’t learn anything of value relating to HTML5 other than that it’s mired in bureaucratic process. Where’s a good efficiently-run dictatorship when you need one?

Comment by Joeri — February 13, 2010

@othermaciej
.
I thought I was clear before, but I am also against this sort of privacy when it concerns the future of open technologies. I made no assumptions about these private communications, I only asked questions. They might sound rhetorical to someone like yourself, but they are earnest.
.
My point was that Adobe is being chastised for apparently following the rules. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Comment by jlizarraga — February 13, 2010

Is this TechCrunch?

Comment by MG — February 14, 2010

Where’s a good efficiently-run dictatorship when you need one?

Why at the WHATWG of course, where if it ain’t google/hixie approved you can go F yourself. WHATWG of course makes all their decisions in the “public” IRC space that those folks hang out in, and if you don’t frequent that channel almost 7/24, you’re likely miss out on those “open” decision chances. Blink, it’s decided.

Ya, much better solution….

Comment by johnfoliot — February 14, 2010

@Amtiskaw

the WHAT-WG, being a smaller, invitation-only group of browser vendors

Really? According to whatwg.org:

“The working group mailing list is an open subscription public mailing list and anyone is welcome to contribute.”

On the other hand, W3C has closed mailing lists.

Comment by PreJex — February 14, 2010

WHAT-WG members communicate privately, just like everybody else.

The point is that WHAT-WG members — who make ALL of the decisions, ultimately — are a self-selected group of browser vendor employees (excluding Microsoft).

They say they take input (“contributions”) from the community and listen to the feedback, but ultimately they make the decisions about what goes in the spec, when the spec is published, as well as what goes into their browsers.

Considering that the Web is much more than just browsers, and considering that the W3C — despite its imperfections — has demonstrated good faith in this process, I think it’s a bit rich to immediately paint THEM as the secret cabal.

OTOH I strongly suspect that this whole situation is giving the anti-trust lawyers at Apple and Google little opportunity to sleep at night.

Comment by mnot — February 14, 2010

@Dion, what did you hope to achieve with this post? Escalate a simple procedural matter into a full-blown “Adobe is blocking HTML5″ FUD campaign?

You quoted Larry’s objection and even linked to the relevant page in the public arhive. The only person that seems to be confused about whether the objection is in the public domian is Ian Hixon.

Comment by dazweeja — February 14, 2010

WHAT-WG members communicate privately, just like everybody else.

The mailing list is open to the public.

Considering that the Web is much more than just browsers, and considering that the W3C — despite its imperfections — has demonstrated good faith in this process, I think it’s a bit rich to immediately paint THEM as the secret cabal.

WHAT WG painted the W3C as a secret cabal?

Comment by PreJex — February 15, 2010

This is classic. Before anyone fully understands what the objection is and what it covers we get people claiming Adobe is attempting to block HTML5 because they fear it. They must maintain their “flash monopoly”, whatever that means. Hasn’t any of these anti-flash smart guys realize that Adobe might fully support HTML5 for one simple reason, Dreamweaver?

Comment by travisalmand — February 15, 2010

This is classic. Before anyone fully understands what the objection is and what it covers we get people claiming Adobe is attempting to block HTML5 because they fear it. They must maintain their “flash monopoly”, whatever that means. Hasn’t any of these anti-flash smart guys realize that Adobe might fully support HTML5 for one simple reason, Dreamweaver?

And AIR, but that’s beside the point. As Almaer said in the article (you did read the article didn’t you?), “Time to make a full public statement Adobe. That way we can just see the facts and not the speculation. Don’t make the Tiger mistake of not owning your own news. Folks are eager to jump on Adobe, so if they don’t clarify their opinion, people will read into it.”

This is no surprise. Web developers have been shafted by just about everyone involved at one point or another; the participants at both W3 and WHAT need to be aware of that and make a point to be more open about their positions and reasoning, lest they open themselves up to attack, both reasonable and unreasonable. If you think that’s an undue burden to place on them, consider that they are there by choice and that the decisions they make can place undue burden on millions of developers for years if not decades.

If Adobe has objections to some part of the HTML5 standard, and those objections prevent them from ratifying the relevant parts of the standard, it behooves them to clearly, publicly outline their reasoning. If they can’t or won’t do so, we are left to draw our own conclusions about their reasoning.

Comment by eyelidlessness — February 15, 2010

@eyelidlessness – yes, you are correct that if something is done in secret then those of us outside that circle can only speculate. What I found interesting is that of all the possible reasons that Adobe might object to anything, a certain number of people immediately fall to their “I hate Flash” mindset. There could have been numerous reasons for the objection, some of which might have been valid points and had nothing to do with Flash. All the fanboys for whatever companies they admire do this all the time and it’s really tiresome. Your point that web developers have had poor treatment in the past, while true, is not a valid excuse for this behavior. I’d rather everybody be an adult and ask for clarification before jumping the gun with baseless accusations. Just as Almaer did in the article as you pointed out. He called them out, all I ask is why not wait for a response before the accusations? The response came quickly enough it seems to me.

Comment by travisalmand — February 15, 2010

@eyelidness, did you read the article? It contains Adobe/Larry’s objection in full, which has been in the public domain since February 5th, long before Ian Hixon made his blog post. I don’t see what else you expect from Adobe. Read Larry’s comments here if you’re still confused:

http://css.dzone.com/articles/android-first-host-adobe-air

Comment by dazweeja — February 15, 2010

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