Monday, June 22nd, 2009

HTML 5 and the Wizard of Oz

Category: Fun, HTML

Kyle Weems, the CSS Squirrel and author of the occasional and bizarre comic of the same name, targets his latest rendering at Ian Hickson:

Click-through to see the full comic. The related blog entry fleshes out the basic complaint some more:

Why is it that the person who is the center of this process is allowed to be a man who rejects consensus, actively denies issues (based on his own admitted policy) and substitutes expert advice in important areas like accessibility with analyzing data from the Google Index and parsing numbers? Numbers that we cannot have a third party confirm because every request to do just this is ignored?

There is no doubt in my mind that Ian is brilliant. However no man, no matter how brilliant, should be allowed to be so influential on a spec when he is bringing all this baggage to the table with him.

The number of grievances folks have with any standards process are legion, but wouldn’t life be more fun if they all came with comics?

(As I wrote this, Dion leaned over and said, “I used to work with Ian, I find it funny to think of anyone trying to control him.”)

Posted by Ben Galbraith at 1:05 pm

4.2 rating from 30 votes


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Ian is a great man when it comes to “stabilizing” a spec, but yes, it can be tough to get new stuff past him.

The real issue isn’t him though, but the fact that HTML5 is said to be a “draft” when it’s actually already being implemented. What we need is getting our real draft back where we can put up stuff for approval and wait for people to raise issues.

HTML5 needs an “unstable” spec, that is not maintained by somebody as strict as Ian where ideas can be developed and refined.

Having said that, we still need somebody like Ian to maintain the stable version. Anything less and we’ll end up with a mess of contradicting spec parts and unclear definitions.

Comment by hansschmucker — June 22, 2009

I think that the XHTML2 spec would be a better direction for the future of the web than the (X)HTML5 spec. People should educate themselves about the differences between the two specs:

I’m actually a bit peeved by all the marketing-speak buzz around “HTML5” as of late — after WWDC — specifically when referring to the Canvas, Video, and Audio tags. Those three web features need not be exclusive to HTML5. People should not confuse the specs for an entire markup language with a little bit of buzzed about functionality.

Comment by zachstronaut — June 22, 2009

100% with you (although I wasn’t after reading your first sentence, until you clarified it later on).

HTML5 is a great feature-set which implements important functionality, but it would be nice to update the actual document structure along with it.

Problem is we probably won’t see that happening. Backwards compatibility is very important on the web and XHTML2 is in many ways radical. (X)HTML5 is a more incremental approach and seems a lot more likely to gain mainstream adoption.

Like it or not: The web is incremental.

Comment by hansschmucker — June 22, 2009

Zach, I’ve left another comment for you on the previous post. Go have a look :)

Comment by hansschmucker — June 22, 2009

Can’t view the “full comic”. That website doesn’t display properly in ff3.5 @ 1360×768; I can only see the first 100 pixels or so and no way to scroll.

Comment by DiSiLLUSiON — June 23, 2009

Works fine here (FF 3.5 as well… probably some addon going bonkers). Here’s the direct URL:

Comment by hansschmucker — June 23, 2009

The only public figure in software development I dislike more than Ian Hickson is Remy Maucherat.

Comment by JonathanLeech — June 23, 2009

XHTML2 is dead in the water – I firmly believe there’s no point educating yourself in a spec that is not backwards compatible and no-one is willing to implement. It could be the best standard ever, but it doesn’t matter if no-one uses it. It’s simply far a too late in the game to remove backwards compatibility, especially one that isn’t a revolutionary deviation from what we currently have.

The ‘buzz’ over HTML5 is that browser vendors are involved, has lots of new interesting features (and, yes, audio/video/canvas is part of the issue), and people are actually implementing it.

Comment by Halo — June 24, 2009


Audio/video/canvas could work just fine in XHTML2… they might be invoked with different syntax, but there’s no reason the functionality can’t be there.

You’re of course right on several points. It sucks that it isn’t being implemented by vendors. However, you’re also wrong on some of your points.

“It’s simply far a too late in the game to remove backwards compatibility”

That statement doesn’t jive. Just as Windows has legacy support for DOS and OSX had legacy support for OS9, an XHTML2 enabled browser could have legacy support for previous markup languages.

Browser vendors are free to support legacy markup in their XHTML2 browsers. I don’t see why you are saying these things are mutually exclusive. They aren’t at all.

It is too bad that we may drag the dead weight of the past with us as the web moves forward. There’s a great opportunity here to apply what we’ve learned in the last 16 years.

I firmly believe it is always best to educate yourself about your options rather than just dismissing something based on subjective opinions.

Comment by zachstronaut — June 24, 2009

JonathanLeech: :-(

Comment by Hixie — June 24, 2009

@Hixie – At least I didn’t say I dislike you more than Remy. That’s a pretty low bar.

Comment by JonathanLeech — June 25, 2009

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