February 12, 2010

HTML5 "experiment" and W3C Priorities

in yet another astounding revelation, here's another post, again to the W3C secret Member-Only w3c-ac-forum cabal's list. Since this is my blog, I can repost all this historical stuff, right? Of course, this was a while ago, in the context of W3C budget discussions, and before there was even the (buggy!) HTML working group "Decision Policy".

From: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
Date: Thu, 25 Sep 2008 15:18:29 -0700
To: "w3c-ac-forum@w3.org"

My personal observation is that the current HTML5 process combines the worst elements of the IETF process and the W3C process. From the IETF, there is the chaos of an open mailing list, wide ranging comments and free participation, but without the "adult supervision" that the IETF supplies in the form of the Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG) and the area directors. From the W3C, there is the overhead and cost of W3C activity management and staff, and a process that assumes that voting members actually have a say in the final specification, but without any actual responsibility or response to normal W3C safeguards and cross-checks.

Recall the original history of HTML standardization: it started in the IETF, but succumbed there to an irresolvable debate between "inline font tags" vs "style sheets". The move to W3C was to provide a more structured environment, and strong enough management to resolve the ongoing positioning by Netscape and Microsoft.

At this point, the players have changed and there are more of them, but the jockeying for position is ongoing, but W3C seems to have abdicated any responsibility for ensuring that comments get answered, that questions are addressed on their technical merits, that reasonable voices are considered and points of view addressed, even when they differ from the point of view of the current editor of the document.

The W3C process document was built to safeguard the process. If there is an 'experiment' and the experiment is going awry, then the experiment shouldn't continue in its current form.

My basic premise for W3C prioritization is that the expansion of W3C activities outside the core of the web, in an attempt to gather more members, has basically been counter-productive, because activities have a lifetime beyond the interest of the few incremental members attracted. The basic direction I would suggest is to trim staff and expenses, and refocus the remaining staff on the core fundamentals of the web. Yes, some special interests may leave if their projects are no longer being developed by W3C, but the W3C process has a heavy overhead which was designed for a much narrower scope. Even if the peripheral activities seem like they're self-funding, every new topic stretches the ability of staff, TAG, Advisory Board, and ultimately the Director to understand and manage the process.

1 comment:

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