Re: More thoughts

Kee Hinckley (
Mon, 31 Oct 94 11:53:47 EST

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Date: Fri, 28 Oct 94 14:18:38 EDT
From: (Kee Hinckley)
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Subject: Re: More thoughts

I have seen a number of people say things like:

> it's presumptuous for the provider to dictate the details of page
> layout to the consumer.


> I think some of the demands for precise layout is a bit of a holdover from
> when information providers were -required- to make all of the layout
> decisions (e.g., hardcopy). The Web is a different medium where the consumer

And people keep mentioning dumb terminal browsers.

A few assertions:
o If dumb terminals were important to the commercial success of the
internet, the internet would have been a commercial success a long
time ago. (I know, there are other factors, but frankly, the
future is not in dumb terminals.)

o Even if they are important, that doesn't mean that you need to
design *for* them, just that you need to make sure that the
information presented can be displayed somehow. Saying we
can't do fonts because of dumb terminals is like saying we
can't do images because of dumb terminals.

There are tools out there that strip a postscript file down
to bare text that you can read. Not pretty, but it does
contain the information.

Or does it? Which leads to:

o Information and presentation are not as separable as people
seem to be asserting. Let me quote from Terry Swack, a Boston-
based designer:

If knowledge is information in a context, then content and form
cannot exist without one another. Information that is all content
is equally as uncommunicative is that which is all form. This
loss of differentiation must not be discounted. If design is not
integrated with the development of technology, there will be no
catching up. We will have created for ourselves a world of useless

( or go to
the root at

o Precise layout demands are *not* a holdover from the days of print,
they are a part of the common desire to use layout to present
information, and to use layout to create an esthetically pleasing
appearance. Designing a system that cannot provide a high level
of graphical control in this day and age is going to result in a
system that will die out of use. Here, I'll make a prediction and
you can come and kick me and five years and tell me I was wrong.

If HTML doesn't provide a higher level of presentation capabilities
then the market for the Web will either die, or a replacement
language, including the hot-link capabilities, will become the
primary mechanism and HTML will become have only a secondary role
in the commercial use of the Web.


o People keeping saying asserting that the user should have control
of fonts, they should have control of layout, they should....
Just *who* are you designing systems for? If you are designing
sytems for people just like yourself, then you are absolutely
right. I used to work at a workstation company that designed
systems for people just like themselves. When workstations started
appealing to a broader market, they got swallowed up.

Fundamentally we have a conflict here. There is a large group of
people who are putting their salaries, career and families on the
line betting that the internet, which they have been using all these
years, is now commercially viable to a much larger audience. And
there are another group who are still looking at it from a much
purer academic viewpoint. Both groups need to co-exist, both have
something to offer each other. But throwing around words like
"must not", and "should never" isn't going to get us anywhere. As
the folks at Mosaic Comm have shown us, whether for right or wrong,
the future is no longer in any one group's control.