Re: Standards, Work Groups, and Reality Checks: A Radical Proposal.

Arjun Ray (
Fri, 22 Sep 1995 21:23:07 -0400 (EDT)

On Fri, 22 Sep 1995, Benjamin Franz wrote:

> The HTML development effort is now into about stage 6 of a project
> (Punishment of the Innocent).

"Praise for the Non-Participants" is closer to the truth.


> The HTML group is justifiably perturbed by the bizarre things claiming
> Content-type: text/html. They want the newcomers to *be* test/html if
> they say they are, and don't understand why they refuse to stand on some
> other content-type if they aren't.
> Its easy:
> Most browsers read and do *something* reasonable with
> text/html. Big potential audience.
> Most browsers just D/L test/x-html to a file, assuming the
> server I am using even knows about '.mynewextention and
> experimental mime type'. Small potential audience.

> Right or wrong, in market driven by *economics* rather than standards
> - they are *going* to serve it up as text/html.

Indeed. The *name* counts, doesn't it? There's a conclusion to be drawn
from this that's more damaging than the arguments you've put forward.

> So how does the WG get away from this morass?
> Content-type: text/sgml

> The development of HTML of *all* levels should be officially ended
> with the acceptance of HTML 2.0 (whenever that happens...)

Why? Why not *abandon* HTML 2.0? Why deliver a freebie to people whose
cooperation has been conspicuous by its absence?

> I move to dis-establish the HTML working group.

And reorganize itself with a new charter that makes no mention of HTML.
I suggest W3ML. The W3 Consortium hasn't been disbanded. Their mandate to
foster and coordinate development of the Web hasn't been confounded. On
the contrary, what they bring to the Web -- insofar as it continues to be
a part of the Internet -- is the critical factor of *legitimacy*. The
Consortium needs a language (a "lingua franca") -- who said that the
*name* of this language has to be "HTML"? Or that what HTML is allegedly
being made into by current practice and "market forces" *must* be
standardized simply because it happens to have that name?

And if in fact "text/html" is irrecoverably a mishmash, the simplest
solution is to delegitimize the name, and let its puissant appropriators
do with what they please -- only that, to get a *standard* out of it,
they'll have to start from scratch, and shift for themselves. Is the IETF
in any danger of being snowed under by half-baked ideas from people who
can't even get a parser right? Maybe it's time to put *that* to the test.

The Internet Standards process has a rigor that the Working Group has
worked very hard to meet. But all these standards -- because they share a
common context of at least *trying* to be interoperable -- have their
origins in goodwill and consensus. This Working Group has been bedevilled
by too little of the latter exploiting too much of the former, a house
divided from the beginning.

It's time to realize that there are players here who seek legitimation
only. All the things that go into a real standard -- goodwill, commitment,
patience, and discipline to implement things the *right* way -- are being
upheld by the WG and trivialized by others too clever by half to be smart.

Arjun Ray
(I speak for myself only.)