Standardize the FOUNDATIONS (was: Re: Standards, Work Groups, and Reality Checks: A Radical Proposal

Steve H Rose (
Mon, 25 Sep 1995 10:38:45 +0059 (EDT)

Thanks a lot, david, for your helpful explanation of MIME types.

On Mon, 25 Sep 1995, david wrote:

> Here's the HTML-related bit - MIME type "text/html" specifies a
> particular language; there are variants thereof, and that's why
> parameters like "version=" exist (so that clients can use content
> negotiation to get the variant that they want/understand).
> If this feature was being used more extensively, then vendor-specific
> HTML may not be causing so many complaints and/or problems because
> the browsers would request some other variant (and the vendor's
> browsers would quite happily accept the vendor-specific stuff).

In my opinion, the answer is for those working for standards to focus
their efforts on foundational standards such as this.

Look, the reason that companies like Netscape break the rules is to build
in nifty Netscape-specific features that will promote use of their tool.
They are trying to be the "first to market" with features
like WYSIWYG "HTML," commercially viable security etc.
Their purpose is not to break every standard, just because they're
standards. Their purpose is certainly not to support standards for

However, if the focus of the standards community was on establishing and
maintaining foundational standards in a timely manner, it would be in the
interest of Netscape, and other vendors, to participate. Netscape would want
their users to be able to see something reasonable when they hit any HTML
file. I don't think that Netscape would have a problem with something
like variant="netscape" -- if the standards community made it clear how
important <strong>THAT</strong> particular standard was.

I think problems are occuring partly because the standards community is
trying to do too much, instead of focusing on the fundamentals needed for
establishing and maintaining basic levels of communication. And, because
the standards community is trying to do so much (and, since it is based on
open, worldwide participatory cooperation as opposed to fast-moving
corporate self-interest), it takes a long time to do things. It would
still take a while to come to agreement on fundamental standards, but the
time would be better spent than bickering over the approach to specific
tags. As it is, the standards community is winning battles over specific
tags like <p align="center"> vs. <center> but not placing a clear enough
focus on those standards that are critical to ensuring basic levels of

IMHO, the standards community should start choosing its battles very
carefully, and focus on the fundamentals needed to ensure basic levels of


Steve Habib Rose