W3C's 'Moral Majesty'

David Brownell david-b at pacbell.net
Thu Sep 23 20:06:29 BST 1999

Daniel Veillard wrote:
>   I agree that software availability/testing is not the primary axis of W3C
> process. We rely on members (and others) implementation when needed to
> check whether a specification is implementable and has been successfully
> implemented.

But those "members and others" generally have vested interests in
claiming "everything's fine, so it's time to roll the trade presses
and declare yet another victory".  No surprises -- that's what happens.

>	 Those are looked at when doing the Last Call and going to
> Proposed Recommendation but agreed it's not as formal as within the
> IETF process (2 different interoperable implementations ...

The time to get from last call to PR (to REC) is way too short to
establish those criteria (or the equally important ones of sufficiency,
completeness, and compatibility) for all except the simplest specs.

When I've observed it, it's been a couple of months; that's not enough
for an independent organization to recognize that it should look at one
draft as very significant, evaluate it, and feed that back to a W3C which
can seem like it'd rather not accept such external feedback at all.

This rushed process made a lot of sense back when there were two major
browser vendors that had no other venue to reach agreement.  Rush to
get basic agreement, publicise it, and avoid fragmentation thereby.  Let
other parties have some visible input, as a check on major goofs.  There
weren't many knowledgeable players back then, unlike today.

Today, I don't see any need to rush things out so quickly.  There's a
sufficient and stable standards base (HTML 4 and CSS 1) on the client
side, though it's not implemented widely enough that anyone can really
afford to depend on it.  There are developer communities that dwarf the
original ones by orders of magnitude, individually; but where is their
ability to affect web standards by _open_ discussion?  There is none;
the affecting must be done behind closed doors before PR.

In short, there are a lot more players today ... and it'd be good to
acknowledge that, in part by focussing more on the second 90% of the
process.  Ideas are a lot easier to come by than truly interoperable
systems.  Since now most web systems are developed outside of W3C, it
behooves W3C to make a better accomodation than it now does.

- Dave

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