Web standards on the move

WHATWG's home page asks rhetorically: "Shouldn't this work be done at the W3C or the IETF?" And it answers: "Many of the members of this working group are active supporters and members of the W3C and other standardization bodies. We plan to submit our work for standardization to a standards body when it has reached an appropriate level of maturity." Bingo. That's how things used to work a decade ago when Web standards, and the applications built on them, formed a virtuous cycle of co-evolution.

Another sign of forward motion came from the Mozilla Foundation, which announced last week that it will modernize the long-stagnant Netscape plug-in API in collaboration with Adobe, Apple, Macromedia, Opera, and Sun Microsystems. In other words, everyone but Microsoft. While Internet Explorer sits on the sidelines, benched by Avalon, the rest of the players are creating some excitement on the field. Go, team! [Full story at InfoWorld.com]
Brendan Eich amplified the themes of this column when he appeared last week on the Gillmor Gang. In this clip (21:37-25:28), Brendan talks about the tug of war between formal standards and real-world standards.

There's more history and passion wrapped up in all this than I can begin to understand, though Tim Bray's comments at the end of last week offer some glimpses. Tim was, however, relieved to see that Safari may encapsulate its Dashboard-related extensions in a "pseudo"-namespace -- which seems entirely reasonable to me as well. And despite misgivings, he was listening to Brendan and "not hearing much to disagree with."

The bottom line, for me, is that the browser is the most powerful engine for creating and distributing software that the world has ever seen. Its birth was a messy affair, and its adolescent growth spurt -- if that's what this is -- might not be pretty either. But I'd really like to see it reach for its full potential.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/07/12.html#a1037