Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Is W3C a loving mother?

Ian Hickson writes a recap of the Compound Document Workshop. To quote a little:

We had some straw polls; of the 40 or so people there, around 8 said they wanted to work on the work Opera and Mozilla have been proposing recently, and about 11 said that not only did they not think it would be worth working on this, but they actively thought that the W3C should not work on it.

In my opinion that's pretty short-sighted, but as Steven Pemberton pointed out, six year ago, the W3C decided that HTML was dead, and the way forward was a host of new languages (what is now XHTML2, XForms, MathML, SVG) that would lead the world's population to a clean new world. So at least they are consistent.

That leaves me unimpressed with the W3C, which probably isn't surprising. I've occassionally tried to track what's going on there, only to be mystified by all the various stuff going on there. I'm not the center of the world, but if I'm mystified as to the point of what they are doing, I think there's something wrong. When I read this proposal it all made a lot of sense to me, and it was all stuff I want. I didn't have to imagine some magic synergy (e.g., the Semantic Web), all of it is concretely useful.

This brought to mind Sam Ruby's thoughts on Atom and W3C. Certainly W3C isn't a monolithic organization, nor do the participants of that other workshop necessarily reflect W3C accurately... but you still have to wonder. It's like the W3C has no faith in their own successes. IETF seems like a less ambitious, more productive venue.

Created 04 Jun '04
Modified 14 Dec '04


The interesting question is what will be the technology platform for web applications in say, 4 years time?

I see three competing platforms: (1) the XHTML based web, similar to that of today but extended by WHAT-WG, (2) Microsoft's Longhorn / Avalon / .NET platform, (3) the next generation W3C web, including SVG + SMIL + XForms + XHTML2 (You could also include the semantic web, but I doubt that is going to take off).

All of these platforms are likely to enjoy moderate success in different domains, I don't think one of them is going to "win" overall. So web applications may fragment the web, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Seems like an opportunity for a more vigorous marketplace of ideas, in which we may see some intriguing new developments.

# Michael Day

You have to keep in mind, though, that the HTML 4 Web clearly dominates all other technologies at the moment. Web applications aren't some future fantasy -- they are just as important right now as the content delivery aspect of the web. What XHTML (or even just HTML 4, which isn't so bad) and WHAT-WG is trying to do is distinct from the other two in that it's incremental, and builds on an overwhelmingly successful technology and model. The other two build on the success of XML, which is a pretty meager foundation of success (a file format).
# Ian Bicking

The existing HTML web is certainly the dominant platform for web applications intended for public consumption, but what about the corporate intranet? Microsoft technologies such as Visual Basic and .NET are much stronger there, as are RPC based applications using CORBA/DCOM/RMI.

I think that the split between public and internal applications will remain; both (2) and (3) are unlikely to be widely deployed on the public web, but may still be successful on the intranet.
# Michael Day