The user is a rapidly evolving creature being defined by possibility.
opinions from the head lemur
[Posted] January 02, 2001

The Tyranny of Standards

A recent article over at oreilly.com written by Shelley Powers, author of Developing ASP Components and other proprietary crimes was writing on how Standards and the Web Standards Project was in effect throttling the development of the Internet.

*The Blockquoted sections of the following are direct quotes from the above referenced article and are being used for criticism as defined in the Fair Use section of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1979

She begins:

"Before proceeding into the core of this article, I want to say one thing to you: challenge your assumptions."
"Challenge your assumption that all Internet services are provided by a Web server and consumed by a browser. Challenge your assumption that chaos within a development environment is a bad thing. And challenge your assumption that standards must take precedent over innovation."

The article will open in a new window

I replied:

December 26th, 2000 11:11 PM

Standards vs.. Innovation

As the previous poster said the author clearly did not do her home work.

This article has a number of opinions that bear examination.

"Should Microsoft and Mozilla be bashed for lack of standards compliance because innerHTML is not a property supported by the W3C? Or should both organizations be commended for providing a useful tool that has become very popular with Web developers?"

Let's separate the wheat from the chaff.
The wheat being that Microsoft and Mozilla should be bashed for lack of standards compliance.
The short answer is Yes.
(we will save the inflammatory choice of words examination for another time.)
The longer answer is still yes. The WaSP in it's mission statement, asked for compliance to key W3C Recommendations for all browsers.
Standard behavior for all tags. Standard, not kewl, not close, not enhanced, standard.
Nowhere was innovation described as evil or 'something simply not done dahling'. Being a WaSP and on the discussion list, even during the most heated exchanges never was innovation termed evil.

The chaff being that innerHTML a proprietary Microsoft control, and a serverside control at that, whose "properties" and behaviors are manipulated serverside. HTML is markup for presentation, a clientside browser activity. Below is the Microsoft explanation of this control.

HtmlContainerControl.InnerHtml Property
Gets or sets the content found between the opening and closing tags of the specified HTML server control.

[Visual Basic] Overridable Public Property InnerHtml As String
[C#] public string InnerHtml {virtual get; virtual set;}
[C++] public: __property virtual String* get_InnerHtml(); public: __property virtual void set_InnerHtml(String*);
[JScript] public function get InnerHtml() : String; public function set InnerHtml(String);

*Note: Visual Basic, C#, C++ and Jscript are all Microsoft Languages.

innerHTML for Mozilla

"When it comes to DHTML, Mozilla and the W3C DOM is lagging behind Internet Explorer 4 but when it comes to JavaScript Mozilla is way ahead. This and a proprietary method for text ranges allows us to emulate the convenient innerHTML property for HTML elements in Mozilla."
Here again we are manipulating the content through proprietary controls, (JavaScript 1.5) although at least the Mozilla control uses the W3C DOM for the HTMLElement tag.

Moving on...

"How exactly do we define "standards compliance," especially when there are groups like the WSP (Web Standards Project) enforcing this compliance?"

(see above on inflammatory choice of words examination)
Here again we must start from the back and move to the front.

Exactly how is the WaSP enforcing this compliance?

Have you received an email saying,
"hi there! your website is not standards compliant and must be taken down. When you wish to re-publish, please submit three copies of your code with the W3C Validation results attached."

Have you received a letter in the mail with bright black and orange letters screaming " You could be a Loser!"See inside for details!

Have strange wasp suited folks been seen standing outside of your building with signs saying "Standards Now?"

Have people been calling you on the telephone and when you pick up, all you hear is "bbbzzzzzzzzzzzzz"?

I don't think so.

"standards compliance,"
When we speak about "standards" for the Web, we mean:
Structural Languages
  • HTML 4.0
  • XML 1.0
Presentation Languages
  • Cascading Style Sheets 1
  • Cascading Style Sheets 2
  • XSL (under development)
Object Models
  • Document Object Model 1 Core HTML/XML
  • ECMAScript (the "official" version of JavaScript)

Moving on...

"If you haven't heard of the WSP, it is an example of what happens when standards enforcement is left to the masses."
(this probably goes a long way toward explaining the recent Presidential election. damn them there masses anyhow!)
"This organization's intentions are pure: It's a nonprofit organization of Web developers, designers, and artists who encourage browsers to support standards equally and completely. However, somewhere along the way, the WSP took on the aspect of a holy war, a Web jihad."

I am a member of the Wasp and a Universal Life Minister. Nobody told me. Thanks for the heads-up. Does this mean I get to wear the wasp suit?

"In this context, the sameness of compliance to standards becomes less a tool to help developers and businesses and more a weapon against competition."
Yep! them damn printer cables all being the same. My room is green and that beige really clashes.
"The sameness of compliance also becomes a measure of ensuring that all participants reach one level, are kept on this level, and that there are no bumps in the road of compatibility."
I thought you were talking about Microsoft products until you got the the 'no bumps' part. I am sure that 'SP1' and 'Critical Updates' are part of your lexicon.

Since the path of reason seems to be closed, let's appeal to your self interest.
Standards/Recommendations Compliant browsers will allow designers, developers, artists and writers to code once. In the case of your employer, this alone could reduce the overhead costs of building and maintaining this site by probably 25%. That money could go directly into Mr.. O'Reilly's pocket. But through thought, word and deed, I believe that he would share the wealth. This means that there could be a raise in your future.

The downside is that all those wonderful books,and I have a few, helping you to work around those innovations and extending them for a certain segment of the market may not be best sellers anymore.

But Hey! ya gotta love a group with no building, money, ad budget, lobbyists, t-shirts, mousepads, or business cards whose simple goal is to make the web available to the largest group possible, can after 2 years "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee."

These are my thoughts on her article. Your comprehension may vary.

What do you think about standards vs. innovation?

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