Working together for standards The Web Standards Project


Lessons that the standardization process can teach us

By Ben Henick | May 1st, 2006 | Filed in Authoring Tools, Browsers, Opinion, Web Standards (general)

Over at Six Apart they’re working to turn Trackback into a standard, and WaSP emeritus Anil Dash shares some of the wisdom he’s gained from the process. Some of the points he makes have bearing on the things we’re trying to accomplish over here at WaSP…

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WaSP emeritus Anil Dash has been working under the auspices of Six Apart, his employer, to develop Trackback into a standard technology.

In the process he reports that he’s learned a lot about the twists and turns of the standards process, and three of his points beg emphasis here:

  • Users shouldn’t have to know or care about this stuff.
  • Being able to point to real-world benefits is important.
  • Shipping an implementation pretty much trumps everything else. Most technical debates are eventually settled by looking at what is in current use. Sometimes this is phrased as “letting the market decide.”

I immediately see corollaries to these statements that are highly relevant to the efforts of standards advocates, software vendors, and contributors to the W3C process, which are laid out respectively.

On the web, the line between users and publishers is blurry, and becoming more indistinct every day. This means that technologists must make tools that suit the intended audience without creating mangled output. However, they shouldn’t bother trying to please all the people all the time; common sense describes where that effort winds up.

The entire W3C process is oriented these days toward the Semantic Web, and what energy they have to spare is spent catching up to what’s already been implemented and put on the market. In the meantime, there doesn’t seem to be much direct interaction between end users of web technologies and the W3C. The consequence of this state of affairs is that the best heads with a stake in the process are up in the clouds, rather than doing work that will benefit users in the near term. That work appears too often left directly and solely to software vendors themsevles, which has brought us such <sarcasm>winners</sarcasm> as ActiveX and GoLive.

It will be interesting to see if IE7 is more than emperor’s new clothes, once it ships. It’s no secret that Internet Explorer 6 is the new Netscape 4…

The balance of the value in this post will be in the comments, so have your say!

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#1 On May 2nd, 2006 2:17 pm