Categories
JavaScript Technology

We can’t afford another browser war

It was with a sense of foreboding that I read the posts that swam past on Planet Intertwingly today. First came Mozilla’s Brendan Eich’s chastisement of Microsoft’s Chris Wilson, followed in a short while by commentary by Sam Ruby, where he wrote:

It is interesting how the don’t-break-the-web meme means different things to different organizations: Mozilla, Microsoft.

I’m not a language designer. My only stipulation with a new scripting language is that whatever constructs are added to ECMAScript4 need to be backward compatible. We can’t afford to re-write a couple of billion web pages because the ECMAScript group got clever. From what I’ve read in the past and in these new writings, Eich concurs, as do several other members of the team.

In regards to the new items added to the language: I share other concerns that ECMAScript–no let’s call it JavaScript because that’s how it’s known in the world–may become bloated and over large. I can understand about making it into a ‘real’ language, but I’m less concerned with posterity than I am getting a job done, quickly and efficiently. In other words: I don’t have any ego involved with the fact that I work with a programming language many folks consider somehow less worthy. If the extensions make a better language enabling me to do a better job, that’s great. Otherwise, leave the esoteric for ACM papers.

The future perfect ECMAScript is currently not my concern. My concern on this interchange between Mozilla’s Eich and Microsoft’s Wilson is that we’re seeing the seeds being planted for another round of browser wars, similar to what we had a decade ago. However, today’s web isn’t like the web of a decade ago, because today’s web pages are much too complex to attempt to cover every nuance and difference in implementation with if statements and conditional tests. It was especially disquieting to read comments to the effect that, it’s OK if the companies don’t agree: we can use Flash. Flash is not an alternative to open standards. We don’t need any more Flash dependency as a way of ‘soothing over’ corporate intransigence. Neither do we need more SVG plug-ins or Google cross-browser libraries. Workarounds are no longer acceptable.

Any company is going to want to implement a version of any specification that favors what they currently have, as much as possible. Of course, this is understandable. Accept the fact that this is understandable. What keeps this behavior in line is there is enough push from other forces that everyone eventually has to compromise, and no one is a clear winner. When no organization is a clear winner, this typically means that everyone, eventually, ends up being a winner.

There’s no denying that Internet Explorer continues to be a problem. I found it unacceptable that Microsoft would put in the time to create its own 2D graphics system with Silverlight, when one already exists with both SVG and Canvas (the Canvas object, not markup element). There was absolutely no good reason for this, and no amount of plushy blue monster or outreach effort is going to hide the fact that Microsoft basically did its own selfish thing with Silverlight.

There is no denying, however, that Microsoft’s browser continues to dominate (though every year, it dominates less). There is also no denying that Eich has considerable ego invested in ECMAScript–to the point where I have to wonder if this may make him overly aggressive, leading to confrontations that could injure the likelihood of pulling together a new version of JavaScript all browser makers are willing to endorse. We need a consistent platform: no matter how good the language, if a sizable number of people are using a browser that doesn’t implement it, the language is screwed, the browsers are screwed, we’re screwed.

“So I’ll expect to see no more of these lies spread by you.” No matter how angry you get, or frustrated, or peeved, if you want to work in an open standards group, particularly if you want to lead an open standards effect, you can’t write statements like this! Period. End of story. Along with the authority of leadership comes responsibility, and such statements are irresponsible. Where is Mitchell Baker? Time for her to step in and exert a calming influence. At a minimum, act as referee.

The same could be said for the Microsoft representation. No matter how subtly worded, we’re picking up our marbles and going home, neener, neener is not ‘working together as a team’; nor is it considering the true best interests of the web, in general, and of those loyal to Microsoft products, specifically.

Sam mentions that this issue is one based on culture. Frankly, from these exchanges, it seems more like a pissing contest to me.

Disappointing.

Categories
SVG

Dash it all

‘ve moved on from SVG to the Canvas element, and am still suffering whiplash at the downward steepness of the step. Leaving aside that one can defeat canvas easily just by turning off script, about the best documentation I found on the element is Mozilla’s implementation. The specification is buried within the HTML5 work, which if you think on it, defeats every last bit of argument about not including SVG because it’s “presentational”.

About the only negative associated with SVG is how to include it in the pages–the specification, itself, is really nice. Once all of the features are supported in the main browsers, you’re going to see some amazing stuff.

You don’t realize how nice SVG is, until you look at the Canvas element. For instance, I created an SVG example on how quadratic bèzier curves work in SVG. The canvas element also supports the same type of curves, so I went to re-create the example. I hit a wall immediately. Why? Two words:

“dashed lines”

No, there is no way of adding either dashes or dots or combination to lines in canvas. You can use a custom function and create tiny little lines using lineTo and/or one of the curve functions, but there’s no way to actually just specify the dash-dot pattern to use, and forget about it. My canvas demonstration of quadratic bèzier curves ended up looking a tad bit different.

I went searching on HTML5, the canvas element, and dashed line support and found a couple of discussions about supporting dashed lines in canvas. The official word is: not trivial to implement, no one really wants them.

Considering that one of the first implementations on the canvas element I created uses dashed lines, I beg to differ on the ‘no one really wants’ assumption. Sure, I can use a custom function, such as the one I’m using to emulate a rounded corner rectangle, but I can’t help thinking this isn’t the most efficient approach. The user agent should be able to optimize for dashes in line drawing if these are part of the specification, but there is no real optimization for functions that create hundreds of little dashes based on rotate, curve, line, move.

While researching the missing ‘dashes’, I ended up being more caught up in the discussions associated with the canvas element. It wasn’t until looking for dashed line that it hit me: why was there such deeply presentational discussions associated with a version of HTML that’s specific to semantics, only? Especially when you consider that in the recent discussions about support for SVG in HTML5 there was pushback for supporting SVG within HTML5 because SVG is ‘presentational’. In fact, Jacques just wrote, the following on this topic:

The subject came up in a discussion over at Sam’s blog about SVG-in-HTML5. Some people were arguing that, even if it were technically possible, it would be undesirable to sully HTML5 with the inclusion of foreign dialects, like MathML or SVG. The latter, in particular, was in some quarters considered too “presentational.”

This annoyed me sufficiently that I gave the following example:

Say I wish to discuss irreducible representations of SU(3). I think it should be perfectly acceptable to point out that: Rank-2 Symmetric Tensor Representation⊗Fundamental Representation=Adjoint Representation⊕Rank-3 Symmetric Tensor Representation

No, I don’t understand what Jacques wrote, either, but the SVG shows properly.

Of course, the issues associated with SVG (and MathML and RDF/XML, if it comes to that) go beyond just the presentation. SVG is a well-defined markup based on XML, which requires precise handling on the part of the user agent and the agent generating or creating the SVG. HTML5, on the other hand, is meant to be a less rigorous environment, where the lack of precise application of markup is handled with greater indulgence.

Lack of precise application of semantic markup, I should say, as there are new semantic attributes, values, and elements being added to the spec. One assumes this is so that search engines, such as Google, can better process the web page ‘semantics’. In fact, much of the semantics associated with HTML5 seems to be specific to search engine optimization.

I can understand some of the ‘foreign markup’ implementation concerns about SVG. What I can’t understand is why the HTML5 group hasn’t split the canvas element off into a separate specification–not if presentational purity is a goal of the specification. Just because it’s easier to include the canvas element in HTML5, doesn’t mean it should be included, if the underlying purpose of HTML5 is to provide an interim, better behaved, but more forgiving, semantic web page markup. According to the HTML5 spec:

This specification is limited to providing a semantic-level markup language and associated semantic-level scripting APIs for authoring accessible pages on the Web ranging from static documents to dynamic applications.

The scope of this specification does not include addressing presentation concerns (although default rendering rules for Web browsers are included at the end of this specification).

The scope of this specification does not include documenting every HTML or DOM feature supported by Web browsers. Browsers support many features that are considered to be very bad for accessibility or that are otherwise inappropriate. For example, the blink element is clearly presentational and authors wishing to cause text to blink should instead use CSS.

Blink is presentational, while dashed lines are not? I suppose one could also push line patterns off on CSS, but then why would one not also push stroke style and fill pattern, as well as such esoteric items as maximum miter height?

Categories
SVG

SVG and Dashed Lines

I’ve moved on from SVG to the Canvas element, and am still suffering whiplash at the downward steepness of the step. Leaving aside that one can defeat canvas easily just by turning off script, about the best documentation I found on the element is Mozilla’s implementation. The specification is buried within the HTML5 work, which if you think on it, defeats every last bit of argument about not including SVG because it’s “presentational”.

About the only negative associated with SVG is how to include it in the pages–the specification, itself, is really nice. Once all of the features are supported in the main browsers, you’re going to see some amazing stuff.

You don’t realize how nice SVG is, until you look at the Canvas element. For instance, I created an SVG example on how quadratic bèzier curves work in SVG. The canvas element also supports the same type of curves, so I went to re-create the example. I hit a wall immediately. Why? Two words:

“dashed lines”

No, there is no way of adding either dashes or dots or combination to lines in canvas. You can use a custom function and create tiny little lines using lineTo and/or one of the curve functions, but there’s no way to actually just specify the dash-dot pattern to use, and forget about it. My canvas demonstration of quadratic bèzier curves ended up looking a tad bit different.

I went searching on HTML5, the canvas element, and dashed line support and found a couple of discussions about supporting dashed lines in canvas. The official word is: not trivial to implement, no one really wants them.

Considering that one of the first implementations on the canvas element I created uses dashed lines, I beg to differ on the ‘no one really wants’ assumption. Sure, I can use a custom function, such as the one I’m using to emulate a rounded corner rectangle, but I can’t help thinking this isn’t the most efficient approach. The user agent should be able to optimize for dashes in line drawing if these are part of the specification, but there is no real optimization for functions that create hundreds of little dashes based on rotate, curve, line, move.

While researching the missing ‘dashes’, I ended up being more caught up in the discussions associated with the canvas element. It wasn’t until looking for dashed line that it hit me: why was there such deeply presentational discussions associated with a version of HTML that’s specific to semantics, only? Especially when you consider that in the recent discussions about support for SVG in HTML5 there was pushback for supporting SVG within HTML5 because SVG is ‘presentational’. In fact, Jacques just wrote, the following on this topic:

The subject came up in a discussion over at Sam’s blog about SVG-in-HTML5. Some people were arguing that, even if it were technically possible, it would be undesirable to sully HTML5 with the inclusion of foreign dialects, like MathML or SVG. The latter, in particular, was in some quarters considered too “presentational.”

This annoyed me sufficiently that I gave the following example:

Say I wish to discuss irreducible representations of SU(3). I think it should be perfectly acceptable to point out that: Rank-2 Symmetric Tensor Representation⊗Fundamental Representation=Adjoint Representation⊕Rank-3 Symmetric Tensor Representation

No, I don’t understand what Jacques wrote, either, but the SVG shows properly.

Of course, the issues associated with SVG (and MathML and RDF/XML, if it comes to that) go beyond just the presentation. SVG is a well-defined markup based on XML, which requires precise handling on the part of the user agent and the agent generating or creating the SVG. HTML5, on the other hand, is meant to be a less rigorous environment, where the lack of precise application of markup is handled with greater indulgence.

Lack of precise application of semantic markup, I should say, as there are new semantic attributes, values, and elements being added to the spec. One assumes this is so that search engines, such as Google, can better process the web page ‘semantics’. In fact, much of the semantics associated with HTML5 seems to be specific to search engine optimization.

I can understand some of the ‘foreign markup’ implementation concerns about SVG. What I can’t understand is why the HTML5 group hasn’t split the canvas element off into a separate specification–not if presentational purity is a goal of the specification. Just because it’s easier to include the canvas element in HTML5, doesn’t mean it should be included, if the underlying purpose of HTML5 is to provide an interim, better behaved, but more forgiving, semantic web page markup. According to the HTML5 spec:

This specification is limited to providing a semantic-level markup language and associated semantic-level scripting APIs for authoring accessible pages on the Web ranging from static documents to dynamic applications.

The scope of this specification does not include addressing presentation concerns (although default rendering rules for Web browsers are included at the end of this specification).

The scope of this specification does not include documenting every HTML or DOM feature supported by Web browsers. Browsers support many features that are considered to be very bad for accessibility or that are otherwise inappropriate. For example, the blink element is clearly presentational and authors wishing to cause text to blink should instead use CSS.

Blink is presentational, while dashed lines are not? I suppose one could also push line patterns off on CSS, but then why would one not also push stroke style and fill pattern, as well as such esoteric items as maximum miter height?