Blaming the W3C for a proprietary web

I hope my last post on the W3C processes does not come off sounding like I’m jumping on to the “Down with the W3C” bandwagon advocated by others in the web development community. That couldn’t be further from the truth. If anything, I would not be as frustrated if I wasn’t such a big supporter of the W3C and its work. I certainly find the W3C’s effort to be more open than anything put out by Microsoft or Adobe.

In particular, I found Paul Ellis’ A Propriety Web? Blame the W3C to be disingenuous, at best.

He writes:

This may seem like a forgone conclusion to many of you after seeing the W3C’s development timetables, but the real reason Flash and Silverlight exist is because the “open web” people dropped the ball. HTML simply can handle what Flash and Silverlight can do. It has become increasingly stale for modern web development needs.

Here is some perspective, HTML5 has finally added a tag for handling video. Flash 6 came out with video support in 2002! Where is the HTML version of Line Rider? It is in Flash and Silverlight now. If you want to see something really interesting check out Hard Rock Cafe’s memorabilia page (Silverlight 2 required) and tell me if you’ve ever seen something like that with HTML.

The best response to this bit of criticism came in comments to the post, by a person named Paul, who wrote:

SVG had a video tag since at least 2004. But SVG is stalled in its development in large part because a major plugin developer (Adobe) and a major browser developer (Microsoft) are uninterested in it. So the slow evolution of web standards is a result, not a cause, of the big company’s wish to dominate the web.

In fact, there is no chapter in the Bible that says that the only two options are W3C and totally proprietary. If Microsoft were truly frustrated with the W3Cs pace (and not its openness) it could just call up Adobe, Mozilla et. al. and start another standards body. But Microsoft and Adobe do not want to co-operate on Web technologies. They want to compete, and use their dominance of certain other industries as levers that will allow them to define the platform unilaterally.

The man got it in one. The slow progress of the web can be laid exactly at the doorstep of a company like Microsoft, which refuses to implement most standards we’ve had for years in the interest of developing its own proprietary crap. Proprietary crap, I might add, which is competitive with the other proprietary crap being developed by Adobe. Why do something like Silverlight, which is based on XML, when there is something like SVG, also based on XML and implemented in the other browsers? The W3C did not “force” Microsoft to take this route—this is Microsoft doing what it does best: trying to own the technology.

In the meanwhile, the W3C has released specifications such as SVG, CSS, RDF, XHTML, and so on, in addition to ECMA’s work on JavaScript 2.0, all of which could provide all of the functionality we need, and more, and all of it free to use by everyone for everything. Oh, no, how evil. Instead, let’s praise companies for re-implementing all of this functionality in their own little plug-ins and browsers, leaving the rest of us web developers to scramble to learn how to implement their adorable, playful, and proprietary “enhancements” so that the applications work on all browsers and all operating systems.

Blame a proprietary web on the W3C!? In what universe?

I do think the W3C needs to change. I think the recent issue with the SVG interest group shows that the organization is too fixed in a bureaucracy no longer compatible with today’s way of doing business. However, we don’t have to wait on the W3C passing new specs in order to have the web of the future. If all the browser companies implemented all of the specifications that have been released, or are under final consideration, combined with the JavaScript we have today, we could do all that Flash and Silverlight and any of these proprietary technologies do…and more. If Microsoft were to implement these specifications in IE8, and encourage companies to move on from IE6 and IE7. If we didn’t have to depend on Adobe’s plug-in. If tools that generate content actually generate content correctly. If the WaSP returned to actually demanding tool makers adhere to standards, rather than become apologists for companies like Microsoft, and it’s cute little meta tags of the week.

Another commenter to the Ellis post wrote what good does it do for the W3C to push out more specifications when browser companies aren’t implementing the ones that already exist. That’s the key to this issue: the W3C can’t force implementation. Only we can force implementation, by using these specifications and leaving other browsers out in the cold. We’re certainly not going to get an open web if instead of punishing companies who are holding all of us back, we give in, lay on our backs, and think of Silverlight.


The Word

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about women and weblogging, and based on the old John Lennon song, used the phrase, “Women are the niggers of weblogging”.

People were offended at my use of the word, delinked me, unsubscribed, etc. etc. The fact that I was unsubscribed because I used the “word” didn’t bother me. What did bother me is that my writing didn’t inspire either deeper thought on the subject, or a healthy debate. I failed with that writing and it wasn’t because I used the “word”; it was because I used the “word” badly.

If you’re going to do satire, if you’re going to walk the edge with what you write, how you write, and the words you use, you better make sure that you have the skill to pull it off. I obviously didn’t.

This relates to today’s brouhaha, regarding Loren Feldman, the man who bills himself as a funny man, but who is primarily known for those instances where his “humor” has backfired. Feldman had his own failed “satirical” moment with a show he billed as “TechNigga” over a year ago, and got blasted to smithereens by all but a few buddies. Buddies, I might add, who have a lot of clout within this environment.

Feldman has since lost a deal with CNet, and today, the last of his clips were “refreshed” out of Verizon’s mobile service supposedly because of protests from those offended at Feldman’s old clip.

I’m not sure whether the protests by small but vocal groups were enough, or if Verizon found out what many of us have discovered: the man really isn’t funny. Not outside of a small group of weblogging insiders, which doesn’t translate into an audience for 15 year old text messaging girls, Verizon’s primary customers.

Some are bitching about “freedom of speech”, but I think Dare Obasanjo had about the best response to these claims:

People often confuse the fact that it is not a crime to speak your mind in America with the belief that you should be able to speak your mind without consequence. The two things are not the same. If I call you an idiot, I may not go to jail but I shouldn’t expect you to be nice to me afterwards. The things you say can come back and bite you on butt is something everyone should have learned growing up. So it is always surprising for me to see people petulantly complain that “this violates my freedom of speech” when they have to deal with the consequences of their actions.

Feldman is no Lenny BruceRichard PryorGeorge Carlin, or Whoopi Goldberg. These are funny people on the edge, funny people who actually defined both the edge, and what it means to be on the edge. They paid a price, and willingly, for both their humor and their courage.

Feldman wants the glory, but without the cost. He just doesn’t get it.

Just Shelley

47 Million. And One.

The pain was sudden and intense, a band across my chest, taking away my breath. I had been bent over, lifting several books from a lower shelf, and the pain hit as soon as I straightened up. I dropped the books and fell back into my chair, clutching my hand to my chest, just like they do on TV. Heart attack. I was having a heart attack. I was home, alone, having a heart attack.

I grabbed my phone to dial 9-1-1 but then stopped. If this was a heart attack, I should go to the hospital. However, if this was not a heart attack, the paramedics would still want me to go to the hospital. The hospital would want to do tests, and tests cost money. In my mind, I started adding up charges…probably 250.00 for an ambulance, a couple of thousand just for entering through the emergency door, EKG, saline drip, that test with the paper and squiggly lines

Let’s just stop for a moment, and re-evaluate the situation. Consider the circumstances. I had been bent over in an awkward position, and the books I was lifting were heavy. I imagine heavy lifting could cause a heart attack, but heavy lifting can cause other things, too, like a muscle strain. I felt the pain, trying to gauge its location. Yes, yes, the pain was focused in the right side, not the left. That’s good. I mean, that’s good.

The pain was still intense, though, making it hard to breathe. I grabbed the phone, but instead of calling 9-1-1, I called my roommate. I told him what happened, how I felt. Are you going to the hospital, he asked? I’m not sure, I replied.

Is the pain on your left or right? Right, I answered. Is it persistent? I thought about it, doing a mental check, and responded affirmatively. Are you having a hard time breathing? Y-e-e-s, I replied, though hesitantly, because by this time the band seemed looser, less urgent. Breath in. Hurt? Breath deeper. Hurt more?

Of course, I said to him, if I were having a heart attack, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation. True, he said. What were you doing, anyway? I told him I was lifting books from a bottom shelf. Well, does it feel like you pulled a muscle? I don’t know. It just hurts, hard to breath. Try lifting something, he said.

I picked up Zoë, and felt a twinge, in my right shoulder and chest. I put Zoë down, and it seemed like the pain was less. I picked Zoë up again. Yes, the pain was more intense. Zoë was happy, though.

I think I’ll live this time, I told my roommate. That’s good, he said. That’s good you’ll live, this time.

Zoë just purred.