Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group Launches Mailing List

Friday June 4th, 2004

Ian Hickson writes: "Some of you may be interested to hear that people from Opera and Mozilla have set up an open mailing list for discussing Web Forms 2 and other new specs that have been discussed in various places over the last few months."

The list is the public forum of the newly-formed Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group, an organisation made of contributors from several major Web browser development teams. Current invited members are Brendan Eich, David Baron, David Hyatt, Håkon Wium Lie, Ian Hickson, Johnny Stenback and Maciej Stachowiak.

The group is working on specifications for Web Forms 2.0, Web Apps 1.0, Web Controls 1.0 and a CSS object rendering model. This work will be largely done outside of the World Wide Web Consortium, though finalised versions of the specs are expected to be submitted for formal standardisation. While the decision to operate independently of the W3C may be seen as controversial, many feel that formal standards bodies move too slowly to react to proprietary technologies such as Microsoft's forthcoming XAML. In addition, many in the W3C are pushing for Web applications standards based on technologies such as XForms and Scalable Vector Graphics, whereas the members of the WHATWG favour backwards-compatible HTML-based solutions, which they believe would be easier to implement and more likely to be adopted by Web developers.

#37 Re: Re: Disappointing news, IMO

by leafdigital

Tuesday June 8th, 2004 5:59 AM

You are replying to this message

Ok, some things I won't argue with (they're going to implement this stuff so it really is IE-compatible? okay, but that still seems pretty hacky)...

However, the point about 'it won't happen until it's supported in browsers, so nobody will use it' - I disagree. It's entirely possible that XHTML2 will be supported in future Microsoft browsers (operating systems). Should that come to pass (and assuming Mozilla etc. also have support), then give it a few years and people may well start using it. Look at UTF-8: plenty of people use UTF-8 on their sites now, whenever they have a need for internationalisation, because it just works. When XHTML 2 just works, people may use it.

As for XML - I do not see the need for well-formedness (nobody actually validates XML on reading it, so validation though nice isn't a practical issue any more than it is for HTML; the only issue is well-formedness) as any kind of problem. You're right that it requires a change in the tools people use, but creating WYSIWYG tools that will only output well-formed XML is hardly a major challenge.

It's not difficult to write XML by hand either using an XML-aware editor (one that warns you when and where your file isn't well-formed), certainly not the 'order of magnitude' suggested. People who write HTML by hand can certainly cope. With XHTML2 though, there might be less need to write code by hand.

The only major problem in outputting XML sites (and by the way I'm working on one now which outputs XHTML as XHTML to Mozilla, XHTML as HTML to IE, and uses XML formats for internal communication between services) is really when you need to pull in unreliable content. Even in that case it only took me an afternoon to write code that transforms the completely broken HTML produced by a conferencing system we use, into guaranteed-valid XHTML with the crap stripped out.

By the way, don't consider the results of that test linked (it's a fun read, I've seen it before) to reflect the difficulty or otherwise of XML. We're living in a world where the major browser doesn't support XHTML served using the correct MIME type; that significant issue aside, I expect most of those sites will actually work. Yes, hand-writing XHTML that actually validates (as opposed to just being well-formed) can be difficult, but the same is true of HTML, and the consequences are identical (the page still works).

As for not using MathML, this was probably due to lack of support in browsers (and possibly in some of the tools that people might use to create equations). MathML is clearly, and I mean there is simply no argument given that the alternative is bitmap images, the best currently-defined way to include equations in web pages... if it were widely implemented (it isn't) and done correctly (that might be difficult due to lack of software). There might be technical limitations in the wiki software that let it output ill-formed code; those are technical limitations, it's a software issue, fixing it isn't a problem.

You're right that people don't like having to download plugins, but I think this is a surmountable problem (plenty of people manage to download Comet Cursor). And current plugins don't solve the problem because they work with separate files, whereas the real power and convenience IMO is in embedded, inline XML formats - when you can put equation or a bar of music notation in the middle of your essay, when the server can generate a simple bar chart or pie chart using a couple of lines of SVG instead of a nasty hack with CSS and bunch of DIVs (or tables and a bunch of spacer images).