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Archive: 14 August 2006

Angry Indeed

In my head, at any rate, it was Jeffrey‘s angry post that kicked off the latest round of posts about consortium contretemps, even though Jeffrey’s post was triggered (at least in part) by a message posted to the fairly obscure public-qa-dev mailing list by Björn Höhrmann, detailing his reasons for leaving the W3C.

A little over a week later, there came a semi-rebuttal by Molly over at the Web Standards Project, where she talked about a new spirit of “opening up to new things”, like adding “at least one classically trained artist and graphic designer” to the CSS Working Group (a role that’s been more or less vacant ever since Jeff Veen left the WG over half a decade ago).

That’s great to hear, but what’s perversely fascinating to me is that in that very same post, Molly herself lists the reasons why Jeffrey’s anger is in no way misplaced:

Am I defending the W3C’s slow-to-move process or its over-bureaucratized administration? Its lack of attention and sensitivity to gender (count the women, go ahead, dare you) and racial diversity, its frightening disregard for the real needs of the workaday Web world? Oh no, nor would I want to.

It’s that last point that lends the greatest support to Jeffrey’s argument:  “…frightening disregard for the real needs of the workaday Web world”.

What more really needs to be said?  It’s the most concise indictment possible that the first part of the W3C’s mission statement, the fragment they put right on their home page, “Leading the Web to Its Full Potential…”, has been betrayed.

Believe me, I’d prefer things to be otherwise.  I’m still a strong believer in standards, and for seven years (1997 – 2004) put my time and energy into supporting and advancing them as a member of the CSS Working Group.  When I left, it was because I didn’t have the time and energy to contribute any more, and rather than continue to be a deadwood listing on the group’s roster, I left.  But most of the reason I couldn’t come up with the time and energy was precisely what Molly articulated.  I no longer believed in the W3C’s ability to do what it promised, and what I wanted.

But the worst part?  None of this is new.  Look back two years, when David Baron and Brendan Eich walked away from a W3C Workshop in disgust.  To a large degree, both men walked away from the W3C itself at that point—and if you’ve spurred David Baron to turn his back on the web’s central standards body, then boyo, you’ve got some deeply serious problems.

Let’s be frank: a whole lot of people who believe passionately in the web’s potential and want to see it advance fought for years to make that happen through the W3C, and finally decided they’d had enough.  One by one, I saw some of the best minds of my generation soured by the W3C; one by one, the embittered generals marched forward, determined to make some sort of progress.

Perhaps my eyes have become a touch too jaundiced over the last decade, but I’m not sure I could disagree more with what Molly claims near the end of her post:

Jeffrey is wrong in his current assessment of the W3C.

If only that were so.

If the folks at the WaSP believe the Good Ship Consortium is beginning to change course, then I’m happy for them, really; I’ll be even more happy if they’re right.  But when the ship is moving so slowly and has drifted so far out to sea, how much relevance can a change of heading really have?

August 2006
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