Let's talk strategy (was: Re: Web Reliability)

Steve H Rose (habib@world.std.com)
Sat, 29 Jul 1995 14:37:57 +0059 (EDT)

On Thu, 27 Jul 1995, Liam Relihan wrote:

> <snip>
> I agree with Steve.
> I think the stadards people are doing their best, which by nature means
> being slowish and considered. However many of the commercial forces are
> now almost vicious in their attempts to crush the standards process by
> making "extensions".

If you think Netscape has been bad, just wait until the Microsoft machine
gets rolling...

> Netscape is an absolute travesty as regards HTML --- since its release, it
> has defined a future market for itself simply by supplementing HTML. Even
> if a glossier, faster, more featureful browser comes out in the future, it
> will be forced to catch up with the moving target of Netscape's HTML
> extensions.

A part of my point is that companies like Netscape and Microsoft will
only accept standards in those cases where it serves their market
interest. They are trying to dominate industries by BECOMING the
standard. What I am encouraging is that people concerned with developing
international standards develop a realistic strategy for dealing with the
major marketing forces entering the Web business. Possible strategies
could include:

1. Business as usual -- trying to develop the best possible
internationally accepted standard through the usual committees in the
usual timeline, and hope that the standard will be so valuable (e.g.
style sheets so powerful) that the browser makers will adopt it.

2. Try to speed up the process and release HTML-3 as soon as possible,
thereby "competing" with other "standards" and encouraging browser makers
to adopt HTML-3.

3. Forming coalitions and alliances between different groups (e.g. Mosaic
and Arena team up to develop and commercialize a really great browser --
going into direct competition with Netscape).

4. Supporting associations that will work for standards

5. Trying to scale back proposals so that they provide only a bare
minimum of critically necessary functionality -- so that we can all at
least continue "talking" with one another -- even if we don't understand
everything each other is saying.

None of these is necessarily a great idea (I probably think the last idea
is the most realistic, but I really don't know) -- I would simply like
for people to start talking about what strategy might make sense.

> Once upon a time, some people (including myself to an extent) thought of
> Mosaic as the enemy of standardised, well-considered HTML --- compared to
> Netscape, Mosaic is a beautiful example of how to properly implement a
> standard.
> I certainly don't think we should give up though :) World-Wide Web
> protocols and formats are too important to be left to a few commercial
> concerns to rip apart.

In all this discussion, I think it is important to understand what "our"
role is. Are "we" trying to define everything, or just the bare miniumum
needed for connectivity? What is our basic interest in this whole
issue? Are "we" trying to ensure that everyone will be able to get
access to some information, most information, or all information. Is
that realistic?

(Not a lot of answers here, I'm afraid -- maybe there will be more clear
answers over time, maybe not...)


Steve Habib Rose
Clear Nets
The HTML CyberClass
HomePage Associates