Hixie's Natural Log

2004-06-02 06:48 UTC Spring 2004 Travelog: Part 8 (First Day of the Workshop)

Today I listened to a good dozen presentations from various groups on the subject of Web Applications and Compound Documents.

Some interesting things came out. First, the only sustained spontaneous clapping of the entire day came as someone suggested, in response to my brief statement of how backwards compatibility is critical, that it was about time to drop HTML and Windows IE6 from the roadmap.

So I can assume from that that most people don't agree with the whole backwards-compatibility thing!

Second: I was quite amused to see that, of all companies, Microsoft, Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems actually agreed on something. Namely that trying to standardise an API for sophisticated applications is simply a non-starter. The argument, which I agree with, is that such APIs are simply insanely complicated, and that making interoperable implementations is nigh on impossible. Just look at the trouble WINE has had trying to implement Win32 again — now imagine if you had to write a spec to actually describe the entire Win32 API in terms that could actually be implemented interoperably without reverse engineering the first implementation as the WINE people do.

What was funny was watching the other people then disagree with them. Hint: If three of the most bitter rivals in the marketplace — all of whom have extensive experience in the subject in question — agree on something, then it is probably true.

What we (Opera and Mozilla) want to do is simply extend HTML, DOM, and CSS a bit so that the most common things are easier to do. Things like my Web Forms 2 proposal or my server sent events proposal. These are simple extensions, not an attempt to provide comprehensive platform APIs.

Another point that came out of the discussions is that, in case there was any doubt, Internet Explorer in Longhorn will not support XHTML or SVG. (Microsoft suggested they would need some significantly more comprehensive test suites before they started working on standards compliance again.)

After the meeting, a bunch of us had dinner at La Fiesta. Our table had three Microsoft employees, two Red Hat employees, two Mozilla Foundation employees, and an Opera Software employee. I bet you won't see that very often.

Tomorrow we have another dozen presentations. I expect to see more of the same; mostly people expounding on the virtues of XForms, SVG, XHTML2, or their own radically new proprietary technologies, and explaining how Web Applications would all be much better off if the W3C would go down their chosen route.

We, of course, want the W3C to go down our chosen route. Since there doesn't seem to be much consensus on doing that, though, the question is what should we do now? Should we do our own thing (in public of course) and then submit it to the W3C (or IETF or ECMA) at some future point once we have initial implementations? Should we simply do our own thing (Opera, Mozilla, and a few interested parties) and forget standardisation altogether? Should we just take part in whatever Web Applications working group the W3C sets up and implement whatever comes out of that in several years' time, despite being fully aware that few people will ever use it? (Which is a foregone conclusion since it wouldn't work in Windows IE6.)

I'm learning towards the first of the three at the moment. I guess the Opera and Mozilla people will have to discuss this in more detail before we decide anything though.

2004-06-01 01:12 UTC Spring 2004 Travelog: Part 7 (Notes for the Workshop)

I've been reading through some of the position papers putting together some notes for the workshop tomorrow.

Applications and documents are distinct

Why are they distinct? Microsoft Word documents can be used as applications. Interactive encyclopedia multimedia applications can be viewed as documents. Spreadsheets have long been both simultaneously. Help systems now are able to interact with the user and control other applications to help them along, but are clearly still documentation.

In fact I would posit that users do not really understand the difference between "applications" and "documents" at this stage, and I would argue that they need not.

We need a virtual machine that is defined using declarative mark-up, rather than any particular language

How much is in the meta-language? Would you describe SVG in this language? Would you describe CSS in this language? XPath? XML Schema? XML itself? DOM?

Would this be able to describe XHTML2? XForms? What about XForms' custom XPath functions?

How is this better than XBL?

It also seems that this would encourage a much wider range of languages to be delivered over the Web, breaking the principle that the number of Web formats should be limited, which is important for accessibility.

Presently, three incompatible forms specs (Adobe eForms, Microsoft's Infopath, W3C's XForms) are out in public view, yet none are supported by assistive technology

What about HTML4 forms?

Scripting is bad for accessibility

It is not scripting that is inherently bad for accessibility, it is device-specific APIs that are bad for accessibility. Any technology that makes device-specific solutions easier than device-independent ones will result in poor accessibility, as authors use the simplest solutions.

With this in mind, the best solution might just be to redefine parts of the existing scripting APIs to be device independent. For example, redefine onclick to trigger whenever an element is activated, not just when it is clicked.

We need profiles for mobile devices

If desktop and mobile units have different profiles, then mobile units will not be able to view all the content aimed at desktops (as most content is). It seems that in fact device independence would be far better for mobile users than device-specific profiles.

SVG is the answer

SVG (or rather a drastically simplified version) is a possible solution for the vector graphics requirements of an overall Web Applications technology.

However, it would in my opinion be a bad solution for the core technology. SVG is poor in terms of accessibility and semantics. For example, how do you mark a part of an SVG application as an ordered list? As a paragraph or header? As a dialog box or tabbing control?

SVG is also much less suited for styling. For example, it is not possible, with SVG, to do the radical changes in appearance as seen in the CSS Zen Garden. The ability to do this (without changing the markup) is an important part of the Web.

XForms is the answer

XForms is not backwards compatible.

I'll probably be making some of these points during the questions part of the other presentations.

The more I read the position papers that are going to be presented, the more I wonder at exactly what is going to come out of this workshop.

2004-05-31 08:15 UTC Spring 2004 Travelog: Part 6 (San Francisco)

Sunday: I saw Shrek 2 (which was great, I highly recommend it!) at the Metreon with bloo, Pavlov, and dbaron, then I went to The Cheesecake Factory in San Francisco with them and Nadia. The food was reasonable, although a little excessive in terms of volume; and the smoothies were very nice.

After ditching bloo we then went back to Nadia's and Kevin's (who appears to not have a URI) to play DDR. I sucked. Pav and dbaron were a bit better. Nadia and Kevin have quite clearly practiced this a lot and were quite impressively coordinated, which was scary.

Before Shrek 2 we saw the trailer for the next Pixar movie The Incredibles, which I can't wait to see (November!), and the next Dreamworks Animations movie, Shark Tale, which also looked great.

Tomorrow afternoon we're probably going to go see Soul Plane since Pavlov is really set on seeing it.

In between all these good times I've also been doing some work on the CSS2.1 test suite, converting the CSS1 tests to the new format (more on that later when I've finished doing it). I'm getting there — only 28 more tests to convert!

2004-05-30 17:02 UTC Spring 2004 Travelog: Part 5 (Lick Observatory)

The weekend. David had bought himself a Linksys wireless router when we went to Fry's on Friday, and on Saturday he installed it. It was disappointingly easy. Where's the fun if things Just Work? (Actually it turns out it didn't Just Work; the ethernet ports were broken.)

In the afternoon Ben, Kerz, David and I went up to the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton. It was a really nice ride with some great views of the valley. I hadn't realised quite how much smog there was here. It's rather scary. I don't remember seeing smog back in Norway.

We were given a nice talk by one of the amateur astronomers lucky enough to get himself a job at the observatory, and then drove back home. On the way, Ben was annoyed by a Toyota driver who was weaving all over his lane.

Yesterday evening David and I went to Andale Taqueria in Palo Alto. I had a small chicken taco. It was good. Today I'm planning to go to San Francisco to meet Bloo and see Shrek 2. Ought to be fun.

The agenda for the workshop is now available. Looks like David and I are going to give a joint presentation tuesday afternoon. We're right before Microsoft, which could be interesting.

I'm very much at a loss as to what to expect from this workshop. On the one hand I really can't see us convincing everyone else that the solution is to continue down the HTML path. After all, it's not in the interests of most of the other attendees. Many of them are wanting to sell SVG, XForms, or XHTML products, and most of those who aren't are probably more concerned with developing a good theoretical solution than addressing the unfortunate pragmatic needs of today's authors.

I guess this is a case of "wait and see".

2004-05-29 08:41 UTC Spring 2004 Travelog: Part 4 (Monopoly)

I managed to convince Pavlov to see The Day After Tomorrow instead of Soul Plane. It was pretty good. I was quite impressed with the CG — nearly every shot had them. (After listening to lots of SG-1 audio commentaries, I appreciate effects a lot more.)

I had a Grandma's Especial with flour tortillas for lunch, and we just got back from another run to Burrito Real for dinner. I'm getting my year's fill of Mexican food all at once in this trip, I think.

We spent the evening playing Monopoly. The first proper game for 3 years! You can see the results on our results page (it's the 2004-05-28 game).

I have no idea what we're going to be doing this weekend, but I think it'll involve some sleeping, given the length of this game.