Hixie's Natural Log

2005-01-11 13:49 UTC Work plans for 2005

Work-wise my first priority this year will have to be completing the Web Forms 2 and Web Apps 1 proposals, as well as continuing my involvement with the CSS, XBL, CDF, and Linking working groups at the W3C, and continuing to send last call comments on drafts from other groups.

2004 was a year of conflict for the W3C. From my perspective it start back in 2003 with the publication of XForms despite several W3C members being quite vocally against it (this was the original catalyst for the Web Forms 2 work). Then in early 2004 Microsoft hyped Longhorn and Avalon, their bold attempt at replacing the Web with a pure-Microsoft infrastructure. In June, the W3C responded by holding a workshop. I attended that meeting, as did a bunch of other people from the Web browser side of things. We mostly agreed on what needed to be done, but unfortunately for us the majority of the people at that meeting weren't directly Web browser people, and we were outvoted.

That triggered the creation of the WHATWG, which when you peel away the fancy words is really just a public mailing list for discussing proposals that the W3C didn't want discussed in a W3C context. There obviously is a lot of interest in what the WHATWG is proposing, since the last time I checked we had over 400 subscribers (which is on par with some of the big W3C mailing lists, which vary from 200 to 600 subscribers) and discussion on the list is quite active.

Right from the start I set out to reply to every single e-mail sent to the WHATWG list, although recently I've had to ammend that to replying to all the e-mails sent to that list that aren't simply part of threads debating the pros and cons of competing proposals (with those, I just pick out the e-mails that introduce significant new points). Still, I have some 200 odd e-mails that are awaiting my reply, so this is going to be keeping me busy for a while.

The comments received for Web Forms 2 in the last month or so have all been pretty editorial, or pointing out loopholes that I forgot, or asking for new features. The first two types of comments I happily fix, the last type of comment I've been delaying until Web Forms 3 (assuming there is one) because at some point we have to have a feature freeze or we'll never publish this thing.

The important thing, though, is the lack of substantial "this will never work because..." comments that the first draft got. It seems the proposal has reached a stable stage where even if people don't agree that the ideas in it are particularly good, they do agree that they would at least work in theory.

I expect we'll publish another call for comments in a few weeks (there have been a lot of comments in the last few weeks, even if they were just editorial), and assuming that the response to that is even quieter than the last call for comments, we'll move on to the next stage: call for implementations and/or (ideally) submission to a standards organisation. Exactly what we do will depend on the politics.

This week I'm in Dusseldorf for a W3C meeting at the Vodafone offices, where we are to be discussing compound documents and arguing about (amongst other things) whether everyone should be using XHTML Mobile Profile or XHTML Basic, and whether everyone should be using CSS Mobile Profile or the WAP CSS Profile, and whether everyone should be using SVG 1.1 Tiny or SVG 1.2 Tiny.

Personally I doubt it'll matter much what we decide. XHTML and SVG don't work in any useful way with WinIE6 out of the box, so authors aren't going to be using them any time soon. Author: "How do I get this effect on my Web page?" Me: "You use this piece of CSS." Author: "Does it work in IE?" Me: "No." Author: "Nevermind, then." is a conversation I've had too many times. Given the membership of the CDF group (e.g. the meeting next week is being held at Vodafone) I'm guessing that what we're really discussing is the format that mobile phone network providers will be using to provide custom content to their handsets, and has little to do with the public Web.

Meanwhile, competition in the Web browser market is getting interesting. Microsoft are doing something, although what it is is anyone's guess. It could just be a PR exercise, or it could be a minor UI update for Longhorn, or it could be a UI overhaul which will be backported to their older operating systems when Longhorn comes out. Who knows. What is reasonably certain is that they won't be doing any significant work on their rendering engine.

Mozilla are moving on with their Mozilla 2.0 and Firefox projects: Brendan recently turned on E4X support (native XML in JavaScript); roc has added experimental multicolumn CSS support; Ben is off doing major rewrites of the prefs dialog which will probably put every other browser (except Safari, of course) to shame; not to mention all the other small fixes that continuously go in.

Safari is bound to have been getting major updates too, and the Tiger release date (which is probably also the release date of Safari-with-dashboard-etc) is bound to be announced at the big exposition this week. The question is whether they spent the last six months adding stunning new features, or if they spent the time fixing the bugs in the code they announced last time.

Opera meanwhile are working on Opera 8.0, with the new Voice features — finally a browser that supports Speech CSS. I won't say any more lest I accidentally say something we haven't announced yet.