Hixie's Natural Log

2006-01-20 23:32 UTC People who don't realise that they're wrong

January 1999. I'm nineteen, in my first year studying Physics at Bath University. I read an SGML tutorial (maybe this one from 1995). I wrote a testcase . I filed a bug, in which I wrote:

Comment delimiters are "--" while inside tags.

Thus: <!-- in --  -- in --  -- in -->
where "in" shows what is commented.

On the test page quoted, all is explained.

February 1999. The bug is fixed.

October 1999. The code for the fix is turned on along with the standards-mode HTML parser. Mozilla is now the first "major" browser to support SGML-style comments.

September 2000. The UN Web site breaks because it triggers standards mode but uses incorrect comment syntax. Mozilla drops full SGML comment parsing.

March 2001. Mozilla re-enables its strict comment parsing; evangelism is used to convince the broken sites to fix their markup.

May 2003. Netscape devedge publishes a document on the matter to help the Mozilla evangelists explain this to authors.

July 2003. I open a bug in the Opera bug database to get Opera to implement SGML comment parsing.

January 2004. I file another bug in the Opera bug database, having forgotten about the earlier one, to get Opera to implement SGML comment parsing.

February 2005. Håkon and I write the first draft of the Acid2 test.

March 2005. While giving a workshop on how to create test cases at Opera, I find that http://www.wassada.com/ renders correctly in Mozilla and fails to render in Opera precisely because Mozilla renders comments according to the SGML way and Opera doesn't. Over Håkon's objections, I insist on including a test for the SGML comment syntax in Acid2, citing the Wassada site as proof that we need to get interoperability on the matter. Acid2 is announced.

April 2005. Safari fixes SGML comment parsing as part of their Acid2 work. Hyatt confesses bemusement regarding this feature, joining Håkon in thinking I was wrong to insist we include this part of the test.

June 2005. Konqueror fixes SGML comment parsing as part of their Acid2 work.

October 2005. Opera fixes SGML comment parsing as part of their Acid2 work, after many complaints internally telling me I was wrong to include this part of the test. I point to the Wassada site. They point to the dozens of sites that break because of this change. I point to the fact that they aren't broken in Mozilla. They realise their fix was not quite right, and make things work, but still grumble about it being stupid.

November 2005. Mark writes a long document explaining the SGML comment parsing mode. Håkon proposes removing this part of the test from Acid2. I point out that as long as the specs require this, we don't have a good reason to remove it from the test.

December 2005. Prince implement SGML comment parsing in their efforts to pass Acid2, but privately raise concerns about this parsing requirement.

January 2006. I realise I was wrong.

I've now fixed the spec and fixed the Acid2 test.

I'd like to apologise to everyone whose time I've wasted by insisting on following the specs on this matter for the past seven years. You probably number in the hundreds by now. Sometimes, the spec is wrong, and we just have to fix it. I'm sorry it took me so long to realise that this was the case here.

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