Infrequently Noted

Alex Russell on browsers, standards, and the process of progress.


Ajaxian just linked to a tremendously important post by Brendan Eich. I'm happy about it not only because Brendan is spot-on, but also because he's using the phrase "Open Web". It might be pure semantics, but as the Flash, Flex, WPF/E and even XUL partisans keep attempting to claim that their single-vendor clients are "web technologies", the waters get successively muddier. Now is the time to reclaim a bit of ground for poor-ol HTML and stop apologizing for pushing the web harder.

To that end, it was also refreshing to Ian Hickson lay the smack-down on the XML brain-damage that seems to have infected the web standards community. The web itself should be definitive proof that robust beats brittle. Agreement on how to recover from errors is the right way to deal with badly-formed content on the web. Not accepting errors is suicide, and for too long the web standards community has confused validation and correct markup (things that reduce the number of people who can play in the sandbox) with the value created by agreement on how things should behave (things that increase the number of people who can use things that anyone creates).

At last year's ETech, I closed my tutorial session on Ajax with a long discussion of what I considered to be the Open Web and why the technologies that Brendan identifies aren't it and won't ever be democratizing technologies, and are therefore dangerous. Now that the browsers are moving again, we've got another chance to let the real value of the web as a growing, changing, dirty, and most of all, alive medium re-assert its value. I hope that the phrase "Open Web" can start to encapsulate these newly recycled values of forgiveness in rendering, iterative improvements to the specs, and browser competition.