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.


  1. Posted March 23, 2007 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the sanity. Maybe it would be an idea to group these ideas under a common heading, a little bit like the ‘DRY’ of rails fame. I’m not sure what it shuold be called though. Don’t shoot yourself in the head? ‘DSYITH’ :)

  2. Jules
    Posted March 23, 2007 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    It might be naive, but one could draw an analogy between the Open Web debate, and the debate relating multiculturalism and the Open Society.  
    Multiculturalism seems to involve the problem of the extent to which any one culture should be able to eclipse the others, and what set of common values should be protected that enabled the that society to be capable of sustaining multiculturalism in the first place?
    Lets call it the Multicultural Web : everyone should respect the standards, but at the same time, respect the different cultures which Microsoft, Sun, Adobe etc bring?  Yuk!

  3. Steve
    Posted August 30, 2007 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Tag soup is all well and good until you want to write a browser. Currently digesting tag soup is such a difficult thing to do there are only 4 big browsers, and all of them suck in different ways. All because of their different interpretations of broken HTML and Javascript. You can’t even write stuff that conforms to standards because each browser has stuff that conforms to what it felt like doing before standards and they don’t drop standard interfaces over it. It’s just taken me several days to get IE and Firefox to behave the same way for an app I’m creating. It took about 2 hours to get the behaviour out of Firefox, and the rest of the time to get code that worked in both browsers and crashed neither.
    Standards are there to make life easier, not harder.