Almost 530,000 words long—still a little shorter than “Infinite Jest.”
November 24, 2014 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Paul Ford explains the long road to HTML5 and the web standardisations process in the New Yorker.
In “Gathering of the Player Men at Buffalo,” the Music Trade Review described a heady scene in which Mr. P. B. Klugh, speaking for the Cable Company, said that it had adopted “the nine-to-the-inch scale” and that “they were not open to argument on the subject, as such a scale had given entire satisfaction.” Swayed, the manufacturers resolved the issue in favor of Klugh. As a result, we now live in a world where nine-holes-per-inch piano rolls are the standard. You would be a fool to build a player piano to any other metric.
Of course, the Web page is far more complex. It requires dozens of standards, governing words, sounds, pictures, interactions, protocols, code, and more. The role of Web parliament is played by the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium. This is a standards body; it organizes meetings that allow competing groups to define standards, shepherding them from a “working draft” to “candidate recommendation” and “proposed recommendation,” and finally, if a standard has been sufficiently poked and prodded, granting the ultimate imprimatur, “W3C recommendation.”
posted by frimble (11 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Damn you New Yorker pay wall!
posted by srboisvert at 11:39 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

srboisvert: does private browsing work?
posted by zachlipton at 12:06 PM on November 24, 2014

Mefite's Own, bien sur.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:11 PM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

this is fantastic too. The fact that ftrain recently tweeted he'll have to return to web-page-makin' full time soon because writing doesn't pay enough makes me sad.

More of this kind of thing! Less eating, more words!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:14 PM on November 24, 2014

HTML5 seems like a clear upgrade over any other mish-mash of standards that used to exist. In general, I really like the Web's move from document delivery mechanism to operating system.
posted by codacorolla at 12:30 PM on November 24, 2014

Hooray for web standards! First defined and set by Netscape, then Microsoft, now by Google and Apple. Meanwhile, I now have to close pop-up floating adverts in every second web page I visit, and my blind users find the web increasingly hard to use! [/sarcasm]
posted by alasdair at 12:54 PM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

That’s the software industry: it promises you an Ellsworth Kelly, but it delivers a Jackson Pollock.

I love this line.
posted by langtonsant at 1:02 PM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cf. OAuth of Fealty, Ian Bogost, 01 August 2013
posted by ob1quixote at 2:34 PM on November 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

The ultimate function of any standards body is epistemological; given an enormous range of opinions, it must identify some of them as beliefs. The automatic validator is an encoded belief system. Not every Web site offers valid HTML, just as not every Catholic eschews pre-marital sex.

Bravo! Well done... and you can see where this is going next:

The percentage of pure and valid HTML on the web is probably the same as the percentage of Catholics who marry as virgins.


This is a great article on a fundamentally important topic - if you remember the bad old days of "Best Viewed with Internet Explorer" and "Best Viewed with Netscape 4.0" buttons, their slow extinction in favor of "Best Viewed with Any Browser" and "Valid HTML 4.0" buttons was a relief. HTML 5.0 though - it has ... issues.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:39 PM on November 24, 2014

Yes, I certainly don't see "Best viewed in Chrome" anywhere today. [/sarcasm]
posted by alasdair at 7:22 AM on November 27, 2014

Great article. It has some choice lines and brings a topic many of us might know and care about to a mainstream publication. Nice work ftrain.
posted by safetyfork at 12:31 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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