Category Archives: Standards

Building the Web, One Spec at a Time

I’m admittedly being a bit glib in my title. Can innovation and advancement of the web platform occur at all, given the temporal straight jacket that standards bodies sometimes impose? There are certainly proprietary platforms that leverage the web (Flash and Silverlight) and developers do happily bivouac in them, building some fairly compelling stuff. Some even argue that these proprietary platforms push the envelope more than what the web can do by itself, given the stagnancy of standards bodies.

But let’s talk about the web platform. Stagnant, really? Innovation at Mozilla ultimately manifests itself as innovation for the web platform. Let’s leave the intricacies of the standards process for another discussion — it isn’t ideal, and big questions about consortia (like W3C and ECMA) are probably valid ones. Great ideas are vetted for interoperability in forums such as the WHATWG, and the W3C’s WebApps WG, and we browser vendors deliver as rapidly as feasible on implementations (some are slower than others — you know who you are). Both IE8 Beta and Firefox 3 now support postMessage, for example, so talk of AJAX methodologies being stagnant ought to be revisited. And support of Canvas2D in browsers such as Opera, Safari, and Firefox results in stellar innovations such as processing.js, which — any “open platform” chauvinism on my part notwithstanding — gives Flash a royal run for its money.

Mozilla’s involvement in standards encompasses enhancements to JavaScript, graphics, and APIs for new capabilities. Below is a breakdown of the work that will eventually be a part of the web platform. Don’t stop and stare for too long — there is nothing stagnating here :-)

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Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch…

Sometimes, what goes around does come around. I first started playing with Mozilla, a project launched by Netscape Communications, in 1998. That was a whopping ten years ago. I was in Bangalore, fresh out of college, and had finished a stint in Rajasthan as a substitute French teacher to dilute the effects of four years of undergraduate mathematics and computer science. Hiatus aside, grad school or profession or professional gadabout? The technology industry came calling with its dubious promises of intriguing work and the potential to travel (and a free cafeteria to eat in, and a free Internet connection), and Bangalore was the place to be, with its nascent information technology subculture.

Something stuck, because by early 2001, I was working for Netscape as Technology Evangelist on Mozilla. Continue reading

SxSW ’08 Redux via Epistolary Rumination

Dear Chris, Chaals, and Brendan,

Thank you. For two years, you’ve put up with my jittery nagging a few hours before the panel, and for two years, it has rocked.

Dear Apple,

We really missed you. Our “Browser Wars” panel at SxSWi ’08 was standing room only, with people lining up outside who couldn’t get in. We discussed stuff that was really relevant to Safari, touching on mobility, standards, security, JavaScript, and stuff like that — PC Mag has a rough record of the conversation. People love your stuff — the MacBook Pro and the iPhone were ubiquitous at the Austin Convention Center. And while you are open in your standards participation (working groups like Web API and HTML conduct business in the open), and while you are candid on the Surfin’ Safari Weblog, it would be great if your PR / Marketing department could let you come out and play with us. Maybe next year?

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SxSW ’08 | The End of History (Not)

The grackle birds are out in full force in Austin. They are noisy and obnoxious, but I only visit with them but once a year, when I, like scores of other Californians, descend on Austin, TX, for Geek Camp, aka South By SouthWest 2008.

Young-ish trendy persons with laptops and iPhones and loosely slung satchels meander around the Austin Convention Center. Panels are being held, and the sun is shining (mostly), and the after parties are kicking, and film makers, musicians, designers, and geeks are all coalescing, as per the norm.

Last year, I chaired a panel bringing Brendan Eich (Mozilla/Firefox, and inventor of JavaScript), Chris Wilson (Microsoft/IE, worked on every version of IE in recent memory), and Charles McCathieNevile (Opera — a standards titan who travels the world working on standards) to the table to discuss where the Web was going. It was a great panel discussion which embraced spirited debate.

A year has passed, and PC Magazine thinks we’re about ready to usher in the “boring era” of Web browsers. Really? A little bit like the End of History, where things were supposed to be all nice and boring after the end of the Cold War, but ended up being anything but?

OK, look. I’ll be the first to admit that the term “wars” shouldn’t be used when talking about Web browsers. This year, when I agreed to do the panel again at SxSW 2008, I used the term “war” to pack the auditorium. But let’s be frank about a few things.

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Standards, the My Suite, and Summer

I believe in the general synchronicity of summer, and think June and July bring unexpected Jungian gifts. This is an eventful summer for me in many ways, but for now, a quick word on my professional life.

Firstly, buddy and fellow AOLer Kevin Lawver blogged with gusto about replacing me as AOL’s Advisory Committee Representative to the W3C. I’m going to be doing other things professionally within AOL, and Kevin, a Standards Titan at AOL, is the right guy to step up and bat for the company. I’m still going to be a member of various W3C working groups. And I got elected by the Advisory Committee to be a member of W3C’s Advisory Board, which serves an advisory role to the W3C staff. I’m honored to have been elected, and start “officially” in July. As a member of the AC, Kevin will face all the questions of the relevancy of W3C and AOL engineers making time to participate in standards that I did, and I wish him all the very best.

Secondly, the blogosphere has already been given an inkling of myAOL, a suite of web applications that I’m working on as part of a great team of AOL engineers. We’re going to launch it this summer. In particular, I’m part of the team working on Mgnet (pronounced magnet), a way to discover content through some innovative navigational metaphors. Can’t wait to go beta already!

The myAOL suite has been discussed in a “pre-release” capacity on TechCrunch and on Jeremy O.’s Web Strategist blog.