To those just joining this broadcast, it’s not you, it’s me. It’s taken me about a month to blog about last month. Late July and early August were just really eventful. I spent a week in Norway, where I attended what I suspect will go down in history as being a pretty landmark ECMAScript meeting. The upshot of my time in Norway was “ECMAScript-Harmony” and I’ve blogged about that on the nascent Mozilla Standards blog. There will be much said about the Oslo meeting and Harmony from various principals, and some said about this subject that captures the spirit of the thing but may yet be a bit misleading or sensationalist. And, here’s a press release from ECMA International.
A day after getting back home from Norway, I took off for Whistler, British Columbia (taking my Scandinavian jetlag with me) to attend the Mozilla Summit. In case you haven’t heard yet, here’s a brief summary of the various adventurous goings on: on Day 1, a traveler with worse jet lag than me saw a black bear rummaging through garbage; on Day 2, the Sea to Sky Highway collapsed, leaving us stranded atop the beautiful glacier park; on Day 3, the power went out in the conference hotel. I opted out of the 8 hour bus drive back to Vancouver, and chose to circumvent the rock slide via sea plane It was just… splendid. I documented the whole thing in my Moz08 Flickr set.
I gave two talks at the summit — one on standards (links to my slides and a blog post summarizing what we talked about), and one with Seth Bindernagel on Firefox in India, my particular passion. The India discussion occured on Day 3, when there was no power in the hotel. So, a group of interested parties huddled around my laptop in a semi-circle, and we had a small, intimate and dimly lit discussion in a small room about fonts, the Indian government’s e-governance initiatives, and the propagation of standards-based platforms. I had a deja vu moment when I realized that so many problems with the top Indian sites reminded me of the early era of callow markup, when the evangelism team was first constituted. Seth and I are going to talk to major Indian ISVs about Mozilla, and plan some workshops to coincide with foss.in in November. India is like the new old frontier of the Web; proprietary stuff (like MSHTML particularities and Microsoft’s Dynamic Fonts) still permeate the marketplace. At the same time, the comScore data about India tells us that it has “one of the fastest growing Internet populations.” It is high time Mozilla did something there.
See what I mean by eventful two weeks? Scandinavia and the Canadian Rockies, all for the Web.
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.
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
(Cross posted from dev.aol.com)
Aside from us hapless Web developers, few people really think about HTML when they surf the Web. The average user’s Web site of choice is likely to work with their browser of choice. The fact that this is the case can largely be seen as a testament to the W3C standardization process — HTML just about works, tag soup notwithstanding.
Not many people know about the often acrimonious debates between Microsoft and Netscape that induced this kind of interoperability in the past, or about a certain HTML working group meeting in Colorado a few years ago where everyone worked all night on HTML so that they could go skiing all day. The point is, HTML is out there — the mavens have spoken. So what’s all the fuss about?