100% - 80% = ?

Marc Salomon marc at ckm.ucsf.edu
Thu Mar 7 11:07:49 EST 1996

|I know we're not the only organization testing or paying
|for these web products.  Is anyone else out there telling
|vendors that their HTML has to validate?


We must remember that its 0800, 1 Jan, year 0001 of web time.  The market
forces that punish stupidity have not yet had time to work as barely enough
time has elapsed to complete a single product cycle.

Netscape has an explicit first-to-market strategy (see the current Wired mag
interview with CEO Barksdale) that asserts their primacy in all tools used
in the web transaction.  This is a circus elephant strategy of language
evolution that most of us would rather not clean up after.  Anyone who tests 
solely with netscape navigator is as foolish as anyone who tested solely with 
mosaic before netscape hit the scene.  Ideally, one should test with 3 browsers 
on each platform to ensure that one is not generating crap.

That said, there are firms developing and deploying real SGML-based systems that
apply rigor to the HTML they generate, and at least one that builds library
systems, OCLC, has participated actively in the html-wg.  In some quarters 
where SGML is not taken seriously, SGML means Some Guy (the implementor of the 
SGML system) Makes Less, But within the next 6-18 months there should be "real" 
products on the market to meet these needs and to turn the product cycle 
another crank and allow people dissatisfied with their current vendor to more
choices to vote with their selection (and rejection) if tools.

Part of the problem has been the uneven development process for HTML, and that
was addressed at the IETF meeting in LA this last week, from what I understand
(I don't *do* LA if I can help it).  Namely, tables has been under consideration
for more time than necessary, and that makes it extremely difficult to validate 
table documents.  Most interactive systems that need some spatial control over 
presentation use tables, and with several slightly different implementations, 
its been pretty chaotic.

I believe that a streamlined standards process designed to meet the needs of
different levels of value-added can, assuming the religious types don't enforce
SGML religion on those who don't want it, bring standards up to speed at a
rate close to what the market wants.  Basically, there needs to be a place for
high-value-added content generators such as academic libraries to put out
highly-structured content while the pamphlet producer can take <BLINK>liberties
</BLINK> at their peril.  Most of the start-up web publishing companies that 
are pushing Netscape Now will be replaced by authoring tools in short order 

We can and should all be E.B. Whites or George Orwells (but *not* William
Safires)--language advocates--of HTML.  That means ensuring that our 
organizations, placed as we are at the higher levels of the information food
chains, apply the same rigor to the HTML we generate as to the English (or 
other natural langauge) we speak, write or print.  We must insist that 
internally-generated HTML and HTML generated by products we test or buy 
conform to RFC-1866 (HTML 2.0) (Available from the HTML link off 

// Marc Salomon - Software Engineer - Innovative Software Systems Group     \\ 
\\ Library and Center for Knowledge Management - UC, San Francisco          // 
// phone :  415.476.9541 - e-mail : marc at ckm.ucsf.edu - fax: 415.476.4653   \\

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