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Adobe blocking publication of latest HTML5 draft? (hixie.ch)
104 points by bensummers on Feb 12, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments

Mark Pilgrim makes a good point that I wonder about (http://twitter.com/diveintomark/status/9013587732): why are there member-only lists at all? That is, HTML is an open standard. I had no idea there were secret holds. Was this a known part of the process? Is it done often? Are there any precedents?

It has been a long time since I was involved in the W3C, but I can tell you that the public lists are plagued with clueless people who jump onto, e.g., the XHTML 2.0 standards definition list and ask for help with converting their BMPs into GIFs for their homepage. Even without those, there are legions of self-important blowhards who will spend weeks arguing whether "<section>" is the semantically best name for a tag.

W3C is not terribly quick at getting things done at the best of times, but the public lists are even more so.

All that said, I've never heard of a "hold" before, but then I was only ever on the public lists.

I agree that allowing users to post to the lists might be harmful in some cases, but I can't think of a good reason why these lists aren't readable by the public.

It is probably there to allow the members to talk freely about internal projects that they don't want to have exposed externally before they are ready.

Looks like he explains his objection at http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2010Feb/0360... and says it's not a "formal complaint" at http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2010Feb/0365...

Yup, thanks. Someone quickly responded that he had wished to be formal earlier (http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/www-archive/2010Feb/0002...):

So I object to the chairs' decision that these documents are in scope.

I suppose a formal objection is decided by the domain lead, or appealed to the Director, and the team contact can help with this process? it's not in the special HTML-WG-only process document how this group goes about appealing decisions which the chairs seem to have made.

If I need to use the word "formally" in there somewhere, or if there's some "Formal Appeal Change Proposal" form I'm supposed to fill in, recapitulating all of the email arguments made to date, suggesting the documents "change" by disappearing, and written in iambic hexameter, please let me know.

That quickly devolves into some discussion of possible uses of the word 'formal', the minutes of a phone conference, other emails, typos, and also some serious conversation about whether or not the private lists should be used this way. Tab Atkins Jr. wrote this:

I would like to register my strong disapproval of this entire affair. This was an abuse of the member-only lists. Any Objection, potential or not, should _always_ take place on the public list. I am disappointed in the author of the private emails for their actions.

It really all is surprisingly like the senate, which to my mind is a shame. Having said that, maybe there's some inevitable thing that happens when this many people, much money, etc. are involved.

I'm fairly certain that Apple communicated that it wouldn't implement Theora in private.

All of Apple's objections were public. (Also, Mozilla's objections to H.264, Google's opinion, Opera's position, Nokia's position, etc. They were all public.)

There _have_ been some private discussions between various people interested in solving the codec problem, but they have yet to bear useful fruit and the spec was unaffected by them. All the objections that affected the spec were public from the get-go.

Adobe seems to think that those three things aren't related to HTML5. That may or may not formally be the case, but HTML5 without canvas is so much less.

HTML5 without canvas needs something like, er, Flash!

So what's the real story here? My wild guess is that Microsoft is making noises about implementing more of HTML5. If Adobe gets Canvas shifted out of the spec that radically reduces the chances of it being implemented in IE.

edit: or, "As a First Public Working Draft, this publication will trigger patent policy review." Is Adobe trying to keep patents on Canvas under wraps?

No idea what the "real story" is here, or if there is one beyond what they've said. There's no patent review issue here, though, since the canvas stuff has already been published as FPWD by the W3C HTML working group in the HTML5 spec itself. Thus Adobe is already bound by the patent policy on this stuff.

This process has been going on for how many years, and now they want to declare Canvas out-of-scope? It seems like the time for such complaints is long past.

Looks like they want [...] Canvas (2D) to be stripped

Perhaps that Flash-not-needing paint demo made them sweat!

It appears that representatives from Google and Opera are the ones playing politics:

At least two members of this team, Ian Hickson[1] and Anne van Kesteren[2], representing Google and Opera, respectively, have been writing this morning that Adobe is officially blocking publication of HTML5. This type of communication could cause FUD among the community of users, and should be addressed as soon as possible.

How does it appear that they are playing politics, rather than (say) that Larry Masinter (representing Adobe) is playing politics by claiming that canvas etc. are out of scope for the WG?

Other participants in the email discussion linked by the parent have said that these things have already been determined to be in scope for the WG. Larry Masinter says otherwise. I have no inside information or expertise and do not propose to try to resolve that dispute :-), but the claims being made by (it seems) everyone other than Larry Masinter seem plausible prima facie.

We don't know the full debate. Masinter's actions, even if completely wrong, still fall within the process.

In contrast, posting inflammatory comments on one's blog does nothing more than fuel more fanaticism.

...and lead to massive karma drop for anyone willing to refute the HTML5 fanatics...

If publicizing an Anonymous Hold™ by a corporation with a vested interest in neutering HTML5 is now called "politics", then I want to be a fucking politician.

Everyone has a vested interest in every standard they participate in :-).

re Ajaxian: http://ajaxian.com/archives/adobe-html5-standards-blocking-a...

It relates to the whole RDFa vs Microdata argument, which itself is being used as a proxy for the W3C vs WHAT-WG power struggle. RDFa is the W3C’s solution for embedding meta-data into HTML, whereas Microdata is Ian Hixon’s baby. The W3C working group recently voted to split Microdata out of the HTML5 spec, something that Hixon, as editor, was not pleased about. He did it for the W3C spec, but not for the WHAT-WG, thus meaning the two specs are no longer in sync.

Whoever is right, Ian Hixon’s opinion should be only be considered in light of his personal stake in this issue, and his often demonstrated disdain for the W3C and its processes in general. Portraying the W3C as a secretive, compromised organisation helps to drive people toward the WHAT-WG. Of course, the WHAT-WG, being a smaller, invitation-only group of browser vendors, is in many ways more opaque than the W3C, it just lacks some of the bureaucracy around it.

Anyone who's been following this stuff knows that my opinion on microdata is only barely above my opinion of RDFa, so saying that I'm biased on this is pretty silly. I'd be perfectly happy to see both features die, I think they're both pretty silly! Unfortunately, people have put forward a number of use cases that they want addressed, so we apparently need _some_ solution, and if we're going to have one I'd rather it not be the waaaay over-complicated RDFa.

Re the second bit: describing the WHATWG as "opaque" is pretty silly, given how radically open it is.

(PS. Hickson, not Hixon.)

Regardless of this being light on the details it's the responsibility of the web community to keep this potential issue in the spotlight until Adobe decides they need to respond and clarify their intentions.

So we don't know anything about the content of their objection, but we're going to call Adobe assholes anyway? Maybe it's the W3C blocking the release of objections, who knows. This article is woefully thin on actual information, don't jump to any conclusions just yet.

Certainly recent comments by Adobe's CTO see a future with HTML5 http://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/2010/02/open_access_to_...

Although Apple's policy is beginning to worry them, it reads more like a HTML5 is a complementary technology rather than a competitor.

But it's so much easier to redefine HTML5 to compliment Flash than it is for Flash to compliment a complete HTML5 spec.

HTML may represent new business for adobe. HTML5 has more to worry about from O/S vendors and browser makers in my view. An example of this is indecision about video codecs. A rich html spec makes life easier for adobe: their primary business is tools (I was told this by a Flex evangelist as he gave people copies of the FlexSDK).

The links in the post go to password protected pages, so I can't get much context on this post.

I believe that's the point of the post, to show how it's all taking place behind closed doors.

Or it may possible he forgot the links are password protected because he's part of the discussion and doesn't sign in everyday...

Occam's or conspiracy? you decide...

Or his intended audience is people on that list, I suppose.

No, he's complained publicly about the very existence of these secret lists before. They links you can't follow are there to drive home the point that youcant follow them.

Of course! Adobe is now blocking the pages about Adobe blocking the HTML5 Draft!

The more things change the more they stay the same.

The standards process is basically designed for this kind of hold up.

This post is so thin on real content that it seems like a FUD. I'm not saying it is, but almost feels like crying wolf.

I will reserve my opinion till some details are made available and not just take the word of hixie who is after all an involved and hence non-neutral party.

The article is very thin on the particulars, but my guess is that they're reading the draft on Scribd and a well-known plugin keeps crashing. You can't approve something if you can't read it IMHO!

Must be hard to be Adobe these days. These guys just cannot get a break.

It's not easy trying to hold back the web and prevent open standards from making expensive authoring tools redundant, especially when it's in everyone else's interests for them to fail.

They're doing the best they can. We should admire their persistence.

I don't see how HTML5 makes authoring tools (commercial or not) redundant. Do you expect people that are relying on visual authoring software to migrate to writing HTML5/JS/CSS in a text editor "just because"?

I meant their particular authoring tools, which output Flash rather than HTML5.

They could adjust them to output HTML5 with Flash fallback, and that would be a Good Thing. But it seems odd to keep on going with a poorly integrated[1] plugin which duplicates the work done in open HTML+JS runtimes available everywhere from desktops to smartphones[2].

1) eg Flash 'cookies' which don't get wiped when you delete your cookies in the browser.

2) And 'superphones', of course. :-)

So we agree that there is a lot of room for innovation in the space of tools enabling people to output to the HTML5 stack.

Absolutely. And it would be a good thing, since every new internet connected platform is going to implement an HTML5 runtime, and the more people who can create stuff the better.

It's a funny situation, in the sense that Microsoft did exactly the same thing on the ECMAScript 4 standard on which Actionscript 3 is based and managed instead to stall the evolution of the ES standard...


Everyone focused on Microsoft at the time but Yahoo and others also dissented. I think for good reason; ES4 is nearly completely different from normal Javascript (static types, class-based inheritance).

Also Adobe was getting a standard that was what they already had and Mozilla had a AS3 VM runtime from Adobe. Microsoft would have been starting from scratch. I don't blame them for blocking it.

(EDIT: If you look at this Apple also marked red to much of ES4: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pFIHldY_CkszsFxMkQORe...)

I think they are planning on updating their tools to output HTML5, check out this video


And its built around their own Flash-renderer-optimised clone of SVG (FXG)... because... its more convenient for them, I guess?

Obviously there is a whole flash ecosystem that Adobe profits from. If html 5 helps move the market away from Flash, Adobe's influence and market position would be impacted. Going from a position of controlling Flash to being one of many html 5 tools companies is not in their best interest. So, its understandable that a public company is digging in their heals, but its up to the community to help push through the politics.

They only profit from the sale of the authoring tools; the runtime is free. (In fact they're probably paying everyone to preload Flash.) Their content authoring suite has no real competitor. I can see culturally why they are so wedded to Flash (they spent $3.4 billion on it four years ago) but it's not like CS* sales would crater if everyone switched to HTML5 (assuming Adobe tools started writing HTML5). If anything the market would grow. I think Adobe knows this. The writing is on the wall so far as Flash is concerned.

6% of Adobe's revenues come from Platform segment, which includes Flash Player, AIR, Cold Fusion, Flex and the Flash developer tool. ($181M in 2009). While Adobe would survive if Flash disappeared tomorrow..

In the end, Adobe's actions speak for themselves. They are heavily promoting Flash.


I agree that the writing is on the wall, but Adobe isn't going to watch millions of dollars in revenue disappear without a fight.

They still refuse to approve that what they should make was a browser instead of investing in an outdated middle-layer, or say it differently, a modern browser now is what flash or java was ought to be? =)

The game of "You need our special VM here" is over.

Also, I heard that Adobe's CEO totally wore the same shirt three days in a row! Gross!

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