Tuesday 14 January 2003

Mark Pilgrim s**** the d****

I’m probably more entitled to be disillusioned at Mark Pilgrim’s rejection of Web standards than almost anyone. Mark offered me the first taste of CSS Koolaid on 12 February last year, a month after I’d started blogging, and before it became truly fashionable in Blogaria. Admittedly, I spat instead of swallowing, but a day or so later—with Mark’s advice and assistance—I’d swallowed, switching to a pure CSS layout. Next stop (on 29 April) was XHTML (1.0 Transitional). And I never looked back. Although I’ve been involved in Web development since 1994, I learned more in the past year than in the previous seven. And I’m hardly alone in having learned much of it from Mark.

So if ever a weblog post was destined to reach the #1 spot on Daypop and still be climbing it was Mark’s Semantic obsolescence.

Mark Pilgrim's Semantic Obsolescence post at the top of Daypop

One of the most passionate advocates of Web standards decides that he’s mad as hell and he’s not going to take it anymore:

I bought into every argument the W3C made that keeping up with their standards, validating with their tools, and using their semantic markup would somehow “future-proof” my site and provide some mystical “forward compatibility”. How about some fucking payoff now? How about some fucking compatibility?

Standards are bullshit. XHTML is a crock. The W3C is irrelevant.

I’m migrating I’ve migrated to HTML 4.

In Australia, we call this “spitting the dummy.”

As in:“Crikey, Mark Pilgrim really spat the dummy over the W3C’s XHTML 2.0 working drafts of 5 August 2002 and 11 December 2002.”

Dummy (pacifier)The Australian National Dictionary Centre’s list of Australian words defines spit the dummy as:

To indulge in a sudden display of anger or frustration; to lose one’s temper. The phrase is usually used of an adult, and the implication is that the outburst is childish, like a baby spitting out its dummy in a tantrum and refusing to be pacified.

(You’ve probably guessed by now that what Americans call a “pacifier,” Australians call a “dummy.”)

Although I’d hardly characterize it as childish—I suspect that, in Mark’s situation, I’d feel just as angry and frustrated—his abandoning bleeding edge XHTML 1.1 for the sleepy backwater of HTML 4.01 Strict does have many of the hallmarks of a classic dummy spit:

  • although it seemed to come out of the blue, there have been signs of the pressure building over the past few months;
  • a swear word index in excess of 1% in a technology-related post (one bullshit and four fuckings in 459 words);
  • a threat to take drastic action (subsequently acted upon) regardless of whether or not the cause of the complaint is addressed or the drastic action is truly in the dummy-spitter’s best interests.

I guess that’s what surprised me. Going back to XHTML 1.0 Strict (or even Transitional) I can understand. But all the way back to HTML 4.01?

Disillusioned? Not in the slightest. I’ve had a ball. Will I switch back to HTML 4? I doubt it, though I’ll keep a weather eye on Mark’s experiences with it. I’ll be interested to learn about the payoff.

I perused the Further Reading on Mark’s post—there were so many posts that reading even a small fraction was impossible. But one stood out, defrang.com:

Mark got really upset about the W3C and he’s right. For fuck’s sake, W3C folks please listen to the developers who have to implement and deal with your recommandations. I remember being at a W3C conference in Brussels recently and It’s obvious that all those guys never had to make a real-life website. Authoring web pages, is different than the usual Amaya-generated personnal homepage hosted on the w3.org server, they should know that…

I laughed when I read the word “Brussels,” with its rich connotations of petty-minded European Union bureaucrats determining “the ‘expected and required’ ingredients of a sausage or the allowable degree of curvature in a cucumber.” You know that they’ve never actually made a sausage or grown a cucumber, just as the W3C folks have “never had to make a real-life website.”

And the previous week Xavier Defrang wrote:

Here we go for the first round of Safari bugs… Web developers will “thank” Apple for relying on yet another HTML rendering engine instead of betting on Gecko…

weblog.delacour.net links DIV  in Safari browserThat caught my eye because I’d just received feedback from AKMA on how my site fared in Safari:

A quick message to say that Safari renders your left-hand column such that the section headings overlap with the first subject under the heading.

That’s got me really pissed off. Not the fact that Safari screws with my CSS, that’s the nature of web development. Rather that—just at the point where the Gecko-based browsers are starting to give Internet Explorer some real competition—Apple goes with another rendering engine. How stupid is that? Could someone explain the Byzantine politics that went into the decision? Do you really find it inexplicable that I can’t quite bring myself to buy a Macintosh? Despite all the effort that’s gone into establishing a realistic alternative browser, Apple goes off on yet another ego trip. As someone I know would say:

How about some fucking payoff now? How about some fucking compatibility?

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Heh. If the standards were worth anything at all then we could let a thousand renderers bloom - that's what standards are for.

CSS was always a waste of time for anything more than tinsel, but since I never bought into it I have no toys to throw out of my pram, as British vernacular has it.

Posted by des on 14 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I'd like to mention in passing that I like the Aussie-ism 'chucking a wobbly' even more than 'spitting the dummy', but that's just me perhaps.

Posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on 14 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

There's an article at CNET that, despite the headline, actually makes a pretty reasonable case for why Apple didn't go with Gecko.

FWIW, I think it's good that we now have two open-source browsers.

Posted by dave rogers on 15 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

KHTML is hardly new. It's been in Konqueror for at least a couple of years, which has sat mostly unused in my KDE toolbar (under Linux and FreeBSD) during that time. It's fast, but the rendering is buggy. So it came as no surprise that 500,000 users of the Safari beta find it to be fast, but with buggy rendering.

But those 500,000 OSX users have paid more attention on KHTML in one week that KDE users have in two years. OSX users are certainly _focused_, now, aren't they? Or *nix users have been lazy and have used Mozilla instead.

Posted by Scott Hanson on 15 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I'm viewing your page in Safari (1.0 B v51), and don't see the problem AKMA alluded to, so it's time to put buying a Mac back on your to do list.

Posted by Norm Jenson on 15 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

"But those 500,000 OSX users have paid more attention on KHTML in one week that KDE users have in two years. OSX users are certainly _focused_, now, aren't they? Or *nix users have been lazy and have used Mozilla instead."


Posted by Kris on 15 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

"CSS was always a waste of time for anything more than tinsel."
But at least, Des, you can change the color of your tinsel with a couple of keystrokes.

I also like "having a nervy turn" Stav, though I'm not sure whether it's an Aussie-ism.

Thanks for the pointer to the CNET article, Dave. I love Mozilla so much that it came as quite a shock to read about its (alleged) shortcomings. Also a surprise that the KHTML rendering engine was so highly regarded.

And, while it may be good to have two open source browsers, I incline to the belief that there's only room for two main contenders in any given category (Coke/Pepsi, Macromedia/Adobe). I don't see IE going away any time soon so that leaves one vacant slot -- preferably a cross-platform browser.

I guess the moral of the story is that I should spend more time using the Linux partition I set up a couple of months ago or buy that Macintosh (the 12" notebook looks good). Or both.

Posted by Jonathon on 15 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

I don't see the bug described for your weblog in Safari either. (Although it renders Shelley Powers' weblog in a weird but readable way.)

Safari has too many bugs for me to use it on a daily basis just yet--I tried it and went back to Chimera (an OS X Mozilla variant)--but it's so fast that it's hard not to want to use it. When it gets some more of the bugs worked out, particularly login bugs, I think it'll do just fine.

As for IE, particularly IE/Win, no, it's not going away, because Microsoft caters to developers and it's easy to build MS-specific code. I know enough about why, say, jscript works the way it does that I don't find the added functionality worth the additional security risks. Pushing for at least minimally standards-compliant code (compliant enough to work on Macs, on *nices, on Mozilla, and on Safari, anyway) isn't just nice for those of us not on IE/Win, it's a safety measure for those who are.

Posted by Ginger on 15 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

Ack, Sorry about the blank comment, I appear to be a moron.

I kinda agree with the Apple decision. As much as I like Mozilla and use it as my everyday browser, the fact that it's codebase is roughly a gigabyte (admittedly, including all spinoff projects) scares me. Really, the codebase is *huge* and each part of the base has someone somewhere who made it do what it's doing now. I'm sure most of them are really nice people, but there are going to be a few egos, and Apple are going to want to make code changes, and KHTML has less people on it.

And it's about .5% of the size, or something silly.

Posted by Aquarion on 15 January 2003 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

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