There is a lot of talk right now about Philippe Le Hégaret” (PLH) from the W3C regarding quotes he made about the readiness of HTML5 for “deployment”.

Philippe is quoted as saying:

“The problem we’re facing right now is there is already a lot of excitement for HTML5, but it’s a little too early to deploy it because we’re running into interoperability issues. The real problem is can we make HTML5 work across browsers and at the moment, that is not the case.”

In response, Dion Almaer (Ajaxian) has said:

“…I utterly disagree with Philipe”

Putting it in Context

Thinking about things PLH has been talking about over the past few months, I feel that his quotes may be -being used outside of their true context.

For example: technologies used in demos from IE9 Beta Event, Chrome Experiments and Mozilla Hacks are frequently dealing which technologies that are outside of the actual HTML5 Spec., and I would assume from PLH’s position at W3C that he is thinking in terms of HTML5 Spec-Proper.

Personally what I get from his comments, knowing that PLH is interacting with global entities, is that large media corporations wishing to deploy say… HTML5 video applications in the web, may find it financially prudent to hold off until certain events in the progression of web technology have taken their natural course; …so that corporations do not find themselves in legal trouble or having to rebuild frameworks when viable alternatives already exist. (Even if we don’t like the alternatives and are working on replacing them.)

A Possible Origin to The Context Slip?

So my best guess is that this argument boils down to 2 things:

1) A basic mis-understanding of PLH’s use of HTML5 to mean “The HTML5 Specification” and not “HTML5 The Buzzword, meaning everything released since 2003 that provides functionality only seen before in Flash / Java etc.”

2) A simple mis-assumption that PLH is speaking to the vibrant web-development community rather than the Fortune 500 technology corporations that risk entanglement in a battle-field where patents are acquired as offensive arsenals for monopolistic maneuvers.

I could be wrong, but from listening to PLH speak quite a few times recently, that’s my take of the whole debate.

Do We Know What We Think We Know?

Perhaps it is us, the modern HTML5-Buzz-focused web developer, who does not fully understand the inherent complexities and relationships within standards bodies in general and so can not help but mis-interpret such issues. This has certainly been my experience within the W3C Audio Incubator Group when at times outsiders looking in, have come up with some *pretty-wild “insights” into the actions of browser vendors and ideas of what a spec is or should be.

  • by “pretty-wild” I mean “totally incorrect”

A Balanced Opinion

Remy Sharp summed it up well:

“I’ll say up front, that I’m pretty certain that Philippe Le Hégaret’s quotes have been used selectively to create this article. The problem I have is that a lot of developers will just see “hold off on deploying HTML5 in websites” which is where my beef is.

I think Remy hit the nail on the head in this statement. Even if PLH is being taken out of context, people could easily draw the wrong conclusions from the statement. Where the subject is laid to rest is difficult to say: but regardless of the context, perhaps someone needs to draw a line in the sand and ask some questions…

  1. Does PLH really deserve to be attacked for being so cautious, is that not his role in helping to stop the fragmentation of the technology industry?
  2. Can we really claim to understand enough about the global technological / financial / legal landscape to call him “wrong”?
  3. Have you ever told your client, “No we can not deploy that HTML5-Buzz technology cross-browser just yet, please wait a year”? (I have)
  4. Who among us is going to stop pushing the boundaries anyway, regardless of what the standards say?”

What I Think PLH is *Not* Saying

I certainly do not think that PLH is suggesting that we cease and desist from making cool applications with new browser features and pushing them into the open-web or releasing them as products to a market that already have the technology to run them. I think that part is a gross mis-understanding of PLH’s words. Hell… the guy is constantly hacking on all kinds of bizarre demos that combine HTML5-Spec and HTML5-Buzz features and sharing them with the world.

I am also sure that PLH is well aware that an extremely innovative web-development scene already exists, who’s role it to fill this very gap between standard and experimental. Just think back a few years to when jQuery filled an absolutely colossal void between JavaScript implementations across various browsers. This void is an incubator for new and innovate solutions: which can lead to the incredible growth of creative-technical companies.

An All Too Common Mis-Conception

Standards happen because of innovation. Before a new spec is standardized, much work is done “outside of specification”. Browser vendors and their orbiting communities turn the energy generated by the constantly shifting paradigms of our social-technological dreams-and-desires, and hack away until they have a preliminary working model of an exciting (or boring) new feature.

It is then that a standards body recognizes the value of a particular fork, and opens up the investigation into standardizing that idea, so that we do not end up with 16 million ways to skin a cat, fostering efficiency in web development and fairness in competition.

So the question we are fundamentally asking is:

“Are Philipe’s comments going to cause fragmentation to the industry?”

My answer is:

“We are failing to discern the difference between the industry and the global movement that feeds it.”