My 2 ¢ on the recent W3C debacle

Here we go again with a post that started out as a comment… I really can’t keep it short, can I?

This is in reply to Bruce Lawson’s excellent post Future friendly, or Forward to Yesterday?

Other relevant posts in this saga are:
Alex Russell’s Things the W3C Should Stop Doing
John Allsopp’s The web is a different problem
Joe Hewitt’s Web Technologies Need an Owner

Much as Bruce does, I mostly agree with Alex in his post, although I disagree with a lot of what Alex has been saying in the subsequent Twitter discussion with John Allsopp.

I wholly agree with Bruce Lawson and John Allsopp, and I wholly disagree with Joe Hewitt. Here is why.

I really do not understand what these “let’s make the web a dictatorship with a benevolent (as if) leader”-people are all about. If that is what they want, why are they even working on the web? There are plenty of suitable platforms for them out there.

The web is a steamroller because it is an open and truly evolving platform. To anyone that has any knowledge of biological evolution, it is obvious that evolution does not always come up with the best after-the-fact solutions. Rather, it takes very weird twists and turns, some of it’s experiments, most of them in fact, turn out to be dead ends. But the stuff that comes out on top is marvellous!

Closed proprietary platforms are more like genetic engineering. It is really cool, and does a hell of a lot of good really fast, but once the scientists behind it stop giving it life support, it either dies off or go out into the wild and becomes part of the ever evolving biosphere.

Well, I think I have pushed this analogy far enough, but I hope that it will somewhat explain what it is I find special about the web.

Hewitt expresses concern for the web’s future existence, and therefore wants it to become more like the successful proprietary platforms of today. I really can not understand this reasoning. The concern Hewitt feels must stem from some kind of tie, probably emotional, to the platform. But what is it Hewitt likes about the web? Obviously not that which sets the web apart from other platforms. So why not just leave the web, and put your eggs in a proprietary basket?

The fear Hewitt expresses is that the open web will only become a parenthesis in the history of the internet, and that closed systems will rule in the future. To avoid this he would like to neuter the web, tame the beast, give it a single, all powerful master.

To me, that would be the true death of the beautiful beast that I love.

I sincerely believe that the web is on the path to even more greatness than we have already seen. But even if it would fail, I would much rather have it go down fighting, and perhaps living a small but subversive life underground, than have it transform into the next Glorious Empire, doomed to fall with the death of the Benevolent Leader.

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