The Extensible Web



Apologies First (Jan 06, 2015)

About a six moths ago I posted this article on the Extensible Web. I was recently contacted by one of the authors regarding my interpretation of the Manifesto and my concerns with it – still ongoing. However, they also pointed out (but where less concerned with) how I described the motives of the founding signatories (as you’ll read). They are right on this part, and I am wrong. Criticising peoples motives when I actually don’t know them is wrong, and so I apologise, “I’m Sorry“. We’re all trying to make the Web a better place and any attempt to do this (whether I disagree or not) should be applauded and aspersions as to motivations should cut out.

Original Article (May 20, 2014)

Recently, an academic/coder friend of mine pointed me to ‘The Extensible Web Manifesto‘. Now the more cynical of us could be forgiven for thinking that this ‘initiative’ is really just a scheme to make the signatories famous. The manifesto seems based on the, novel, agile manifesto even down to the tone it is written in, all that is missing is a cool ‘Snowbird’ like resort in which to hash out the wording!

Now at first blush you may be thinking ‘what is the problem?’, the manifesto argues for faster development without waiting for @w3c_waislow standards, the addition of low-level capabilities which would be ‘explained’ with high level developments, and contradictions such as ‘standardising new low-level capabilities’ (without standardisation bodies, it seems). In general it seems like a manifesto to build whatever makes developers happy.

But this spells a real problem for the Web, because the Web is its standards, without them the interoperability of the platform among user agents and content creators is gone. The manifesto suggests that development of this type will speed up the evolution of the Web and allow standards to focus on ‘security and performance concerns, and features that can only be added at the platform level, such as new hardware’. So in general standards bodies should get out the way of user facing development. Not a very good recipe for accessibility based on current development work in which only 10% (if that) of Websites conform.

It seems to me that the signatories have their own agenda, and screw the rest of us, as long as they get what they want. Developers cannot be experts in many, if not most, of the user issues facing the Web – it takes way more focus, away from the code and into cognitive science, to get that right. But the manifesto seems to suggest that iterating libraries and interfaces is a better way of development as opposed to actually designing interfaces in an engineering manner. We don’t build multiple bridges of different types, then take the ones that don’t fall down as being the new design, why should we do it in software.

Accessibility, and user interaction in general, is complex and often niche, and expecting development without standards seems bound to fail.

If the manifesto gains ground we can expect a real fragmentation of the Web and platforms which use it; maybe that is what the signatories want?


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