Apr 95 Viewpoint
|Column Tag:||The Editors Viewpoint
The Editors Viewpoint
By Scott T Boyd, Editor
Its a Flat World Out On The Web
This month I wanted to talk about two things - the World Wide Web, and OpenDoc. While mulling it over, I ran across a Usenet posting by Mark Hanrek of The Information Workshop, and decided to let him have at it. Heres his guest editorial. We welcome your comments at email@example.com - Ed stb
And Now Heres Mark
Every time I communicate about the aspects of the WWW standard that are deeply flawed, I look for existing examples of things done right to prove my point. And every time, OpenDoc comes up.
It will be great if the OpenDoc work is having any influence at all on those who are in control of the Web page standard, because the current WWW path is really quite unfortunate for us all.
I realize that the Web page standard started life as an ad-hoc thing that turned out to be useful, it caught on, and then spread. But now that the rest of the world has grabbed onto it, there really needs to be the courage to stop and set things straight, and to do it properly.
The Fatal Flaw
The Web page people seem to have their heads in a computer printout and linear list space. The term inline graphics is revealing. I get the feeling they thought it was cool to leave out the specification for the absolute position of objects on a page. They leave it up to the interpretation of the particular browser. On the Macintosh alone, one gets three completely different interpretations using Netscape, Mosaic, and MacWeb respectively.
Thats bad. This is a fatal flaw. And unfortunately, one we will have to live with somehow.
This is the reason no one can create a WYSIWYG HTML editor on the Mac, even though there are umpteen tools on the Mac one can use to author one in short order, such as HyperCard, SuperCard, Prograph, ClarisWorks HTML XTND, class libraries used with Symantec and MetroWerks environments, and eventually, OpenDoc.
Attempting to author an editor puts one in the position of having to take a stand on which is the right way to display things. A support mess. Lots of dissatisfied people. Why bother!
As a result, everyone relents, and has little choice but to rally around one browser (Netscape). This kills competition, and, well, lots of other essential elements.
Whats Happening Here
Web pages are for display, and must be interactive, regardless of what anyone says. If anyone were to go out and design a cross-platform standard for the display of interactive multi-media, and do it in a manner that stood on the shoulders of what we have already learned, addressed itself to the unknown needs of the future, and accommodated the commercial realities that motivated it in the first place......they would be designing and creating something like OpenDoc, not HTML.
When one takes the HTML standard, and performs a comparison against OpenDoc, well, its quite shocking. HTML starts us back at the beginning of computer time.
So much wasted energy... So many professionals using their slick WYSIWYG editors on their GUI workstations, struggling with the equivalent of editing Postscript directly to try and get results that look halfway decent after surviving the non-deterministic interpretations of Netscape, Mosaic, and other Web browsers.
[shaking head] What a sad mess. I am embarrassed to be associated with it. And powerless of influence it. If you try to tell them anything, then you just dont understand. I cant help but feel the SGML people have their vise grip on things cuz itll be their last hurrah. :)
Youre dang right Im bummed. But there is hope. With OpenDoc illuminating a more appropriate way, perhaps life will take one of its funny twists and turns sometime in the near future.
Thankfully, OpenDoc exists, and is one of the most inspired, well-conceived, accommodating, courageous, and honestly handled American technology developments I have ever witnessed in my twenty three years of computer design and engineering.
I say all of this as a vote of confidence, a show of respect, and as encouragement to the OpenDoc team.
- Mark Hanrek, The Information Workshop, firstname.lastname@example.org
0 The Information Workshop http://www.electriciti.com/~infoman/
SuperCard Home Page http://www.electriciti.com/~supercrd/
Sorry You Missed Woodstock?
Get your early reservation in now for MacHack X (June 22-24) and save yourself some dough. Line up some hacking buddies, and get ready for The Best Hack Contest (sponsored by yours truly) - its a great way to be a part of the 10th Annual MacHack experience. e-mail email@example.com, check out http://www.hax.com/HackContest and call Expotech at (313) 882-6942.
If you stay awake the whole time, its only 8 cents per minute!
- Keith Stattenfield, someone who never sleeps at MacHack
they give good prizes... :)
- Doug McKenna, Mathemaesthetics
Food For Thought
Macintosh: Changing the world, one person at a time! (I wish theyd hurry up!)
- Chris De Salvo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Does anyone in the Fed understand the concept of time-delayed feedback loops?
- Jorg jbx Brown