8 October 2001
[5 pm | 11 am]
Running all week at Adobe Center Stage
: "Jeffrey Zeldman leads an online review of website navigation menus." Yes, it feels absurd to talking about web navigation at this moment in world history—but there is interesting work on display, and the discussion should be worthwhile.
In The New York Times: Requiem for a Cheerleader
: R.I.P., Silicon Alley Reporter
. Founder Jason McCabe Calacanis plans to close the long-running publication because "you can't have a magazine about unemployed people."
At Internet News
: "Web tracking firm WebSideStory today unveiled the latest version of its ASP software ... touting the product's ability to monitor interactions within Macromedia Flash files." In other words, advertisers can now invade your privacy on Flash-based sites, just as they've long been able to do on HTML sites. How lovely. (Hat tip: the Head Lemur
7 October 2001
. The ad-free "robots" edition of CNN.com provides coverage
of "America's New War," including a transcript
of the speech delivered today at 1:37 p.m. EST by U.S. President George W. Bush, minutes after U.S-led forces began bombing targets in Afghanistan.
6 October 2001
WaSP to W3C: Remember your Charter and Mission
. [Permanent Link
] The Web Standards Project finds the W3C's proposed patent policy to be dangerous, counterproductive, and contrary to the spirit of W3C's charter and mission—the spirit that built the web.
WaSP urges all who build or use the web to read the Patent Policy draft
, decide for themselves, and mail comments
to the W3C before the 11 October cutoff date.
This week's issue of A List Apart
, for people who make websites, points to the Patent Policy Draft and WaSP opinion and urges readers to write to W3C.
5 October 2001
IBM risks billion dollar Linux strategy with W3C RAND demands
: "Sources familiar with the W3C's patent policy have confirmed that demands for the standards body to adopt RAND licensing were initiated by IBM.... Linux kernel hacker Daniel Philips pointed out, GPL projects can't link to patented encumbered software at all.... Senior IBM server executives were horrified to learn yesterday that W3C standards may not in the future be royalty-free. Internet standards and Linux have helped IBM widen its appeal in recent years [but] that may well be imperilled by its preference of RAND to royalty-free for the most fundamental WWW standards."
4 October 2001
Herewith, the Terms and Conditions
of Sun's controversial
patent on XPointer (an XML linking specification), followed by back-pedaling
on same. We're not attorneys, so don't ask us to decrypt the legal verbiage. The point is that big companies have been patenting web standards for quite some time.
Defenders of corporate patenting point out that corporations typically patent "defensively," i.e. if A sues B for infringing on A's patent, B can point out that A has similarly infringed on B's patent, thus prompting both sets of lawyers to back down. Whether "defensive patenting" is the whole story or a convenient rationalization, corporate patenting is certainly a fact of life.
So perhaps the proposed RAND
patent policy is simply W3C's attempt to set an acceptable standard of behavior for member companies that are already issuing patents on web standards to which they contribute. WaSP
co-founder Steven Champeon reads RAND that way, and he's no dummy.
Then what's the problem?
RAND Section 2.2 says "it is especially important that the Recommendations covering lower-layer infrastructure be implementable on an RF basis."
= "Royalty-free," which means that even if a company has patented a standard, it cannot charge money for it. So far, so good.
"It is especially important
" means, "We hope you will adhere to this principle, but we will not enforce it." Not good, but understandable, since W3C by its charter has no enforcement power over member companies.
refer to most of the standards that have built the web. But there's no way of knowing. Is HTTP part of the lower-layer infrastucture? Is HTML? What about XML and CSS?
For the community to buy into RAND, W3C needs to spell out exactly which technologies are and will remain Royalty-free. Otherwise, it's open season for corporate lawyers to exploit W3C's vagueness to their companies' financial advantage.
Put another way, if RAND is intended to protect the interests of member companies while preventing bad corporate behavior, as currently written it is too vague and wishy-washy to achieve either goal.
Our other problem with RAND, and it's a subjective one, is that the timing stinks. The W3C seems not to have noticed that New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania were brutally attacked on 11 September by an enemy or enemies who chose not to take "credit" for their acts of war.
W3C, pull your heads out of your labs. The entire world is on tenterhooks, praying for peace and security while preparing for global devastation. This is hardly the time to expect web users and developers to contribute intelligently to the discussion of vaguely-worded documents with potentially far-reaching consequences. By all standards
of decency, W3C should have put RAND on the shelf.
Information architecture as politics: Why does Yahoo encourage racist groups?
at Design for Community.
3 October 2001
In response to the RAND
patent policy mess
, Dave Winer of Scripting News
has launched a mailing list
"for a discussion among W3C members and independent developers who want to work on new formats and protocols with a simple rule that all participants disclaim any patents in the areas that the W3C is working."
: "The W3C cannot prevent others from developing or using restricted standards, but it should not lend its name to them.Therefore, the W3C should adopt a policy that all important standards must have free patent licenses (and thus allow free software)."
2 October 2001
More patent nonsense from the recent past: ZDNet's Fighting Back for Web Standards
documents the W3C's fight against Intermind Corp., who helped develop the P3P standard and then claimed to hold a copyright on it. (W3C won.)
From 1999: MS Wins Patent for Web Standard
(Wired News) and Who Owns the Patent to Style Sheets
(Webreview) cover Microsoft's patent on CSS and the WaSP's challenge
to that patent.
Microsoft's 1999 legal troubles soon eclipsed this controversy, and Microsoft continues to hold a patent on CSS. Makes you feel all warm inside, doesn't it? See also Patents on Web Standards
[1pm | 10 am]
In response to worldwide developer protest
, W3C has extended the review period
on its ill-conceived Patent Policy
draft. More at webstandards.org
. See also Scripting News
for insightful comments on W3C's seeming willingness to change from an impartial web standards body to a defender of corporate patents.
Elsewhere, Ben Henick calls upon
the W3C to can its Patent Policy "until a reasonable cross-section of those involved with the web ... has had a 'good faith' opportunity to make an honest contribution to its implementation."
1 October 2001
WaSP to W3C: Extend the Deadline!
You may have to pay royalties to use web standards like CSS and XML if a proposed W3C Patent Policy
goes into effect. The W3C announced
this disastrous idea in August
with so little fanfare that nobody noticed. The W3C homepage
makes no mention of the proposal or of yesterday's discussion cutoff date. Oddly enough, many people spent yesterday praying.
The web's openness as a platform is the reason it grew. The web facilitates international communication, collaboration, and trade. As such it is a tool of peace.
Shame on you, W3C, for trying to slip this past us while the world's attention is focused on the specter of global war. At the very least, extend your deadline so we have time to read, evaluate, and comment on such a fundamental change in the world's only open mass medium.
At New Breed Librarian: "This piece was to have been a collection of interviews of children. But the Saturday before the interviews, two passenger airplanes hit the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center." —Carrie Bickner
on life in New York after 11 September.
29 September 2001
My Glamorous Life
No. 60: A Ripple from the Storm
27 September 2001
In Issue 121
of A List Apart
, For People Who Make Websites: HOW TO READ (W3C SPECS)
. Although they appear maddeningly incomprehensible at first, W3C specifications are actually great sources of information, once you understand their secrets. Learn how to read the specs in this well-crafted tutorial from ALA stalwart J. David Eisenberg.
Longtime readers may note that this is the first issue of ALA in nearly a month.
“Odd and indeed disgusting as it is to find oneself writing that there is no alternative to war (and knowing full well how filthy and degrading that war will be), I find myself nonetheless with nothing else to suggest. Modernity, newly vulnerable, is, for all its faults, infinitely preferable to fascism. And that, I fear, is the choice that confronts us.”—David Rieff, There Is No Alternative To War
Taking a short breather from the endless heartbreak, below are a few good links that have nothing to do with terrorism, war, or mass murder:
Joe Gillespie, typographer to the stars, has released MiniMono
, a set of monospaced, TrueType fonts for screen designers. The series is based on Joe's popular MINI 7 font (used everywhere, including the zeldman.com menu bar above). Characters align horizontally and vertically on a 7 x 7 pixel grid, allowing you to switch between sets for complex yet highly legible type treatments.
Macromedia's Web Site Production Management Techniques
provides great tips on project (and client) management. Which isn't surprising, considering most of the content is by Kelly Goto
, co-author of the superb Web Redesign: Workflow That Works
This month's issue of Digital Web
Magazine is all about designing and measuring "user experience," and features tutorials and articles by the likes of Ben Henick, Christopher Schmitt, and Jesse Nieminen. Digital Web is an independent, non-commercial publication for web designers.
, producer of fine desktop icons for Mac users, has released World of Copland 6
, containing over 50 pre-OS X freeware icons. "The set contains all new Mac hardware, hand-held devices, folders, everyday objects and more." It won't make the world safer, kinder, or more just, but it may bring a little joy to your desktop.
Mail keeps pouring in from around the world. We're grateful for it and are doing our best to reply, though our best is none too good.