Relevancy Of W3C In Question: Microsoft, Google, Apple And Mozilla Stop DOM 4.1 In Its Tracks

Image: Remixed from W3C logos

If one of the big tech companies says you're wrong, you might shrug it off. But when four of them — Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla — call you out, that's when you're in real trouble. This is the situation the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) found itself in after pulling some shenanigans with the next version of the Document Object Model (DOM).

Language standards such as HTML and CSS are in a much, much better place than they once were, thanks in part to cooperation between organisations such as the W3C and browser vendors.

So, when the W3C decided to fork the WHATWG DOM specification, label it as DOM 4.1 and mark it as a release candidate, violating charters and bypassing formal processes, a number of representatives from Microsoft, Apple, Google and Mozilla kicked up a stink.

It's a complicated issue, but the formal objections filed by the aforementioned companies do a good job of explaining it.

Here's part of Mozilla's objection, written by engineer L. David Baron:

...the W3C DOM specification is a fork of the WHATWG DOM specification. The active focus of discussion of issues in the specification, and maintenance of the specification, is at the WHATWG rather than at the W3C. But the W3C has forked the specification without documenting the rationale behind having a fork (aside from general reasons in the Web Platform WG Charter, none of which apply to this CR transition).

But the existence of the fork, and the fact that the fork is built around a structure that purports to be a forum for discussion and maintenance of the specification, leads to confusion, as the W3C confuses some portion of newcomers to the community into believing that effort working on the specification is best spent on the fork rather than on the original. If this were done with a clear statement that the document is a fork (and what it is forked from) and a statement of how the W3C's goals differ from those of WHATWG, this would be more understandable.

But instead it appears to be done based on a presumption that W3C is the legitimate forum, and therefore that newcomers are owed no explanation of the origin of the document or the rationale for focusing the efforts of those who stumble across the W3C DOM specification in a way that those efforts are less likely to be effective.

Next is a list of violations and failures on W3C's part from Apple's objection, written by WebKit engineer Maciej Stachowiak:

Violation of the Web Platform Working Group charter Decision Policy ... Violation of the W3C Process ... Violation of the Open Stand Principles ... Failure to state CR exit criteria.

And, most damning of all:

Since no features are identified as At Risk, the current document cannot possibly exit [Candidate Recommendation], since no browser engine intends to implement it.

Clearly, if none of the major browsers pay attention to it, it's not much of a standard.

Fortunately, it appears W3C isn't completely off its gourd. In a statement to The Register's Thomas Claburn, a W3C spokesperson stated the organisation is "studying" the objections and is "currently debating" the candidate recommendation.

Let's see how that turns out.

W3C DOM Core specification [GitHub, via The Register]


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