What I meant (class 2)


I completely blew my explanation of HTML 5, because I didn’t leave myself enough time. The handout I distributed at the beginning of class goes over the dreary details if you care about them, but I want to at least try to clarify why I brought it up at all. (Blogs mean never having to say you’re sorry?)

I wanted to give an example of answering the question “What is the Web?” So, let’s answer by saying, “The Web is a standard.” My plan then was to compare HTML to the Dublin Core; thankfully I didn’t try to get <u>that</u> into the last few minutes, too. Anyway, the Dublin Core is a standard for online documents that includes fields for author, language, and publisher, all of which are lacking in HTML. The proposed new version of HTML (HTML 5) makes a different set of decisions about what elements to include. My point was supposed to be that if the Web is a standard, that standard consists of decisions based upon anticipated uses…which is exactly what the End to End principle says we should <u>avoid</u> in network design. That’s not a criticism or a contradiction. In fact, standards always require us to make such decisions, based on anticipated and desired uses. Even the Internet’s design overall assumes that it’s good to pass information openly, freely, and in mass quantities.

But I jumped so far into the weeds of HTML 5, and tried to say too much too quickly, that there was no possibility that I communicated any of that. Sorry!

I hope the larger point of the session was clear, however. I’d say it’s something like this: We’re not going to be able to define the “it” of the course too clearly, but that’s fine. The Web is deep and important enough to resist easy definition, and there’s no reason why we should rule out of discussion areas of the Net based merely upon their technical protocols. Further, there are many useful ways of taking the Web: As standard, medium, social phenomenon, market, sphere, technical infrastructure, new public space, etc. These ways themselves stand in complex relations, each raising its own set of questions and issues. Since it’s not going to be a neat and tidy topic, we will do well to pay attention to how we’re taking the Web as we proceed with our discussions…

1 Comment

  1. AJ Cann

    January 30, 2008 @ 12:12 pm


    All these competing web “standards” are taxonomies, formally agreed in minute detail after years of wrangling by international panels. As such, they are always going to be lagging behind web users, whereas a folksonomy which allows users to generate formats on the fly is the only way we’re ever going to be able to keep up with what users want to do online.
    So all we have to do now is figure out how to defeat the malicious uses such a completely flexible user-generated system could be put to!