WaSP:Playing by Redmond’s Rules

WaSP – The Webs Standards Project has been supposedly fighting for Web standards from the early 1990s. Now why do I say supposedly. Well for the Great Winter that was no updates to the IE browser and no updates in the use of Web Standards in Microsoft’s other Web based applications and tools like Visual Studio or Biztalk, WaSP was absolutely ineffective in getting any changes in Microsoft’s behavior:
1)For 7 years Microsoft left IE unchanged. Only the growing market share of FireFox and Safari, the emergence of AJAX based Web 2.0 apps and the success of Google with those same Web 2.0 technologies forced Redmond’s hand. And one can safely say that WaSP had nothing to do with Microsofts change in behavior- no campaigns, no blogs pointing the lack of IE updates and Web standards support, no concerted plan or process for asking why Microsoft was remiss on meeting W3C and other Web standards it had pledged to implement;
2)For 7 years, Web vendors like Adobe, Macromedia, HTMLKit, Net Fusion, and others have improved their Web tools ability to screen for and/or enforce various levels of Web Standards while Visual Studio, Front page, and the new Expression Suite still do not come close to offering these services in a complete and comprehensive way. Any campaign by WaSP to get similar efforts from Microsoft … No;
3)For several years WaSP has been putting out so called “ACID Tests” of browsers compliance with Web Standards. The problem is that these “ACID Tests” fall far short of being comprehensive  and set up a false sense of confidence – IE currently passes the WaSP 2 “ACID Tests” while barely reaching 50% of the W3C [the major Web standards makers] comprehensive CSS tests.
4)For 7 years Microsoft has retained proprietary extensions to JavaScript, DOM, and CSS implementations and other non-compliant Web tools , APIs and languages. Now, IE7 and other Redmond developers complain that they have been given mandates by nameless top Microsoft managers “not to break the browser experience and behavior” by adopting new standards(Office 2007 users certainly wish that applied to their UI as well) . So the CSS, JavaScript, and other standards that Microsoft is remiss on are subject to new “dont break the experience” constraints not applicable in the case of the new IE7 UI. WaSP members appear to be rolling over on this need.

Now why raise this point – since I have previously argued that WaSP has been the Flak Catchers and Red Herrings for Redmond. Because Redmond is again “using” WASP to establish that Microsofts Web developers are making reasonable attempts to comply with W3C and other Web standards when in fact they are working mightily to enforce their own standards and not giving an inch on generally accepted Web standards.

Redmond realizes that the new blended Web, Desktop, and Mobile model is now carrying the day – GUI Integration, SaaS and SOA put its monopoly Windows model at increased risk. Redmond needs to compete with technology that it has tried to sabotage: Linux with ever increasing waves of FUD, Web 2.0 with thwarted Web standards, Java any OS platform with its polluted JVM and horrific IE Java plugin install (its 4 torturous steps in IE) plus Flashs any GUI platform with Redmonds belated VISTA and SilverLight joint venture.

Even with SilverLight we are seeing Redmond ignore and not build on prior web standards and/or work such as XUL, SVG, and SMIL. Worse we are getting what can only be described as wormtongue promises of cross OS platform support for SilverLight on Mac and Linux. For example , Microsoft is only behind the design of SilverLight and not doing the implementation on Linux. Consider that not Microsoft but Novell will implement SilverLight on Linux – and see what Miguel deIcaza, Mono chief, has to say about implementing SilverLight(about halfway down here – not a ringing endorsment of his new Mono tasks).

Microsoft needs to win over developers to this new direction – less Smart Clients keyed on Windows PC – instead mixed and missed metaphors=>a browser with missed compliance, some standards compliance but also continued highly proprietary. SilverLight with frankly dubious commitment to cross browser and cross OS platform support Web.

So Redmond trots out WaSP to feign good intentions. WaSP is being used as their Red Herring – see how hard yet progressively we are negotiating with the WaSP people over JavaScript. Meanwhile, WaSP has failed yet again to deliver key JavaScript issues like support in JScript for E4X(its missing from IE7; no commitment in IE8 which is 18 months away), no DOM rationalizations beyond possibly events, and is silent about SVG(which with E4X is a key competitive advantage in Firefox and Safari browsers). Now of course this leaves major W3C and Web standards issues such as CSS 1 & 2 bug and compliance fixes, Canvas support, CSS3 support, JPEG2000 and PNG adoption, etc etc completely off the table. Having played the Playing with WASP- “gee we are working so hard to meet standards” card, Microsoft then advances its proprietary agenda.

A prime example has been at the last two Mix conferences . At Mix06 it was IE7 – we are going to upgrade IE7 finally and improve implementation of some web standards – but grudgingly. Meantime we are just going to ignore JavaScript 4, E4X, SVG, XForms, JPEG2000, DOM rationalization and try to foist on developers our substitutes. Mix07 was more of the same- this time promoting SilverLight and the new DLR as a replacement for Flash while ignoring SVG, XUL, and JavaScript 4 as preceding and in some clear respects superior technology to their own.

If you are a Web 2.0 developer or working in RIA and rich media – why do you want to let a tired old “it must run best in PC Windows” set of monopolists rule the roost? You have been doing the hard work and pioneering while they have been thwarting your efforts on the Web with IE non-compliance and decidedly proprietary rich media solutions. Dont let false pretenders like WaSP sell your needs short. You set the rules. Demand better – much, much better of Microsoft.

(c)JBSurveyer 2007 If you liked this, let others know:
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