About the W3C’s New Patent Policy which is getting so much attention these days…

About the W3C’s New Patent Policy which is getting so much attention these days.

I think you’re right. At some point several years ago a whole battery of folks were mad enough about the mess of standards support that we formed the Web Standards Project. I think that that kind of grassroots development was something that was listened to because dammit, we don’t want to have to write MS-HTML, Nescape-HTML, Opera-HTML, Whatever-HTML, etc – we’d much prefer for the browser makers to support a core functionality that we can use – and the w3c Recommendations are a great starting point. My hope is, that they will continued to me.

In my estimation, companies are free to continue making proprietary extensions to html and css (page transitions, <blink>, <marquee>, scrollbar-face-color, <spacer>, etc), and I’m completely free to ignore them, or use them if see fit. But the web as a platform makes the best sense when there are standards that anyone who wants to play can use somehow.

It occurs to me that the W3C has earned a reputation for being the bearer of recommendations that anyone can use, no questions asked. the way I understand it, this policy will open the door for specs which not everyone can use. There are other standards bodies for that, why have the W3C take that on? To take some examples of proprietary formats folks use regularly, but which are not part of the W3C – GIF, Quicktime, RealMedia, Flash, PDF, Windows Media. These are doing fine without the help of the W3C, why open the door.

I will admit, that despite having read lots of the discussion here, on w3c.org, in the register, etc, I still don’t have a firm grasp on the potential impacts.

Given that, my words carry less weight – but I can say that if the new change allows for me to one day browse to w3.org and find an interesting new file format or protocol – and I then find that I can’t write software that uses it without paying some fee or agreeing to some license agreement which allows some patent holder to withdraw the standard at will, I think the w3c will have failed in its’ mission to provide a web:

“to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.”

If the W3C can reconcile the new policy with this stated goal, then it’s win-win for us all. If they cannot, our web, the web of the individual, loses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.