Re: Industry Standard's Net 21

Robert S. Thau (
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 16:04:20 -0400 (EDT)

Mark Day writes:

> I also went "what the #@%&?" when I saw Marc Andreesen as runner-up to
> TimBL in the category of "Most influential standard-bearer." The longer
> explanation of the category is "the person most instrumental in
> establishing the Net's conceptual framework." Without even thinking hard, I
> can come up with a dozen people who are better candidates for runner-up.
> Mercifully, the associated article is entirely about Tim. I don't think I
> want to know what the Standard thinks Marc's "conceptual framework" is.
> The <blink> tag, perhaps?

The key words are "influential in establishing" and "standard".
Both phrases can mean more than one thing (viz. RealAudio, which is
the "standard" for streaming media delivery despite the absence of any
public spec which would allow anyone to make an interoperable server,
last I checked, or Microsoft Word, a "standard" document format in
many environments), and a lot of bad blood has stemmed from the

Whether you like marca's attitude towards formal standards or standard
processes, or to having his company's software respect the letter of
such laws as there were (and let me be plain --- I don't), he still
was instrumental in getting HTML and HTTP *deployed*, in whatever
form, even if you think he debased them somewhat in the process.

(Also, I suspect his attitude was somewhat colored by a justifiable
distaste for the goings-on in the IETF HTML working group, which had
become dominated by SGML advocates who didn't seem to understand or
care about the needs of the HTML installed base --- a divergence which
became so pathological that the IESG eventually pulled the plug. You
can say that Netscapisms were tasteless, and I agree. You can say
that the right response to this situation would have been to try to
set up a standards process without the bad dynamics. Ditto. But to
say these things without acknowledging that the only HTML standards
process running at the time was in a pathological state, and that
trying to set up a rival process would have, at least in the short
term, angered formal standards advocates even more than what Netscape
actually did, is, in my view, to seriously distort the picture of
events, and to paint Netscape and Marca personally as more of a
villain than they deserve).