Going Off Web Standards

As my life gets more complicated, I sometimes have to accept the need to withdraw my attention from hobbies and interests that I don't have time for any more. Such sacrifices are not always easy to make, but the one I made today after a review of my email backlog was all too easy: web standards.

I should say at this point that I am a passionate supporter of web standards as a principle, and although I haven't been working on the web long enough to remember the browser wars first hand, I'm well aware of how much work went into getting us where we are today, where the web is truly ubiquitous and many wonderful things are possible in the browser and across browsers.

But the real world of following, understanding and trying to participate in web standards today is deeply unappealing for someone like me. I want to keep up with what's going on and I want to help where I can, but I have no taste for all the nonsense that comes with it.

My enthusiasm for web standards peaked a few years ago when the responsive images movement started; I wrote blog posts, pitched in on the mailing list and joined the community group as it was formed. Then, when srcset was suddenly specced by the WHATWG, both sides got very cross with each other and had a big, unproductive argument in which nobody behaved very well. Since then, I've grown weary of all the bickering in the web standards community.

The WHATWG (by which we essentially mean Ian Hickson), whilst commendable for its phenomenal output over the past several years, sometimes makes highly dubious decisions and then stubbornly sticks to them despite widespread, impassioned dissent. Members of the W3C rush to point these incidents out with no small degree of snark, apparently forgetting how thoroughly they failed the web for years with their XHTML2 project.

Now, the WHATWG is lambasting the W3C for copying its work, and people from both sides seem to spend their days taking potshots at each other on Twitter, blogs and mailing lists. I've had enough of all this, so I'm just removing it from my timelines, feeds and inboxes.

For now, I won't be missing out on new things I can do on the web; the major browser vendors except Apple all employ great people to write articles and give presentations about new standards, and these people also provide some means of developer sentiment feeding back into the standards process.

But I can't be the only developer going off web standards, and in the end it will mostly hurt the users.