The Browser Wars 2: The Empire Strikes Back
Both Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 are now out, and the browser wars have started again. More friendly than ever before, the new browser war is great news for the users and even better news web developers who had to live with the countless bugs of Internet Explorer 6. Not that Firefox is bug free though, it took them three years to fix what was a show stopper on the Mac. BTW., if you ever wanted to do me a favor, please vote for these five open Firefox bugs: 293581, 305859, 276431, 231179 and 272288.
Renesis, the (maybe too) promising SVG viewer is still alive and under heavy development. When their parent company lost interest in SVG, most of the Renesis developers have gone outside and formed a new company – Emia Systems – located in Regensburg, Germany. They have since then bought the rights and everything on Renesis from their previous parent company.
I expect it will take a long time before it is officially released, especially on platforms other than Windows (it’s .NET), but after Adobe buying Macromedia, this is probably our only chance to finally have a solid, multi-platform, multi-browser SVG plugin. And they might even make the player open source.
STIX Fonts: Always Coming Soon
The STIX Fonts project is aimed at creating a free font to cover an important part of Unicode — i.e. a free pan-unicode font. Since the project was started more than ten year ago it was always “coming soon”, but this time it really looks like they have almost done it. A beta test is expected to take place during the next months.
You might wonder why is this so important, when commercial pan-unicode fonts like Microsoft’s Arial Unicode have existed for years. Well, the commercial part in the last statement tells it all. The only free enough (shareware) pan-unicode font that covers all mathematical symbols is Code2000. And while Code2000 can display these symbols reasonably well, the modest 5$ license fee is only for supporting James Kass, it’s generous creator, and Code2000 is overall an astonishing achievement with its more than 60000 glyphs, there is a small problem. The focus with Code2000 was on coverage rather than high quality, and the STIX Fonts would cover exactly that, while being totally free for everybody.
Finally, you might also wonder why do I care about this. Quite simple, the STIX Fonts would cover all symbols needed to draw LaTeX and MathML formulae for sMArTH, our open source online equation editor.
HTML Back from the Grave
The W3C recently decided to restart work on HTML and “incrementally evolve it” to a point where it’s easier and logical for everybody to transition to XHTML. This means that the transition from HTML to XHTML is not going well at all, with tools and developers alike producing bad mark-up (“tag soup”). It also means that the voices of the people supporting WHATWG were finally heard, which is of course a good thing (on the other hand this does not make WHATWG right when promoting “HTML5″ instead of XHTML), and the new developments seem to be positive.
However, in my opinion, in their quest to “evolve” their standards, the W3C could become an obstacle for their adoption. It seems evident that it is impossible to make something a true standard (adopted by the wide majority), when you make it a moving target at the same time. So maybe the W3C should concentrate on making higher quality standards for which they gather more community support before releasing, rather than releasing poor standards often, and fixing things that are not really broken. “Release early, release often!” is good practice for (open source) developers, not for standard bodies. Multiple incompatible versions are already a problem for HTML, so do we really need more? And do they really expect that continuing support for HTML won’t harm the adoption of XHTML?
So what might have been an alternative solution? Now I really don’t know any more. When I first posted this I thought that deprecating HTML and XHTML Transitional entirely (and maybe removing the validators for them, they are poor anyway) in favor of XHTML would have been an alternative. Then whoever would still want to publish “tag soup” online would not adhere to any standard, and whoever wants to render “tag soup” in a browser would not adhere to any standard — this is the current situation anyway, and it’s quite unlikely to change. However, maybe this could have been an incentive for everybody (web developers, web publishing software developers and web browser developers) to go away from “tag soup” and towards something more “meaningful”. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think that they can built their semantic wet dreams by having “tag soup” as a foundation. But well, who cares about their semantic dreams anyway? At least not me. Not any more.
[Edited the last paragraph: 2006-10-31]