The new membership of the W3C’s Technical Architecture Group (TAG), and some of the recent discussions on the TAG list about polyglot markup, have made me think about what the TAG should stand for and the role the TAG should play.
Fundamentally, the web is for everyone, whatever gender, whatever race, whatever sexual orientation, whatever visual or mental ability and so on. The web community should fight to keep the web open to all. And it should try to be a community that is open to all.
With same-sex marriages shortly being voted on by the UK Parliament, I have been struck, reading the recent threads about polyglot, how similar the arguments against polyglot seem to those used against homosexuality:
By this comparison, those who argue that polyglot must be the only output anyone generates also has an analogy: someone arguing that all churches must marry only gay people.
I want the web community to be a fair and good society. To me the question about whether there should be a polyglot Recommendation is just the latest example of a need to ensure that our community is equitable.
Just as in wider society, we need to find compromises that balance the needs and desires of different constituencies. We need to balance the rights that everyone has to code as they wish against the rights that everyone has to have a web that works. We need to make sure that the quiet voices are heard, and support the equal rights of those who tread the less worn paths.
When there are conflicts between technologies, developers necessarily think of them in terms of which they would use, given their experience, expertise, environment and so on. I think the TAG needs to judge technologies in a different way. We have to consider the extent to which standardising their use disrupts the fabric of the web and prevents others from operating as they wish to. And, because we want a web that is fair and open and free, if there is no or minimal risk to the fabric of the web, and it does not overly constrain how others act, I believe we should err on the side of supporting diversity.
Making and expressing these judgements is just one of the things that I hope the newly formed TAG will manage to do better.