Standards can be a Royal PITA and every developer and hacker knows that. But for users they’re the only way not to go crazy. Web standards give users the possibility to connect to the Internet from any device and blog, check email, get and make information. The debate is heating up on top of the Opera-vs-Microsoft complaint. A nice summary is: Is the Sacred Cow of Web Standards Headed for the Slaughterhouse?

There’s a movement afoot in the web development community that says it’s time to move beyond standards and take the web to a new levels. Unhappy with the pace of innovation at the W3C, many developers are calling on browser manufacturers to go beyond supporting official W3C specifications and develop tools to support new features.

I understand hackers and their frustration, but we must be aware that power in the digital domain is mainly in hackers and developers, users are at their mercy. But powers must be balanced and at the moment I see the W3C as the only organization that can still balance freedom for hackers to innovate with users’ freedom of choice. I wouldn’t trade my freedom as a user with that of developers to push proprietary tools like Flash or Silverlight and patented formats.

Here we are again with the European Commission being asked by a competitor to remind Microsoft that competition doesn’t mean abuse of dominant position. I have a sense of deja-vu. Opera Software has asked the EC to investigate if Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by tying its browser, Internet Explorer, to the Windows operating system and by hindering interoperability by not following accepted Web standards.

As in the past antitrust case, won by the EC, there are two parts: one is the bundling IE with Windows and the other is the interoperability issue. As before, the bundling issue is less important because the real problem is interoperability, a word that Microsoft has always interpreted in a monopolist way: I do whatever I please, and I set ‘industry standards’ by myself convincing clients and partners to either follow me or be squashed.

There is little doubt that Internet Explorer doesn’t support W3C standards well as Safari/WebKit, Firefox and Opera do, but nonetheless many web application prefer to support the non-standard browser because of IE has 80% market share. So, the question whether Opera is right to complain to the antitrust authority is a clear yes. Opera made a tactical move to pressure the dominant gorilla and at the same time inform the public about the interoperability issue. If Opera really cares about interoperability it should also support the W3C to keep its power and resist against Nokia’s proposition to remove referent to patent-unencumbered OGG format from HTML5.

Update: Microsoft informed that internal builds of IE8 pass the ACID2 test

Ho l’impressione che Stephan Wenger di Nokia voglia dare una spallata al WorldWideWeb Consortium (W3C) impegnato nella definizione del prossimo standard HTML5. Teniamo a mente che tra tutti gli enti di standardizzazione, W3C è l’unico a prevedere in una policy esplicita che eventuali brevetti negli standard devono essere rilasciati dai titolari con licenze royalty-free e perpetue.

Il paper segnalatomi dal prof. Fuggetta mi sembra quasi un colpo di rovescio per aggirare questa policy anti-brevetti, dato che Nokia è una di quelle pochissime aziende europee favorevoli ai brevetti sul software. Fa bene invece il W3C a resistere a questo ennesimo attacco della lobby pro-brevetti. Certo OGG Theora non è il formato tecnicamente migliore, la gestione del formato è criticabile, ma è il migliore disponibile. Mi auguro che questo confronto con il W3C serva a far discutere ancora sulle idiozie dei brevetti sugli algoritmi MPEG.

Se ne parla su vari blog e anche sul forum del palmare (parzialmente basato su software libero) Nokia. È possibile seguire la discussione nella mailing list pubblica del W3C.