The Markup Wars
© 2003 Jamie Zawinski <jwz@jwz.org>


I have a question. Or really, some ridicule cunningly disguised as a question.

I seem to recall that the whole W3C peanut gallery, back when we released the Antichrist, I mean Netscape, totally lost their shit because HTML was supposed to be about MARKUP NOT PRESENTATION DAMMIT, and it was Fundamentally Wrong for people to do presentationy things in HTML: people should use <SHOUT> instead of <B> or whatever. And web page authors had better not complain if browser A laid things out differently than browser B, because all those tags are optional anyway dammit, and nobody made you any promises about how space would be allocated to table cells.

So, that's easy to understand. It's a consistent viewpoint, and while I don't agree that it's the most useful approach, it at least makes some sense.

And today, it's all about CSS. They gave up on trying to get people to use HTML the ``right'' way, and they invented this new meta-language for describing presentation. Perhaps it was an attempt at misdirection: ``hey, over here! Shiny! Use this instead of abusing <TABLE>! Free beer!''

So now we have this bizarre situation where the anal-retentive W3C crowd (who are now and always have been slaves to the de jure standards, regardless of what reality and the de facto standards are) have converged with the equally anal-retentive (yet philosophically diametrical) ``designer'' contingent (who are now and always have been trying to fit web design into the pigeonhole of the kind of paper-based print-layout design they learned in art school.)

It used to be we had two groups:

And today we've got just the one group, and their battle cry seems to be:

This is, of course, a complete about-face. It's really quite bizarre. I must have slept through the point when the transition occurred. Either that or it happened in almost complete silence: I would have expected that kind of coup to have left behind rivers of blood and mountains of the dead.


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