Brian Kardell: Okay. I'm Brian Kardell from Igalia and this is part four in a series on web ecosystem health, a place for us to talk about complex and nuanced, very underdiscussed things about the web and the web platform, web standards, how we manage to keep them healthy as they are and hopefully improve their status instead of its decline. The fact that it is actually rather complicated, we tend to simplify it into how many rendering engines do we have. There's a lot more to it than that. I've been inviting different people on to talk to me from different backgrounds and different perspectives, and I'm really pleased to have another guest here today. Dan, do you want to introduce yourself?
Dan Appelquist: Hi, Brian. Thanks for asking me to come on and talk to you about this stuff. It's a very interesting topic. My name's Dan Appelquist. I work for Samsung. I work with the web developer advocacy group. That's part of Samsung Internet. I should probably introduce that Samsung Internet is a very widely-used browser in the Android ecosystem. It's the browser that ships with Samsung phones. It is a Chromium-based browser. Samsung, unlike other OEMs, is an organization that contributes back into Chromium, and we do an awful lot of contribution back into open standards as well. My team is a team that does developer outreach and developer advocacy work. As part of that work, we also do standards. We consider the standards work to be part of our work, and we are part of the engineering group for Samsung Internet.Personally, I'm somebody who has been involved in the web standards world for a lot of years, probably the early 2000s is when I got involved in W3C initially. I've been a representative to W3C for a number of different companies, including Vodafone and Telefónica at various times in my career. Going back a little bit further in time, I started a company that was working on web publishing. This was back in mid-90s when a lot of people didn't know what the web was, so I've grown up with the web. That was maybe my second job, and that company was doing a lot of work with scientific, technical medical publishers, so our big claim to fame was that we put the journal Nature online.I subsequently, then, went to go work for some dot-com companies. In particular, I worked for TheStreet.com in New York. Then at the end of the last century, they sent me to London to be CTO for TheStreet.co.uk, which was going to be the UK division of TheStreet.com. Subsequent to that, we had the dot-com bust, and I got stranded over here in London, so I've been living in London with my family for 20 years now. That has given me a very interesting international perspective as well, being a US citizen, US person, and now a dual national. I've done a lot of work with European organizations and also with Asian, obviously, with Samsung. This gives me a little bit of, I think, an interesting perspective to bring from a global point of view as well as from a-
Brian Kardell: There are some other things in here that also give you an interesting perspective, Dan. We've known each other for a long time, and in that story that you just told, the companies that you're associated with, they always were involved in the web somehow, but also they had a connection to a web engine.
Dan Appelquist: Yeah. I did a lot of work. A lot of the work that I've been doing, Samsung, at least initially, was setting out our [inaudible 00:03:55] and also making clear that we're a different browser, even though we're Chromium-based and are part of the Chromium ecosystem, we also take our own decisions. We make our own decisions about features, and we have our own opinions about things. I should also say that in my work in standards, one of the things that I've been doing for the past, I guess, 2013, is co-chairing something called the Technical Architecture Group in W3C, which is something I've been very privileged to have been pointed by Tim Berners-Lee to do. That has been, I think we've taken that group through a renaissance that you were involved, Brian, and made it a lot more relevant, I think, to the modern web or to what most people think of as a review group, as a design authority, and as a group that plays a very positive role in the ongoing development of new specs, new standards, and the way that new technologies are brought. That's something that I definitely-
Brian Kardell: If you're not familiar with the W3C Technical Architecture Group or TAG, as it's referred to.
Dan Appelquist: TAG.
Brian Kardell: Is one of two elected bodies in the W3C. It's a very small number of people, mostly elected people, some appointed people as well. Those people are appointed, historically, by Tim Berners-Lee. It is tasked with overviewing the broad vision in architecture and health of the web for a very long time. Not a year, not next year, not in the next two or three years, but how does this look in 50 years, which is actually a very difficult thing. Historically, when it was formed, there was a lot of excitement about it, but it receded into the background for a while. I think since Dan, you have been a co-chair, there have been a lot of really positive developments. It is no longer that way. It is engaged.It is active, and I think one of the most positive things is really intangible here, which is that you go and talk to people. I think that the value in that is really, really important. I know that you've had a number of times when the whole TAG or parts of TAG have organized meetups around your meetings.
Dan Appelquist: Yeah. Obviously, we're not doing that now, but in general, when we have been meeting, we took the opportunity to engage with the web developer community. In some cases, we ran evening events. In some cases, we ran all-day workshops where we had additional people from the web community, the web standards community. I have a kind of general feeling that web standards are better when there's more engagement between the web standards and the general web developer, the people who are using it.
Brian Kardell: I think, absolutely. I think that sort of thing helps the discourse, which I think you can't actually overstate the value of somehow being able to act together as a very diverse community that we are. The people that use the web is everybody. Frequently, we have our own bubble. One of the things that I think is kind of interesting here is, I did a poll recently about the speed of innovation on the web. This actually came from my developer advocacy. I talk to a lot of developers, and I hear two sets of feedback that are dramatically at odds. One is that things are moving way too fast, and the other is, things seem to have stopped. What happened? The web used to move, and now it just stopped. Those two positions, can they coexist? What do people think? I never really have.
Dan Appelquist: It has to do with frame of reference.
Brian Kardell: My take is it's complicated. In some areas, we're moving quite fast, and in other areas, there are things that we would really like to see move, but they just seem to not move so fast.
Dan Appelquist: Right.
Brian Kardell: I like to talk about that, because frequently, they are moving. The results were about a fifth of people thought it's way too fast, and about a fifth of the people thought it's way too slow, and everybody else said it's about right or it's complicated.
Dan Appelquist: I think that this is a kind of indication that there is a silent majority here. There are a lot of people who hold extreme views, like the web will never be useful to me until I have this technology incorporated into it, and until then, you can forget it. Then people who are like, the web will cease being the web if you keep adding new technologies and new APIs into it. Then we'll lose its essential quality of webbiness, and so I'm not interested. I think most people are on neither side of that spectrum. I think the thing that your poll and the results of your poll point out is that most people are generally okay with the pace of innovation. I think we actually are living through a web renaissance right now.I think there's never been a time when there has been more focus and energy on new technologies bringing new ideas, new thoughts, new APIs and new approaches to the web, both from a design API perspective and performance point of view, and how that web platform manifests itself on different types of devices and different modalities of input and output. All that stuff, it's very exciting to be part of the web community right now. I guess I'm also looking at it from the perspective, my long-term point of view. I saw us live through the web dark ages when IE6 was the only browser that anybody cared about and dramatically different, where we're living now, environment. I think it's good for web developer and it's good for web users.
Brian Kardell: The dark ages that you mention, I think a lot of people on the web today, they didn't live through those, so for some perspective, Microsoft Internet Explorer won the web somewhere upwards of 95% of market share. The W3C, at the same time, was into a second-system effect. They were looking for the next web that wasn't an evolution of the current web. It was the way we'll do it right because we got a lot wrong. In typical second-system effect, it was a real overshoot, but because of that, Microsoft dismissed the IE team. The one web browser that was used by the vast, vast, vast majority of people had nobody maintaining it, really, or trying to keep it going or keep it effective, which really just sucked the wind out of everything.
Dan Appelquist: Yeah. That is a really good, I think it is, all the energy was gone from the web. It took the development of Firefox and the deployment of Firefox to really re-ignite that. I think that is a lesson that I certainly draw from history. I also am reluctant to apply that lesson too directly to our current situation. I think a lot of people love to say things like, 'XYZ is the new Internet Explorer. Google Chrome is the new Internet Explorer. No, Safari is the new Internet Explorer.' I guess with the meaning being, who is holding back innovation on the web? Who is causing our web developers the most headaches? I think it is a mistake to try and directly bring history forward like that. However, I do think we can definitely learn some lessons and apply those lessons to the current environment.
Brian Kardell: The initial blog post I wrote that launched this conversation actually made a similar point, which is talking about rendering engine diversity is very incomplete as a measure. At one point in time, we might have had five rendering engines but they were dramatically less capable and they were also proprietary. Today, they're all open-source and so the birth of Mozilla from Netscape as an open-source project and KHTML as free software. Those had a really healthy impact, I think, because they not only allow companies like Samsung to get in and work on things, but they also provide a case where, as the world changes, perhaps this is something that you can actually talk to, with your long view of the web with TAG. One of the things that I've been talking about here is that if there's a lesson that you can learn from history, it should be more vague, and it should be about change is inevitable and the power structures will change and the budgets will change. The energy that a company is willing to voluntarily put can change even if that company itself is actually really behind the ideas.
Dan Appelquist: Sure.
Brian Kardell: We've seen this in the past with, IBM has had to radically change. Motorola has had to radically change. They have changed as companies in the way that they invest, and Microsoft, also. Microsoft is a very, very different company than it was back then.
Dan Appelquist: The web has to outlive all of that.
Brian Kardell: Absolutely. That's the point.
Dan Appelquist: That's one thing I'm passionate about. The web has to outlive any individual company, any individual browser, any individual engine. Who's to say what we're going to have in ten years' time?
Brian Kardell: Yeah, I think that's absolutely the case. If you look at every engine that we have right now, we have gotten, not through some special act of glorious creation, all at once, on the sixth day, something was created, but that we have gotten there through evolution. We have gotten there through evolution, so even the very early browsers were very frequently, like Netscape was a rewrite by mostly the same people who created Mosaic. At every stage, you get new people and new ideas, and you learn lessons from the past, but through KHTML, we got WebKit. Through WebKit, we got Blink, Chromium, and the ability for us to take that when, should Google ... I know this is, it is inconceivable, and yet, it will happen. At some point, Google will cease to be the Google that it is today. What happens? The open-source nature of this ensures that one or more companies can keep that alive, and take over or fork it. I think that is critically important difference between the web today and the web of the past.
Dan Appelquist: Yeah, and it keeps the web. I think one of the things, one of the words that you used to describe the web in one of your previous episodes, Brian, was the commons. I like to think about the web as the commons. The value of the web is that is the commons. The value is that it is not dominated by any one particular organization or government, and that it can, therefore, outlive any one particular organization or group or efforts, software development or contributions. It can continue to evolve as people add additional capabilities into it to meet their own needs. Those needs need to be based on user needs. That's when the web is at its best, is at its strongest, when it meets the needs of the Community with a large C that includes the developers, the engine developers, the web developers, the end users of the web and it benefits all the organizations that put time and energy into it. It certainly benefits Samsung. It benefits Google. It benefits Apple. It benefits Microsoft, but it also benefits small companies.
Brian Kardell: It benefits the restaurant down the street.
Dan Appelquist: It benefits the restaurant down the street, so yeah. Who are we building the web? Are we building the web only for, is it big web? Is it only for big web that we're building the web, or is it also for small web? The things that I think about when I think about big web are big properties like Facebook, for instance. Facebook is a huge user of the web. It's a very big stakeholder of the web, but I also think about my local barbershop. They have a website that lets me log in. I don't need to log in. I just need to go. That's one of the things I love about it, actually. I don't log in. I just go to their website. I book a slot with my barber that I like, plug in my mobile phone number, and they send me a text message and confirm my appointment and boom.Then the day of, they've got their own admin interface and they can look at who's next and stuff like that. They don't have to have somebody manning the phone to take appointments all the time, so it really benefits them. It benefits me, because I know I can book a slot exactly when I want to with the barber that I want, and it's a very simple web application and enables that small business to do the work that they do. Think about all kinds of local businesses that depend on the web in that way. I think the web is at its best when we are really thinking about small web. People like easy problems. If they can look at a big web user, I'll use Facebook again, it's easy to talk to Facebook. It's not easy to talk to [inaudible 00:17:43]. That's why I think developer engagement is so much a part of what we need to do with web standards.I remember having these discussions very early on after we rebooted the TAG with people who are familiar with the way that the old TAG worked. We would be like, 'We're going to have a developer meetup at our next TAG.' They would look at me and just, 'Why would you want to talk to developers?' Really flummoxed. To me, that completely misunderstands what the web is for. I'm glad that we got there in the end.
Brian Kardell: Yeah, I am, too. We have no idea what we're doing, in a lot of ways. We're doing it for the first time, and as you do things for the first time, you can expect mistakes. You can expect to learn and continue to do better, and I think that's a good gauge. Are we continuing to learn and do better? Are we correcting mistakes? We're halfway into the evolution of the web, current 30 years, before we specify the HTML parser. The first half of the web, the web parser was not specified. Also, there were no shared tests. Those are huge changes that happened only about halfway through. They're much, much, much better and we also work on them together. We don't just go and change something. We work on them together, because we care about interoperability, because that's key. It's really one of the things that makes the web different is that it is a standard. It's not QT or something where you can do what you want.
Dan Appelquist: It's multi-stakeholder by nature. I think that's a key part of the definition of what makes the web open. I like to talk about transparency of process, multi-stakeholder, open availability of standards, royalty-free. These are things that make the web, the foundational technologies of the web, open in that sense. That keeps them in a level playing field where you can have multiple parties speaking together. We know how things are built. I think the transparency also comes through to how you can trace exactly all of the contributions and you can know, from a technical perspective, how things are built, and also importantly from the intellectual property perspective, how things are built, so you make sure that the technology that you're using is being offered under a royalty-free license, all that kind of stuff. It's super important that we have that transparency.
Brian Kardell: A renaissance, and how do we include developers? That's a thing that is not unusual in the evolution of standards, period. All standards bodies have been learning for as long as we've had standards bodies, the flaws in the ways that they've approached problems. One of the things that's always a challenge that is not learned early enough is that when you have multi-stakeholders, you have so many people who rely on your standards that somehow engaging them early in the process is important. It's especially important because things just take a really long time.
Dan Appelquist: I've been involved in a number of different activities to try and get developers, and by developers, I mean people generally who are outside of W3C member companies. The people that W3C member companies put forward to participate in W3C activities is a very, very, very small distillation of the web developer community. It includes a lot of people who probably are not in the web developer community. I think that bringing the reality of the viewpoints of web developers into the process early can have a real benefit. Initially, we had this thing called incubation groups. That got-
Brian Kardell: It's historically new. That's what I was [inaudible 00:21:45]. These are positive developments.
Dan Appelquist: I think there are some really good examples of where community groups have incubated an idea that initially came from outside of the W3C. It came from developers. It came from people who are working for companies that weren't W3C member companies, and therefore, couldn't participate in full. It was more difficult for them to participate in full W3C working groups. It is possible for organizations that are outside of, or people that don't work for W3C member companies to participate in W3C working groups, but it's an arduous process. You need to become an invited process. This is one of those controversial topics. I'm sure some people would say, 'It's easy to become an invited expert.' It's not easy to be, okay? The point is that something like community groups, the whole point of those was to be a place where people can bring a new idea, start talking about it amongst themselves, start developing it, and then eventually bring that idea when it's more fully formed, when there is a spec, when there's something assuming drafty, that even we might have an implementation, can be brought into a full W3C community or a working group.I think one of the best examples, most recent examples of that that I have been connected to has been the immersive web community group, which was building the WebXR specification, initially the WebVR specification. That work happened initially in a community group. It incubated in that community group. Eventually, it was brought into W3C. It was brought into a full W3C working group. In that process, some organizations that were not part of W3C previously joined W3C. I think that's to the benefit of W3C, to the benefit of the W3C community. It also continues to work as a bi-mode process where new ideas are incubated within the community group that still can have very easy access from developers outside of the W3C member companies and the work of actually standardizing, bringing the more fully fleshed ideas through the standardization process happens within W3C's more formalized process within the working group.
Brian Kardell: Becoming an invited expert to, say, the CSS working group or something like that, really, it doesn't give you any special powers either, right?
Dan Appelquist: No.
Brian Kardell: The CSS working group has hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of topics, so if you're lucky, you'll get a ten- or fifteen-minute slot someday. That is not the way that developers really can organize their time and be involved in everything, and I think that some of the interesting things that have happened have happened through opening that up to lighter processes that also let us test things out much more quickly and iterate. One of the things that I think that's been really positive is polyfills, people attempting to speculative polyfill together in the community group.
Dan Appelquist: Yeah.
Brian Kardell: They don't just say, here is this vague idea, but they try to give you something that is actually mapping it to the web platform itself. One of the positive things about that is that it gets increasingly easy to say, 'I see the cow path. I can actually pave that path.' I think that is a really good thing that has happened. We have increasingly tried to get to where we meet developers where they are instead of saying, 'Come to us.'
Dan Appelquist: Be respectful of developers' time. I've had a couple of arguments with people about how getting developers engaged in standards work is futile or very difficult because developers don't have the time. Developers have day jobs. Developers get stuck onto another project and then they disappear. I think we need to learn how to meet developers halfway. This is one of the reasons why I was keen to organize developer meetups around TAG meetings was so that we could at least get, sit down with developers and get some of their attention, get some of their time, give them something back, which is access to and demystifying the process of how a web technologies are made, bring it to them so that they don't have to expend the effort to go TPAC or something like that.I think we can do that in a virtual way, too. We can encourage developers to comment on key GitHub issues, a new field being talked about for the web app manifest file. Let's get developers aware of that and maybe they have data that they can share. 'This really would work for us, because our use case is XYZ. We've found real difficulty working with web app manifest in that use case, and we would really love to have this new field.' That kind of information, that kind of insight is gold, in my experience, for web standards, because it's real developers that are working with real applications. Those applications might not be the applications that you're thinking about.When I was, I didn't mention it, but I did a stint of work for UK government digital service for a year. Some of the use cases there, some of the kinds of web applications that were being built there, are things like, I don't know, car registration or scheduling prison visits or dealing with benefits and applying for benefits. These are the kinds of use cases that really matter to people. They're very often left on the outside of the room when we're in a conversation that's being dominated by commercial partners who are really just keen on meeting the needs of commercial web applications and ad clicks and engagement metrics.
Brian Kardell: Increasingly, we have to do, meet developers, I would say more than halfway. I would say we need to make it really, really cater to them in the sense that it's true that developers don't have a lot of time. We need to go out and actively engage and lower the bar by-
Dan Appelquist: One of the things that we've been doing in the TAG, when we review other people's work, that's one of the functions of the TAG is to review new specifications as they come out, as they're being developed. We ask specification developers to write an explainer, and the explainer should be written in a way where the web developers can engage with it. It's an explaining. We often find that these explainers assume an awful lot of knowledge. They assume jump in right away, talking about this technology does XYZ. Very often, we have to reply back saying, 'Can you please just start from the beginning? What benefit does this bring users? What is the user need that this is in service of?' So that we can understand how it fits into the rest of the web platform, the point being that these explainers are not just for us. They're not for the TAG to consume. They should make it clear what the benefit of this new technology is, and who it benefits.
Brian Kardell: You don't get a full perspective of things if you don't talk to more people. I think you can see that a lot of people don't have the same perspective. They don't understand the problem the same way because they have very different backgrounds.
Dan Appelquist: They're bringing a different set of concerns and issues to the same problem space. We have a real, real problem with diversity of participation in these discussions, both from a perspective of the developers that are being engaged with and the people who are being put forward to participate by W3C member companies and by other organizations in other places like WHATWG and TC39. These are organizations that are really struggling right now and for the last few years, and are making good efforts to try and increase the diversity. I definitely mean people from marginalized, traditionally marginalized groups, people who have been marginalized in technology discussions.I mean, I will give you an anecdote of that. I am part of a group in W3C that was talking about, it's the Diversity Community Group. One of the things that we were talking about recently was, what should W3C's response be to the Black Lives Matter movement, which, by the way, is not solely a US thing. It is definitely international. I can say that from experience. Living in the UK, there's a lot of resonance of Black Lives Matter. I was on a Zoom call talking about this with a bunch of people in the W3C community, and I could see everybody's face. I can tell you that there was not a single Black person in that call. This was something that that group understood as a problem and continues to understand as a problem, and is wrestling with, trying to figure out how do we encourage W3C member companies to bring more diverse people to W3C.How do we, as a community, reach out to more people from marginalized backgrounds and communities so that we don't have this problem. It's not just a matter of ticking a box or saying that we have diversity. We actually get better stuff out of the end of it. It is the right thing to do, and we should be doing it because it's the right thing to do, first of all, but also, you get better stuff out of the end of the process by having more diverse communities engaged. The science really backs this up, and I was in another discussion recently that was also not very diverse. We were talking about some privacy-related technologies, and once again, really, I felt it was a very frustrating conversation to have, because in some cases, or I think in most cases, marginalized groups can be some of the groups that are most impacted when you have privacy failures on the web.If you are in a privileged category, you maybe don't care so much about your privacy, but if you are in a marginalized category, if you are LGBT, for instance, then you are going to care a lot about your privacy and what things you click on. To put an example out there, what Wikipedia pages you go to can be a life or death situation for you, depending on where you live in the world. That's the kind of thing that privileged, white males sitting in Silicon Valley working on a rendering engine, it's not going to be top of mind. I'm not attacking anybody, but I do think that we really need to take this seriously, and I think the big companies that are fielding people to participate in these standards efforts are not taking it seriously enough.I would like to challenge big companies who are putting a lot of people into W3C and into other standards efforts to get serious about putting more diverse people into those teams, creating career paths for people in their engineering groups so that they're prioritizing diversity in their engineering teams, prioritizing putting those diverse people who they are building up in those engineering groups into standards and prioritizing putting diversity and inclusion as a priority in the whole thing.In the middle of that, we also need to make sure that W3C itself, as one of the organizations that is a steward of web standards, is an inclusive organization and is not a place where, the minute you, as a woman or as a Black person or as somebody who is coming from a marginalized group, step your foot into that organization, you feel like, what the hell am I doing here? This is extremely toxic. Let me tell you. I've had that feedback from people that have worked for me, and who I have asked to participate in a particular W3C activity. They have come back to me and told me that they felt extremely uncomfortable because they were the only woman or they were the only non-white person and that they found it really weird and they felt excluded. W3C needs to evolve as an organization.I'm very happy to say that just this year, just a couple months ago now, we finally, after years of work, were able to publish a new code of conduct, a code of ethics and professional conduct for W3C, which is much more modern and incorporates a lot of the thinking from modern codes of conduct in the open-source community and in the events community, such as the Geek Feminism guide and places like that. That is a good first step. I think having a really modern and progressive code of conduct really helps. It took a long time, and the reason it took a long time is that there was a lot of institutional resistance and a lot of whataboutism to actually putting this kind of thing in place in W3C. We got there. Now we're there and now it's time to build on that more and use that as a way to encourage more participation.Another thing that we're doing, we've done it for the past few years. We've had a TPAC Diversity Fund. I'm really happy to say that Samsung has participated and has contributed into that fund for the past few years. We're doing that again this year, and what does that mean? It means that if you're a web developer from a marginalized group, then you can apply for money from this fund to help fund your needs when it comes to participating in TPAC. In previous years, this has meant things like travel or hotel, reimbursing the cost of food while you're at a meeting, that kind of thing. I know many people have taken advantage of that for previous physical meetings. In the current environment, it means more like support. There's more information about the TPAC Diversity Fund on the TPAC page, on the registration page. It's a little bit more difficult to find than I would like it to be, but it is there, if you go to Registration, Find Out.
Brian Kardell: I think to Tim's famous, this is for everyone thing. I think that that's important. If it is for everyone, it needs to include everyone.
Dan Appelquist: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brian Kardell: It needs to include everyone because it's the right thing.
Dan Appelquist: Yes.
Brian Kardell: But also because it is the commons and it is for everyone. It will be better for including everyone. One of the reasons is actually very pragmatic and practical, which is that your perspective on things, if everybody has the same background and the same perspective and very generally the same outlook, it is going to inherently exclude people and ideas and important things, but a thing that I struggle with personally is, there are concrete practical arguments that you can make here to say, 'It's important for you, basically, that there is diversity.' Somehow, that also can take away from the fact that it's the right thing to do.
Dan Appelquist: Yes.
Brian Kardell: Which is a difficult balance that I'm not sure what, honestly, the right.
Dan Appelquist: I think I try and lead with it's the right thing to do, and also it's the best thing to do.
Brian Kardell: On this point, you also mentioned TPAC.
Dan Appelquist: Yes.
Brian Kardell: And one of your co-TAG people is our friend Alice Boxhall. Last year, at TPAC, she gave an excellent presentation that I'll link to in the notes that is about things that have been innovated in society that everyone benefits from today that came about because of including more people with more diverse abilities and needs and backgrounds.
Dan Appelquist: Right. I think that applies broadly. I think we all benefit from greater web privacy, for instance, even if that privacy is, if those use cases are coming from particular groups, that we all benefit. It's a good lesson to learn.
Brian Kardell: Some of the things that we've had to change in the web around security and privacy have to do with actually protecting people's physical safety. For a lot of us privileged white male heterosexuals, maybe we don't have some of those same immediate concerns, but then when somebody points out how that can be used, they're more sensitive to it somehow in a way that is actually really beneficial to everybody.
Dan Appelquist: One of the things that we're trying to do in the TAG, for instance, is when we, again, coming back to our review process because it's one of the powers. It's not a formal power, but it's one of the ways in which we can exert influence over the way that specs are being developed. We're often asking people, can you elaborate on the abuse scenario? This new technology that you're trying to introduce to the web, how can it be abused? How could it be abused by, for instance, we had a web IoT group that's looking at all kinds of scenarios around Internet of Things and home automation. One of the well-documented ways in which IoT is abused is by controlling partners that misuse IOT devices to surveil their spouse or their partner. That is a kind of abuse scenario that is totally not accounted for, was totally not accounted for, but it's doing.Some things that TAG did was to feed back and say, 'Can you please take into account these scenarios? It's very well-documented. You can go out and read about it here,' but if you're coming at it from a perspective of, 'We just want to build this great new thing,' you might not be thinking about those abuse scenarios. It's not front of mind because it's not something that you've ever had to deal with. If you've got a diverse group of people coming in at the beginning, you're going to be more likely to find those scenarios and to have those in your thoughts and therefore, in the initial set of requirements documents so somebody doesn't have to raise them at the last minute and say, 'Hey, you forgot these incredibly important abuse scenarios.'
Brian Kardell: Many of us have a very protected view of the world. We're not somehow imagining the nefarious uses of things. I think the Ambient Light API was a good example of that. I have to be honest. I couldn't even imagine how somebody could abuse that, but it turns out you can.
Dan Appelquist: Or the fact that the gyroscope can be abused, can be turned into a microphone.
Brian Kardell: It's amazing, right? It's amazing. I think that this is one of the things that definitely separates the web is that we are fundamentally striving, and I would say not always succeeding, sure, but we're fundamentally striving to protect users.
Dan Appelquist: Yes.
Brian Kardell: And to do that in ways that are ethical. Sometimes, that means that a very large portion of developers even will think, 'There's a very obvious answer here' or 'There's this really simple thing that you can add,' and it's less than simple or obvious in many cases. This is, again, why I think that reaching developers with these nuanced conversations and things is necessary. I think it's necessary because also discussion travels. Even if you can't reach, you can't speak to a million developers, maybe, but you can speak to maybe 30 developers, and those 30 developers will help you explain to 30 more developers. You can get at conversations and difficult things that way.
Dan Appelquist: I should also probably take the opportunity to talk about the fact that the TAG recently or last year published a document called the Ethical Web Principles. The point of this document is to try to answer the question, so what makes the web different from other similar platforms? Why is the web different from native applications? Why is the web different from any kind of document [inaudible 00:42:39]? What makes the web different? What differentiates? The thing that I think a lot of us feel, a lot of us who have been participating in the web community for years feel, is that the web is inherently a more ethical platform, or at least it should be. It certainly was built from a perspective of, the web is for everyone, as you channeled Tim Berners-Lee's statement. It also should be an inherently safe platform to use.A lot of the statements in it take the form of things like, 'The web should not cause harm to society. The web must support healthy community and debate. The web is for all people.' That encompasses internationalization, talking about security and privacy as well and enabling freedom of expression, but not misconstruing that to mean that therefore, all commercial platforms must support, the web must make it possible to verify information. The web is transparent and allows you just to control the rendering process. Being able to install an extension which allows you to block ads is an inherent process. It's an inherent quality of the web, that makes it a beneficial. It tips the balance in favor of the user's need as opposed to the developer's need. It's what makes the web a more ethical platform from the beginning.Then we can tie our design principles back to them. We can say, 'Well, it's safe. It must be safe to click on a link and that is because of XYZ ethical principle, that is something that applies to how the web is designed and what makes it different.' That's work that is ongoing, but I think it's important fundamental work. A little bit of archeology, because we went through and we found things like, and incorporated things like the priority of constituencies, putting users' needs first. We incorporated that into our documents now. That used to be part of this unofficial HTML design principles note. Now it's part of our web design, web platform design, which again, ties back to the ethical.
Brian Kardell: Let me ask a hard question. If you were to zoom out a little bit and we look at the priority of constituencies and we look at the statements that we're making about doing new features or bugs to be worked out or something that is for one of those purposes that isn't done yet, you can make ethical arguments that we should do certain things that remain undone and that those should take some priority. One of the things that governs this and our ability to effectively deal with this priority of constituencies is the way that the web is funded. Ultimately, there is a budget somewhere. Somebody is governing with not necessarily that as their first and foremost priority, right? They have to know, can we afford to take this up? Can we afford to get it done? Is it going to ship next quarter? Do I have the resources to work on it?Those are just practical, very banal just business things that we all have to do. The result of that can be confusing. You might be waiting for an internationalization feature or an accessibility feature. There's an app update to an app you love, and it gets a shiny new skin. You're like, 'Clearly, they care about this more than they care about me,' but in reality, those are different people that would work on that, and those people were free and the other people weren't. There can be very innocent sorts of simple, common reasons for this, but I wonder. This is part of a larger conversation that I've been trying to start about, the web has to be bigger than individual companies. Individual companies, this is a reality. This is reality. How can we do better? Do you have any ideas about how we could do better? My idea to do better is to diversify investment, but there are things that are maybe ethically good to do that are just never going to be a profit center for anybody.
Dan Appelquist: Having more participation by more organizations might help to diversify its trajectory, to make it a little bit more of a platform that meets more than just one organization's needs. I think that the way that some open-source projects work and the way that they define meritocracy or the way that they define merit and contribution within an open-source project can also be a barrier to entry for individual developers, for community developers. It can be a barrier to entry because you've got to invest a huge amount of time to become influential in that project and a lot of not working for big organizations don't have that kind of time. Even web developers that are working for big organizations, they might not be working for organizations that have the same kind of model when it comes to the engineering, their engineering team.I wonder if we need to somehow think about that, think about meritocracy and the context of how open-source projects work in order to engender better participation. How can we have a rethink about bringing that out into the open, and a more proper open-source foundation might do is to open up the door for better community participation. I'm thinking of an open governance structure. I wonder if that same approach couldn't be applied with great [inaudible 00:48:12]. We need to have a healthy, diverse community, and this could be one approach.
Brian Kardell: Open-source itself is young, and I feel like we're constantly re-evaluating open-source itself and how it works and trying to do better.
Dan Appelquist: Yes.
Brian Kardell: I would expect to come along with that, as we learn and grow. I understand why it is that way, and it seems kind of reasonable, and yet I also 100% expect we can do better. I have hopes that it will be good, but I think it's a problem of somebody to invest in the implementation in the first place, for a lot of things.
Dan Appelquist: Yeah. I think, I don't know. I don't know if I have a good- It's a hard problem.
Brian Kardell: No, I said it was a hard problem.
Dan Appelquist: I think we need to look at alternate funding sources for some of these implementations.
Brian Kardell: Yeah. It's a thing that I'm very interested in, because I think that the web is a commons, and the fact that it is, if you trace the money, basically it is mostly funded by search. That is one extreme. It's gotten us here, and I'm not necessarily complaining about it, but it does lead to certain things and not certain other things getting attention. The motives of who is doing things, they're not charities, right? And that's fine, but it does mean that if you're talking about end users are your important thing, then you can wind up being like, 'End users of Office,' but not end users who are trying to interact with a keyboard on the regular web. That's not to bash on Office in any way. It's just the thing that came to my mind.
Dan Appelquist: Yeah. My point is maybe, how do we get other funding mechanisms involved in helping to fund those things? I also don't think it's appropriate to turn around to those people who are in, 'Hey, you marginalized community. Why don't you stump up the cash to support this feature that benefits you?' That's also not appropriate. Could government funding play a role more? We've seen that play a very important role in the creation of the internet in the first place. Why aren't we hearing more about government grants and that kind of thing being used to fund work on the web?
Brian Kardell: Those kinds of things would be really positive, because it is. We have not actually explored any of those models, and I think that if we're in that stage in our history, I said this thing in my recently blog post where when I was a little kid and cable television was new, my grandmother said, 'Why would anybody pay for television? It's free, because it just comes over the air and it's free.' It's like, 'No, it's not free. It's ads in your face every ten seconds. I just want to be able to watch a movie on HBO.' That turned out to have its own issues, and we tried other things. Now we have lots of ways to fund the creation of entertainment, and I think it's better for it, and I think that we should explore lots of different ways to fund the commons because it underpins all of society.
Dan Appelquist: I think that's the thing that I keep coming back to in my head is that it's not just about, when we talk about the web, I feel like some people feel like we're talking about Facebook, talking about Netflix. We're talking about Google and ads and search and stuff like that. The web is important to people because it is the way that they are finding a job. It's the way that they're able to apply for benefits, the way that they're able to find a home. It's the way that they're able to get healthcare. It's a way that they're able to get information about coronavirus and understand whether or not they should be traveling to a particular city or not. It helps them make life-changing, vital life decisions. The web touches every single aspect of people's lives from birth to death.If we only treat it as a commercial platform that's only important from the perspective of search and ads and making more ads pay more money for big content and big business, then we're really doing it a disservice. Then it only becomes that commons and that socially relevant platform by accident. I think we can't do that. The web needs to be more than that. It needs to be, by intention, this socially relevant, socially vital platform that connects us. It is that right now. We need to maintain. We need to make sure that it maintains that.
Brian Kardell: Really well-articulated. Yeah, our ability to have lots of different investment in the things that are important to the commons, it goes across all things and I think MDN is an interesting example to use. MDN is probably the greatest resource for web developers to ever exist.
Dan Appelquist: I think it is. I think, a few years ago, I became part of the advisory board for MDN. MDN has what's called a product advisory board, which consists of people from different organizations. We have Robert Nyman from Google. We have Dominique from W3C, Jory from Boku, and the point of this was to reinforce what was already the case and what many web developers already knew, which was that MDN is a cross-browser development resource for web developers, a documentation resource for web developers. Then that information flows through to Can I Use because more recently, Can I Use is not using the [inaudible 00:54:10] data so it's all part of the same story about that data. As a web developer, you can be confident. You can have a fair amount of confidence that you will be able to go to any particular web page on MDN and get a very good, neutral, editorial viewpoint, even though it's run by Mozilla and that you'll be able to use that information to guide your work.I've been very happy to be able to put some of my time and energy and also some people that are working for me at Samsung are working on updating their pages. More recently, that group of people has come together because Mozilla has been having some challenges recently to figure out how we can shore up support for MDN and ensure that it maintains its role as this neutral editorial voice web documentation hub for the benefit of all web developers. I think that's super important, and it's something that I've been spending, especially in the last few weeks, a lot of my time and energy on along with the other members.
Brian Kardell: Yeah, it's important. It is the documentation of the commons, right?
Dan Appelquist: Yes.
Brian Kardell: It is inherently a part of the commons. It desperately needs investment, and it is an illustration of this earlier point that we were making about, things will change, and even if the organization is, the whole entire organization of Mozilla, they love the web. Yet we have hard challenges like this. I think the things that we're doing to help diversify the investment in it and work together as if it were a commons is just great and we need to do more of it. Dan, thanks so much for taking the time, and talking with me about, I think lots of other different areas of things that we haven't had a chance to talk about yet that I think are really important.
Dan Appelquist: Thank you. It's always interesting to chat with you, Brian, about this stuff. Thanks also for the time and energy that you've been putting into the web platform all these years. It's really made a difference, I think.
Brian Kardell: Also, thank you for everything that you have done for the web and continue to do for the web. I think that the web is a better place for your involvement, so thanks.