Subject: Re: MSIE "Smart Tags" -- what's the real deal?
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 13:12:25 +0900

>>>>> "Ian" == Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:

    >> It is not OK with me if the web browser itself changes the
    >> presentation.  It breaks the implied contract I was expecting
    >> when I created the web pages.  It makes me say something other
    >> than what I intended.

Well, IMHO if you were expecting that contract, too bad.  The whole
point of modern browsers is to take hierarchically organized
information and present it in a way that is convenient and
configurable for the user.  If you want control, distribute PDFs, not

I think it's a sad commentary on the devolution of the human brain
since the Great Missing Link Fork that most humans prefer to delegate
the control and configuration to content and browser authors.  But
it's not intended to be _your_ choice as content author who the user
delegates to.

There are two approaches here.  One is to seize control with formats
like hardcopy and PDF.  The other is to be so much more fun than the
browsers that users prefer to delegate to you.  But that's hard, at
least judging by the average quality of Web content, not to mention my
own efforts.  And text search is one of the most-requested features on
web sites because authors tend to _not_ to get presentation right!

    Ian> There are standards which govern the display of web pages.
    Ian> Internet Explorer should adhere to those standards by
    Ian> default.  When it does not, I believe it is betraying both my
    Ian> wishes as an author

As far as I know there is nothing that says that the author's choice
of stylesheet should ever override that of the user.  You are
dangerously close to advocating "Best Viewed With Brand X Browser" and
"Please adjust your window width to this line."

Again, there are formats like DVI and PDF which are intended to
address situations where the author desires to maintain control.

True, the standards say that where the user doesn't specify a
stylesheet, the author's should be followed.  But I find it pretty
hard to get massively upset about Microsoft providing a "recommended"
user stylesheet "pre-installed."  As long as it's easy to disable it.

    Ian> and the best interests of the consumer.

The consumers (or their employers) will speak up.  Who are you to
judge?  (It so happens that I agree with you, of course.  But that
doesn't qualify me as judge, either.)

    Ian> I suppose that I am essentially saying that since Microsoft
    Ian> has a monopoly position with respect to web browsers, they
    Ian> have a responsibility to ensure that their web browser
    Ian> behaves appropriately.  Unfortunately, it is clear from the
    Ian> antitrust case that Microsoft does not behave responsibly in
    Ian> this regard.

Microsoft has no responsibility to do more than make the switch that
turns off Smart Tags easily accessible.  As long as there is a
convenient UI to switch the ABI to "standard", I don't see where we
get off insisting that consumers not be allowed to shoot themselves in
the kneecap with the "New Microsoft-Enhanced" option.

There is an anti-trust issue, but that should be solved by forcing the
webserver division to divest itself of the browser group or vice
versa.  Maybe restrict bundling the browser with the desktop, or the
desktop with the kernel, for a reasonable period of time.

University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
_________________  _________________  _________________  _________________
What are those straight lines for?  "XEmacs rules."