W3C insider explains what's wrong with cramming DRM into HTML5 - and what you can do about it

I've written before here about the move to get the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) to cram digital rights management (DRM) into the next version of HTML, called HTML5. This week, EFF filed a formal objection with the group, setting out some of the risks to the open Web from standardizing DRM in the Web's core technical specs. Now, writing in the Guardian, W3C staffer Dr Harry Halpin makes an important, well-thought-through case for keeping DRM out of the HTML5 standard. Haplin's got an invaluable insider view of the "crisis of representation" that let a few giant companies shift the most open, most vital standards body involved with the Web into the position of standardizing ways to have your computer and browser take control away from you, and to set the stage for a ban on free and open source software in Web browsers and computers.

The most important part is what you can do to help shift the direction of the W3C back towards the open Web:

The Advisory Committee of the W3C is composed of companies as well as universities and non-profits. If your employer is a W3C member, now is the time to open the discussion internally with your management. Questions over whether DRM should be part of the HTML Working Group or part of another Working Group - or outside of W3C entirely! - are dealt with in the review of charters by Advisory Committee representatives. It's at this level that the EFF objected to EME in HTML.

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EFF files formal objection against DRM's inclusion in HTML5

Regular readers will know that there's a hard press to put DRM in the next version of HTML, which is being standardized at the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3), and that this has really grave potential consequences for the open Web that the WC3 has historically fought to build.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has joined the WC3 and filed a formal objection to this work item; EFF's Danny O'Brien has written an excellent explanation of what's at stake:

EFF is not the only group concerned here. When EME was finally ultimately declared in-scope for the HTML working group, the decision was made by W3C’s executive team, despite discontent among key standards developers and the subsequent protest of more than twenty thousand technologists and groups, including EFF. While disappointment at that decision outside the W3C has been widespread, the debate on the problems of DRM for that the web platform within the consortium has been muted. Its strategic advisory committee of W3C members has until now not spoken on the decision, despite many of that community having privately expressed concern.

EFF has a lot of experience working within these kinds of standards processes in an attempt to combat the effects of DRM. In 2002, we joined the activities of Broadcast Protection Discussion Group to highlight the dangers of its proposed digital TV DRM standard, which briefly became the government-mandated Broadcast Flag before being struck down in the courts. Subsequently we participated in Europe’s Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) project, as they considered implementing imposing similar controls on European consumers.

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Tim Berners-Lee: The Web needs to stay open, but DRM is fine by me

AUSTIN—The knight who invented the World Wide Web came to SXSW to point out a few ways in which we're still doing it wrong.

Tim Berners-Lee's "Open Web Platform: Hopes & Fears" keynote hopscotched from the past of the Web to its present and future, with some of the same hectic confusion that his invention shows in practice. (The thought that probably went through attendees' heads: "Sir Tim is nervous at public speaking. Just like us!")

But his conclusion was clear enough: The Web is our work, and we shouldn't put our tools down. Read the rest

Today Is a Good Day to Edit

I know that when I need to post updates to my latest regressions of Shakespeare back into his native Klingon, I turn to the exolinguist's best friend: the Mac coding tool BBEdit*. I fire it up, and select File New HTML Document, then choose Klingon from the Language pop-up menu.

I'd better make sure I haven't dishonored my family unto the severalth generation, consigning myself and them to Gre'Thor, by checking that the page is well formed (Markup Check Document Syntax).

Our users will know fear and cower before our software! Ship it! Ship it and let them flee like the targs they are!

Debugging? Klingons do not debug. Our software does not coddle the weak.

This code is a piece of gagh! You have no honor!

Perfect. Publish.

*Version 9.6 still doesn't suck.

Image by SocialTechnologies.com via Creative Commons license. Read the rest

View Source considered beneficial, endangered

Alex Russell's essay, "View-Source Is Good? Discuss," considers the role that the browser's "View Source" command played in making the Web into the world's dominant platform, and looks at the threats posed to the idea that anyone can see how the Web works:
To understand the importance of view-source, consider how people learn. Some evidence exists that even trained software engineers chose to work with copy-and-pasted example code. Participants in the linked study even expressed guilt over it the copy-paste-tweak method of learning, but guilt didn't change the dynamic: a blank slate and abstract documentation doesn't facilitate learning nearly as well as poking at an example and feeling out the edges by doing. View-source provides a powerful catalyst to creating a culture of shared learning and learning-by-doing, which in turn helps formulate a mental model of the relationship between input and output faster. Web developers get started by taking some code, pasting it into a file, saving, loading it in a browser and hitting ctrl-r. Web developers switch between editor and browser between even the most minor changes. This is a stark contrast with technologies that impose a compilation step where the process of seeing what was done requires an intermediate step. In other words, immediacy of output helps build an understanding of how the system will behave, and ctrl-r becomes a seductive and productive way for developers to accelerate their learning in the copy-paste-tweak loop. The only required equipment is a text editor and a web browser, tools that are free and work together instantly.
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