Ok, here’s what happened according to the record:
- ES4 design starts in October of 2005
- Doug (Yahoo) joins the discussion in June of 2006, is worried about Microsoft’s support
- Pratap (Microsoft) goes on record in July of 2006 saying that ES4 will be in IE after version 7
- Design continues unabated
- Doug and Pratap registers concern about the size of the spec in March of 2007
- An ES 3.1 proposal is made in April of 2007, but work stalls
- A few weeks ago, Doug states that TG1 is “split” on ES4 at the The Ajax Experience conference (a statement that’s not necessarily accurate)
- Some interpret his remarks as saying there’s a secret coalition between Adobe and Microsoft to force ES4 through and co-opt the standards process
- Acrimony erupts
What really happened, near as I can tell (warning, speculation ahead):
- Pratap wasn’t in close communication with his developers and superiors internally at Microsoft early on in the process. Once he finally got feedback internally, he found out that they didn’t like it. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, he tried to work out a compromise resolution in “ES 3.1″, but people further up the chain at Microsoft caught wind of what’s going on in ES4 and put on the brakes. Microsoft went into radio silence until everything spilled out onto the web.
- Brendan sees what’s coming, and knows it’s not good. If Microsoft has put the brakes on ES4, it means they’re going to split off and go in their own direction. He’s concerned because it puts the future of web application development in jeopardy. This is looking all-to-familiar to him, so he responds with vigor to try and “rally the troops” to fight an unfair turn against several years of dedicated, hard work. His responses are clearly filled with heartfelt passion.
- Chris’s job is as much political as it is technical. And he’s reeeally good at it. His job is to make sure that Microsoft has a valid stance in the eyes of web developers, even when opposing viewpoints are valid. It’s his job. He may truly believe everything he’s saying; then again, he could be putting up cover for a deeper strategy internally at Microsoft. We can’t know, because he gets paid well to speak well, and he’s good at it.
- On purely technical grounds, ES4 is an excellent proposal. It is well-engineered, precise, and balanced. (It is also extremely nuanced, which makes it hard to judge at-a-glance. This is not “a new Java.”)
- Brendan’s passion is coming off as wild-eyed fanatacism. This is turning lots of people off. Is this a political, personal, or technical battle to him? It’s hard to tell from the tone of his comments. Now, where’s that middle ground again?
- Chris Wilson is smooth. He’s got a silky smooth voice, and gosh darn it if I don’t just want to be his friend, even if I don’t trust him.
- Chris wants: stability, interoperability, security, and functionality, in that order. Yet after repeated requests to provide specific, detailed, technical reasons why ES4 doesn’t address all four of those priorities (which it does, IMHO), no answer. I have yet to see a single detailed explanation of how ES4 would “break the web.” Not from Chris, Doug, or anyone else at Microsoft. Would love to see such discussion, truly. Send me links if you know of any.
- Abject fear is not constructive criticism, and it’s not a strategy. There has got to be discussion about the flaws of this proposal that goes deeper than “I’m afraid of it.”
And if you think there’s some safe “middle ground,” I can only say: I doubt it. Language design (or at least, *good* language design) takes a long time, and Microsoft hasn’t even started drafting their ideas yet. Even if they truly believe that what they’re doing is the right thing for the web, by forking now they’re damning the web to stalled evolution and non-interoperability for at least the next 5 years, probably longer. (It’ll take 1-2 years to get the forked version out the door, another 1-2 years before any convergence between browsers can happen, and another 1-2 years before there’s significant market share for interoperable code. And that’s best-case.)
So think about that before weighing in against ES4. Do you want the status quo for the next 5+ years? I sure don’t.
In parting I’ll point out: no design will be liked by every developer, and that’s precisely the problem here. Not everyone can get what they think is best in this case. But, without support from all vendors, *no one* will get what they think is best. All vendors participated without reservation in the ES4 design until March of 2007. And even after reservations were spoken, no active participation to resolve the outstanding issues has occurred since. Given that, it hardly seems fair to say that ES4 is attempting to do something that will “break the web.” Quite the opposite.