gwalla (gwalla) wrote,

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CSS, standards, and the web

I was just looking at the working draft for the CSS3 multi-column layout module. It doesn't look good. A whole lot of new properties, including odd ones like "column-width-policy" (what's that supposed to mean? Yeah, the document explains it, but still, the name doesn't really give you much of a hint). If it was up to me, instead of defining a bunch of new properties for stuff like "column-gap" and "column-rule", I'd define a new pseudo-element "::column", and use the existing box-model properties like padding, margin, and border to format it. New keywords "columns" and "inline-columns" (and possibly "column" for the pseudo-element itself) for the display: property would be enough to specify that an element should be broken into columns. A "column-count:" property (taking a numeric value or auto, defaulting to auto), and "column-fill:" (to specify whether the layout engine should fill columns in order, spilling over to the next only when a column is full, or try to even out the number of lines in each column) would be the only new properties needed.

Looking at a lot of the stuff the W3C has been doing lately, it seems they're concentrating more and more on "theoretical purity" rather than ease of use. Since websites are frequently built by people with no training in computer science, IMO this means most people just aren't going to use the new features, and that's sad. I think the WHAT-WG (too bad they didn't name themselves the "Web Task Force"—that'd be a great acronym!) may have the right idea: when the old standards agency gets bogged down and stops being responsive to users, just form a new standards body and do it yourself, like how X.Org recently overtook XFree...or how the W3C superseded the IETF as the web standards body in the first place, for that matter.

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