The Hot Topics panel that closed the conference featured one excellent question that set me thinking about socio-political questions:
Isn't the recent mass movement of high-profile web designers to large companies like Yahoo and Google a little worrying in terms of objectivity and in terms of creativity?
You can read the discussion that followed in the transcript, but my own thoughts went in a slightly different direction.
First of all, my answer to the objectivity question is No (not being a designer I have no opinion on the creativity question).
Besides, part of Yahoo's point in acquiring them is the very fact that they are well-known bloggers: Yahoo wants to improve its standing in the international standards community. Forcing them to stop blogging, or to blog only stuff that's approved by Marketing and Legal, would be counter-productive.
Next, Nate Koechley's presentation (see part 2) was a case study in knowledge sharing, with him giving away quite a few juicy technical bits for free. In short, Yahoo is firmly committed to openness and to discussing stuff with the international technical community.
As I said before on this blog, Microsoft is doing exactly the same. Chris Wilson's presence and presentation at the conference clearly shows that Microsoft wants to open op and be honest about what they're doing and not doing, and why. See the transcript of Chris's presentation for the full details; I'll repeat a few important points here:
In any case, all these points (plus the existence of the IE blog) conclusively prove that Microsoft is committed to openness as much as Yahoo is.
On the other hand, you rarely hear from people after they've been sucked into Google and Apple. I'm not sure if this statement is true or fair, but right now it appears to be true—and appearances can be dangerous. Apple, in particular, is coming under not so friendly fire from people like Tim Bray, Mark Pilgrim and John Gruber because of its lack of openness.
So will we see an interesting reversal of roles, with former corporate monoliths Microsoft and Yahoo cast as the good guys who talk about what they're doing and why, while former alt.funky companies Apple and Google are reduced to the stealthy and uncooperative evil guys?
I doubt it. The scenario assumes that Apple and Google are stupid and don't pay attention to their competitors; and that isn't likely, is it? Although they're definitely a bit behind the times on the openness thing, they'll no doubt take similar initiatives in the next year or so. And let's be fair: the Safari team has been blogging longer than the MSIE team has.
Nonetheless, Apple and Google lag behind Yahoo and Microsoft right now, and that's interesting in itself. Who would have predicted that only a year ago?
So these two huge companies have decided to give us standards-aware web developers what we want, and their example will probably force other large companies to do the same.
I hope Yahoo and Microsoft have commercial goals and motivations. That's the best way to prove to other companies that web standards are a good idea from an economic perspective, which in turn will help their speedy adoption.
This conclusion leads to another one: we web developers have finally gotten the attention of large companies, and these companies are serious about putting web standards on their agenda.
In other words, we have won the battle for standards.
Nonetheless, we shouldn't falter now. Although I really think that the point of no return of web standards adoption has come and gone, there's still plenty of work to do, such as advising the recent corporate converts on the gory details of web standards support, and evangelizing the mass of web developers out there who are still being completely clueless and uninterested.
We've made giant strides, but we're not done yet.
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