Apr 072004

It’s taken a long time, far longer than we anticipated when we started. The W3C DOM Level 3 Core and Load and Save modules are, as of today, W3C Recommendations.

The DOM WG figured out in the very first meeting, back in March 1997, that we would have three levels (each level builds on the preceding level; it’s a way of modularizing the specification that is relatively easy to understand). I don’t think any of us expected it to take 7 years!

I chaired the DOM WG until November 2001, enough time to get Level 2 out as a set of Recommendations. Philippe Le Hégaret and Ray Whitmer chaired the group after I left.

The early days of the DOM WG were a political rollercoaster, of course. These were the days of the Netscape/Microsoft browser wars; we were having a DOM WG meeting at Netscape at the time that someone placed the IE “e” on top of Netscape’s sign at their corporate headquarters. The DOM support in the browsers was one of the battlegrounds but to give everyone on the WG credit, most people did genuinely try to find technical solutions to technical problems with as little corporate politics as possible. To help with this, several confidentiality policies were instituted at W3C to protect members of the WG from journalists trying to find a story (yes, stories existed, but I wanted to get some work done, and publishing them would not have helped). As Chair of the WG, I could talk to journalists (people other than the Chair and the W3C staff contact were not meant to talk on behalf of the WG, although of course if they wished they could talk on behalf of their company as long as they stuck to things that the WG had agreed could be made public). I remember one occasion when a journalist called up, asking me to tell them of occasions when Netscape had “won” a technical discussion, and Microsoft had “lost”. Sigh. Obviously I declined.

The biggest splits actually came between those who were “HTML-centric” and those who were “XML-centric” � the “array” style of walking the document and the “tree” style of walking the document came about because neither side could convince the other that their trusted methods for finding the element they wanted were not needed. So the DOM Level 1 ended up with both ways of looking at an XML or HTML document.

Politics still gets in the way of standards work; I hope one effect of the Sun/Microsoft pact will be to allow the technical people on the technical committees more freedom to come up with the best technical solution to technical problems.

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