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"HTML Bickering"

This was news to me until this morning (Wednesday the 26th). You see, I need to go to sites like Cool Site of the Day to figure out what's going on on the commercialized Web these days. Shows you how close I am to the inside, the Clan de Cool. Sad. <snort>

It seems that there's some preliminary bickering about whether or not HTML markup is copyrighted. The two sides involved? The Fray (more specifically, Derek Powazek and Alexis Massie) in one corner and Salon Magazine (the offender being Mignon Khargie, co-winner of Cool Site of the Day's best web designer award) in the other corner.

I feel sorry for Mr. Powazek, having to deal with incompetent people.

You see, the accusation is that Khargie stole source markup from The Fray to use in her design for a Salon article. The markup in question, available for perusal at Salon and at The Fray, involves resizable frames for a spiffy window-opening effect.

All this hubbub has led to coverage by the Netly News and Cool Site of the Day. I work my ass off and stealing markup gets more attention than my site does.

I will periodically be quoting from Michael Sippey's article off Netly News. Credit given to him for a great article and for quotations.

...yawynA

"'I checked the source and, sure enough, there it was,' said Derek Powazek. The source is, indeed, remarkably similar -- right down to identical pixel widths determining the size of each frame SRC. 'The only thing they'd bothered to change was the title,' Powazek said."

According to the article I read, Scott Rosenberg, media critic for Salon, responded, "The matching pixel widths happen to be identical because "both Derek and Mignon are smart enough designers to be building their pages to fit on a 14-inch monitor."

Bullshit. Rosenberg has no idea what he's talking about. If you examine the source markup, you will find that they are exactly identical <FRAMESET>s. No one's going to come up with identical pixel measurements. And identical uses of quotes for tag attributes. And spacing. And just about everything else. 14-inch monitor...heh...

Maybe we should sit those million monkeys down at typewriters and see if they can type up Hamlet eventually.

"HTML code controls page layout, which is something quite different from content," argued Rosenberg. "HTML is not C code, and you don't compile it into a distributable program. It's a 'markup language,' not a true programming language."

More nonsense from Mr. Scott "I-Think-I-Know-What-HTML-Stands-For" Rosenberg. First of all, there's no such thing as "HTML code", which he almost seems to understand. Second, the argument is irrelevant. Whether HTML is compiled or simply written, copying HTML verbatim is still illegal. And unnecessary. Any web designer who knows what he's doing does not need to copy source. If he sees a neat frames effect, he can produce it himself. And there's nothing wrong with adapting someone else's design ideas to your own site, as long as you do it yourself.

Ideas should be passed around on the 'Net. That's the whole point. But copying source, graphics, programs, and scripts in whole? That should be illegal if permission is not given.

"'Derek's argument seems to be based on the idea that it is the HTML tags that are his property, and not the result of those tags -- that is, what the reader sees,' said Rosenberg. 'No one owns tags.'"

That's not what Mr. Powazek is arguing, imo. He is not claiming to own tags. He is claiming to own the source of the document -- if someone copies the source and simply changes filenames and titles, then that's copying. If Mignon Khargie had created her own FRAMESET with resizable frames, there would be no problem. But obviously she just copied the source straight out of Mr. Powazek's document.

We established a long time ago that no one owns tags, Mr. Rosenberg. Where were you?

The sad thing is that Khargie (whose opinions on all this I haven't heard yet, I admit) seemingly has no concept of good web design or HTML markup (if she indeed did the HTML markup along with the design, which is my impression). The design is...adequate. She has two opening <BODY> tags in one of her documents, stray <PRE></PRE>, and a rude message to those who either don't want to or can't view frames: "We're sorry, but your browser does not seem to allow you to see frames. This page has been designed specifically to make use of frames." In order to get past this frames barrier, viewers need to look on the front page of Salon and follow the link to the noframed version of the article. For those of you who aren't familiar with frames, all it takes to add a <NOFRAMES> version of a page is cutting and pasting the relevant content between the <NOFRAMES> and </NOFRAMES> tags. Good web designers realize that they cannot control their viewers. And if they are snotty enough to think MSIE, NN, and Lynx are the only browsers out there, they should consider the fact that they are willing to publish half-rate HTML just because of their biases.

I'm working on a site for my father, Fred Turner. Finally I have a project that lets me experiment with HTML and proprietary tags a bit (as long as they degrade gracefully to browsers which don't support them). The site will be using a lot of frames for layout (don't worry, I use TARGETs and NOFRAMES). I saw some of Mr. Powazek's frame layout and I must say his works influenced what I've done for my father's site. I'll admit to not being all that creative. I get a lot of ideas from other sites. But Hell, I know what I'm doing and I have the technical knowledge to implement it well (i.e. professionally): I'm quite knowledgeable with HTML 3.2 and Netscape and Microsoft's extensions. I know how to achieve layout effects. I don't need to copy. There is nothing wrong with taking design ideas and working with them on your site. Heck, after Alexis Massie showed everyone how to use BGCOLOR in tables with style, we all use it.

Sippey writes, "What really disturbs Rosenberg, though, is a future where 'small independent publications... won't have a chance.'"

The irony here is that the Fray is maintained by volunteer writers and web designers who get paid nothing, while Salon was a nominee in the Cool Site of the Year awards and has a well-paid staff of halfwits whose jobs real web designers should have.

The worst part of this whole commotion? All the sites involved are pretty dull, both in design and content, to varying degrees. The commercial sites are of course more unimaginative than the personal sites. You know what loot does to the mind.

Welcome to the Web, where you get paid big bucks and have fancy business cards just for creating HTML slop and writing about the importance of length and girth of penises, while the people who actually contribute to the 'Net get very little.

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