HTML5 responsive images spat explodes

Earlier this week we reported on outlined proposals to deal with responsive images within web standards. Two options were provided: 'srcset' was proposed by someone from Apple, and the 'picture' polyfill was suggested as an alternative. The 'srcset' option has now made its way into the draft HTML5 spec, and developers are not happy.

Web developer Tim Kadlec appeared troubled on his blog by how the attribute made its way into the spec. He noted that a community group had been formed to discuss the issue, as suggested by the WHATWG, with the picture element gaining most support. Nonetheless, “[another] (partial) solution was proposed directly on the WHATWG list by an Apple employee [and while] the discussion was still taking place, and only five days after it was originally proposed, the srcset attribute (but not the picture element) was added to the draft”.

Kadlec said the developer community did exactly what was asked, following procedure, and yet the “method in which [the new attribute] was added reeks of valuing the opinion of implementors over developers”. Kadlec added that this latest event was reminiscent of what happened regarding the <time> element in November 2011, and wasn’t alone in his criticism. Designer and developer Mat Marquis outlined problems with setsrc for A List Apart, web designer Scott Jehl also criticised the proposals and CSSquirrel ran a damning set of cartoons illustrating spec editor Ian ‘Hixie’ Hickson as an “egotistical tyrant” unable to “acknowledge that a consensus-driven, well-crafted and usable solution built by a group of well-meaning, hard-working people could actually somehow be better than his own personal opinion”.

Where the spec goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear the development community has been alienated by the WHATWG’s latest moves. On Twitter, developer Faruk Ate reckoned the issue saw “the WHATWG completely violating its own policies of pragmatism and serving author needs above implementor needs”, while tech writer Shelley Powers said the full story was not a pretty picture, adding: “[Ever] wonder why I'm snarky about HTML5?”

At the time of writing, Ian Hickson had not responded to .net’s request for comment, but his reasoning was outlined on an email to the WHATWG mailing list, arguing 'srcset' was simpler than the alternative, and that "the approach we have taken with HTML is to focus on what can be backwards-compatible what can degrade in legacy UAs while leaving the new features just for new browsers. Certainly, focusing on the short-term issue of what can be shimmed and what cannot is not optimising for the long term, which is the higher concern".

Image credit: CSSquirrel.

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