The Betts Choice: Help shape the future of the Web

The Web is something I really care about. It’s not just because it’s my livelihood or because we can use it to do really cool stuff, but because it has absolutely changed the world. I think about it a lot. There are a lot of potential futures, which will we choose? How will we make the future that we want a reality? Of course, it’s all debatable, but I want to tell you about something really simple that you can do and explain why it just might matter a whole lot over time.

A few years ago, the future of the Web was starting to seem a little bleak: Standards were perennially stalled and their development closed to developers. Microsoft had kind of given up and tried to move on. The brief thrill when work began on HTML5 soon showed new challenges: It still took too long, things didn’t always pan out after a lot of effort, there was a deep schism. While better in many ways — it still wasn't good. It’s easy to throw up our collective hands and give up — but some people didn’t.

The net result is that we've seen a slow move of standards bodies over the past 3 years to adapt and change. Every couple of months, if you're watching carefully, you can see positive new signals.

Progress that seems small can have outsized impacts as they build over time, and, in fact, it’s the only way that change at this scale really happens.

The Extensible Web Manifesto wasn't alone in orchestrating all of this, but it has certainly inspired a lot of positive conversation and fostered much adaptation by getting people to agree and articulating some of the major problems and potential solutions and get people talking…

And in a way, you can thank folks just like you for making it possible..

One can certainly argue (and do) that there are many variables, in my mind the W3C TAG (Technical Architecture Group) has been important in beginning to address them. If you’ve never heard of the TAG, it is a small, partially elected body within the W3C which is in part a steering committee looking out for the future of the Web itself and keeping/driving a sane architecture. If you're wondering why or how you could have never heard of it it’s because until that election, this was a seriously “inside the beltway” kind of committee and they mostly didn’t discuss things that average developers cared much about. That is, until a few years ago when we decided to change all that when a slate of reform-minded candidates ran public campaigns.

Importantly: People just like you helped those people get elected by sharing their support publicly via social media and emails to W3C members. Without those efforts, it’s very possible we’d be in quite a different place right now.

Having a public election and much support from the public has allowed TAG to give voice to the technical importance of solving many of these problems.The Manifesto itself was in part written/driven by then newly elected members seeking reform, and the TAG has played a big role in outreach.

But making it public grants it a unique bully pulpit as a statement of our collective desires and I think that’s had a positive impact — in effect, using the existing system and mechanisms to help it reform itself.

If you've read Jory Burson’s recent piece about standardization on A List Apart, you can probably appreciate the value of understanding existing systems and knowing how to work within them, so here are the more boring details: Five of the nine seats on the TAG are elected, in staggering terms such that we should have one election per year. In some cases, however, an elected member has to step down and we have a special election. In this case, Mozilla’s Dave Herman is stepping down a year early because of other commitment pressures and now there’s a choice to make about our possible futures. In this case, whomever is elected will serve out the rest of his term until the next regular election and there are 4 candidates.

Let’s shape history…

Very simply, by throwing our support behind a candidate, we can help shape the long future — small events can have big ripples. Here’s why I am supporting, and why I'd like to see other public support for Andrew Betts.

Candidates for these positions are always tricky: Virtually all of them are imminently qualified, technically speaking and what it often comes down to is a question of who will add the right value in the overall composition of the current group at this point in time. Sometimes, as is the case here, it can be a struggle. Of the four candidates, Mozilla’s David Barron and FT Labs’ Andrew Betts stand way out to me as really superb options. We’ll be lucky to have either one of them serve to be honest. At the end of the day though, we have to pick one. While I hate lose a voice from Mozilla at the table (especially one as good as David Barron) we can rest a little easy knowing that this is a one year seat — we'll have a chance to place them back soon if we want — and Andrew Betts brings unique qualities that I think can provide the right kinds of ripples at the right time.

First off, two of the major things that TAG does which are really valuable surround getting the right people together and talking or communicating a coherent message. At this, Andrew basically has no equal. The events he helps organize and shape, like EdgeConf are generally thought of as monumentally successful examples of good communication around technology. What his experience would bring to efforts like Meet the TAG and the Extensible Web Summit or even just TAG meetings with invited experts will undoubtedly transfer value to the whole system way beyond the duration of his service. Secondly, because he is a developer — he’s involved in standards at both ends interacting with standards organizations, other experts within the community, and regular developers runs polyfills as a service helping across a wide range of Web disciplines within a professional, standards loving non-browser making organization. He was involved in jump-starting Service Workers and getting that off the ground. In short: He has a unique record and a good pulse on things in a way that we've not seen in a while.

That’s why this time around, I support this guy for W3C TAG.

So what do you think public? If work for a member org, ask them to cast their vote for Andrew Betts— if not, speak up wherever you can. Don't underestimate the collective power of developers sharing their support on Twitter, Facebook or G+ — your voice could help set in motion big changes, so whether you agree with me or disagree — let’s hear it: The future is what we make it.