So, let me get this straight...

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From Joel,

And Postel's "robustness" principle didn't really work.....Jon Postel should be honored for his enormous contributions to the invention of the Internet, and there is really no reason to fault him for the infamous robustness principle. 1981 is prehistoric. If you had told Postel that there would be 90 million untrained people, not engineers, creating web sites.... he would have understood that this is the wrong principle.

So, that not everyone follows Postel's law means that Postel's law is... wrong? This is nearly Homer Simpson-eque logic. Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.

I'm not sure how one jumps from "we've had problems with a policy" as "the policy is wrong/broken"; I find the tendency increasingly common, but no less repugnant. Postel's law has reasonable limits, but I have a hard time believing the early web would have been a success without it. The root problem is that we are not absolved of Gresham's law when some kind of balance between liberal interpretation and conservative emission isn't maintained.

What's the solution? Correct the balance. Which is why the standards folks seem to be wielding more power despite the drawbacks of their stance. Or as Gruber says, "You reap what you sow".

Update: A quick Google found this rather interesting quote:

I knew Jon Postel. He was quite unhappy with how his robustness principle was abused to cover up non-compliant behavior, and to criticize compliant software.

Jon's principle could perhaps be more accurately stated as "in general,
only a subset of a protocol is actually used in real life. So, you should
be conservative and only generate that subset. However, you should also
be liberal and accept everything that the protocol permits, even if it
appears that nobody will ever use it."

It could be that what has failed us (as often as it does) is our mainstream caricatured misunderstanding of the principle, not the original principle. Perhaps if Jon were still with us, we wouldn't have had these problems to the same degree.

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This page contains a single entry by Stu published on March 19, 2008 5:19 PM.

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