By now, everyone and their brother has reblogged Darin’s post about experimental support for <a ping>. And, as I think most people predicted, there was an outcry about privacy concerns, support for non-standard HTML extensions. Others have written lots about what the actual effect on the privacy landscape is (IMO, a slight improvement), so I won’t rehash that, and my feelings on the “divine right” of any one standards-for-a-living body to define the future of the web are pretty well-known among those who care, so you also won’t have to endure that.
What I‘m concerned about is that developers involved in this process were, in the words of at least one of them, “surprised” that there was controversy over implementation of this feature. I agree that, at least so far, the controversy seems to be based mostly on an incomplete understanding of how things are actually tracked on the web today. But there’s a difference between not thinking that the objections are valid and being surprised that people have a reaction to the proposal. The latter worries me a bit, because the emotional and social context in which we operate is pretty important to our success. We ignore that at our own peril, I think, though there would certainly also be peril in swaying with every wind. I guess this is why philosopher kings make the big bucks.
Also, somewhere between the initial bug filing, the trunk landing, the request that it go into the Firefox 2 branch, and Darin’s blog post, the original intent of this work seems to have become obscured, at least in our messaging: this is an experimental implementation to be used to gather feedback from implementors, web authors, users, and the rest of our huge world.
(Aside to the Slashdot submitter: when you link to a blog post that explicitly describes the feature and mentions that people might be nervous due to privacy fears, you might not want to say that it was “quietly” done. This was one of the louder landings for a change of its scale, IMO — which is as it should have been, also IMO.)