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Observations from the CSS Working Group Meeting

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Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the CSS Working Group meeting in Seattle. I am not an official member of the Working Group and so couldn’t participate in the discussions. I was able to observe and see how the next generation web technologies are made.

The meeting lasted three full days and was held at the Adobe Seattle office. The weather was rainy and overcast. The setting was beautiful. And the discussions proved to be the best attraction of all. Many of the members have been working together for over a decade. It is clear they have developed some strong bonds and mutual admiration for one another’s technical opinions and expertise.

On the first day of the meeting, a schedule is set by allocating a time slot to each topic, the duration of which is estimated on a case-by-case basis. As topics come up, one person often takes the lead in explaining the context and the proposal at hand, and others chime in with opinions and questions. In most cases, consensus is reached without much difficulty. On some topics however, strong disagreements may exist, and ultimately, a vote is required in order to gauge the group’s consensus. This happened a couple times, but in all cases an overwhelming majority of attendees supported a specific proposal, with just a couple of people dissenting or abstaining from the vote altogether.

A significant amount of progress was made at the meeting on a wide range of specifications. To name just a few:

  • There was a good discussion around media queries
  • Some bugs were resolved
  • A decision was made to add mathematical operators to the syntax (i.e., width < 700px), even though it would have to be escaped in XML
  • There was a lively discussion that resulted in a decision to expose shape reference boxes in SVG
  • An agreement was reached to poll web authors as to whether to use ! or :has() in CSS

Much more was covered as well, all captured in the publicly available CSSWG Minutes Seattle F2F.

It was truly fascinating to witness the technical debates and hear different members stake out their philosophical and technical positions on specific topics. The discourse always remained civil. While at times it seemed as though topics veered off track, in the end, issues were resolved one way or another.

The biggest takeaway for me was the dedication the working group members have in finding the best technical solution for the web. This one meeting was just the smallest of drops in the huge bucket of effort that the group as a whole, and each member individually, has devoted to moving CSS specifications forward. It was very encouraging to see that all of the attendees genuinely cared about the future of the web as a platform, and displayed an admirable level of effort and patience in order to make it a reality. I came away feeling confident that the right balance was being struck on the next set of feature specifications and that CSS was in good hands.

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