Bocoup & Open Standards: A (Very Full) Year in Review

We’ve had a very productive year making web standards more open, predictable, and inclusive. As our standards liaison, my job is to spot opportunities for us to do that work externally, and to see where more support is needed. We still have a lot to do, but it’s nice to reflect on our accomplishments over the year so we can better prepare for the next. Read on to learn more about what we did and why, and to celebrate 2019 with us!

An Inclusive Web for Everyone

It’s easy to say this is a core value, but how do you put it into practice? And how should we expect to see those practices make a difference? Some of the actions we took this year address these questions directly. In the Positive Work Environment Community Group, we have been updating the W3C’s Code of Ethical Professional Conduct (CEPC), and are busy laying the groundwork to develop training plans that support working group participants who want to work on community safety. We’re optimistic that the new CEPC will be ratified in the new year as the W3C looks to update its process document. Similarly at Ecma International, we authored a proposal to change the organization’s practice of third-party gendering and using gendered honorifics (e.g., Mrs., Mr., Miss) in its publications. Now, Ecma will only use genders or honorifics selected by the individual.

In our technical working group spaces, we sought to create clearer terms, processes, and support for Code-of-Conduct related work. I have been very proud to chair the TC39 Code of Conduct team for the past two years, and to bring this experience into TC53, Ecma’s newest technical committee. We also helped the Web Platform Tests project adopt a code of conduct and are currently working with project leaders on a new moderation team proposal.

These kinds of activities help invite and welcome participants, but not all who would participate, can. This is why the Bocoup team dove deeper into the work of ARIA, APG, and ECMA 402 this year. ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) and APG (Authoring Practices Guide) working groups strive to make it much, much easier for developers to write web software that truly anyone can use. We’re looking forward to building more cooperation between ARIA and other working groups such as HTML, so web accessibility problems are top of mind. We were also proud to serve as co-editors of the ECMA 402 specification this year, a document that defines the internationalization API for EcmaScript.

A Stable Web for Everyone

Truly open standards require multiple implementations and shared tests, which provide added benefits like ease of adoption, platform consistency, and discoverability. Bocoup has been supporting the WPT project for years, writing tests and helping implementers consume them and contribute back. This year, we worked to further improve WPT documentation and authored a new Web Platform Contributor’s Guide. Our guiding principle is to reduce friction for those who would like to contribute back to the web platform itself. We’re also hoping that sharing this niche knowledge more broadly will help to bring in more diverse contributors to the platform.

We’re betting that ARIA (and related Web Accessibility Initiative work) will benefit from this especially with improved tests, a new test driver, and lots of updated documentation. Bocoup has already used this pattern on Test262, the EcmaScript test suite, with great effect. This year, we led the project with nearly 100k additions and deletions. An extension of that pattern we’re trialing is embedding some Test262 results on MDN Web Docs pages. By surfacing this web compatibility data, we’re hoping to engage more developers in creating and improving the platform.

Browser compatibility data from WPT and Test262 is one flavor of data we have been able to gather and use to improve the platform. In 2019, we worked with our colleagues on the MDN Product Advisory Board to gather another flavor of data in the form of the Developer Needs Assessment. Results from the survey, which had over 76,000 respondents, have already been incorporated into the roadmaps for most of the major browser vendors, and will certainly impact prioritization for the open source browser engines. We’re excited to have participated in this effort, and can’t wait to see what new insights will emerge from the community as the research becomes longitudinal.

An Open Web for Everyone

I believe this work is structure building for a more diverse and inclusive web. To support this, we need to call people to action in addition to working on process and platform internals. The TC39 committee is perhaps most dedicated to this cause, with an initiative to grow outreach (led by our friends at Igalia) to groups such as framework authors and educators. These groups have been incubating for most of the year, but already showing promise in their ability to bring developer voices and opinions back to the work of the committee. We are excited to be part of this experiment, and optimistic that it will result in more cooperation between committee delegates and community members.

Of course, Bocoup is not the only organization interested in making the web safe and empowering for everyone, and to reach that goal we need broad cooperation to create a meaningful plan of action. Thus we were honored to participate in developing the Contract for the Web, particularly Principle 6: Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst. We hope you’ll join is in signing this contract, and in finding new and better ways to make the web a better place in 2020.

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