Interview, Open Component

August 19, 2003 9AM PST

DMXZone publishes an interview with yours truly (goofy head shot and all), and thoughts on rich-text web-based editors.

Dave Shea Head Shot

All things considered, I think my photo came out okay. That’s right, I got the DMXZone treatment that we’re all coming to know and love.

Bruce Lawson asked some great questions, and I think I managed to give some rather thoughtful answers in my interview. Go read a few scattered thoughts on coding CSS, the on-going success of the Zen Garden, and Comic Sans MS. Meanwhile, Molly may be over-doing it just a tad, but colour me flattered. §

A recurring thought of mine that might be worth consideration, if you’re a coder: there exists a graphical, rich-text editing component by a certain software giant out of Redmond that comes bundled with its flagship browser. This component has caught on like wildfire thanks to its price and universality. Many large-scale content management systems, weblog tools, and other web-based applications use the component to allow a familiar Word-like editor for their, well, less-than-technical clientele.

The problem with this component is that no matter how well-intentioned a page author is, they are shackled by the markup that it spits out. And it’s ugly. Oh, is it ugly. <FONT> tags, unquoted attributes, the whole nine yards.

Alternatives exist that allow customization of the code, but they’re pricey and can’t compete with a free component in this space. A CMS vendor already charges a certain price; adding an extra $159 per license just for an editor is not an option.

It occurs to me that an open-source, hackable version of this component would be an incredibly Good Thing for broader standards adoption. Offering it free for commercial purposes would ensure consideration, and if it were easily hackable for custom purposes, it might be integrated in a heartbeat by a huge number of very expensive and well-deployed software systems.

I can’t give you any leads for Google. I don’t know what the component is called, and I can’t remember who provides alternatives. I’m sure someone reading this site knows what I’m talking about and can fill in that gap. My point however is to say that if an open alternative existed, a lot of people would be very happy, and the creator might see a very large amount of indirect benefit as a result. It’s just a thought. §