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InfoQ Homepage News Crowdfunding Web APIs - Igalia Lets Developers Fund APIs They Care About

Crowdfunding Web APIs - Igalia Lets Developers Fund APIs They Care About

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Igalia, an open-source consultancy that contributed a large part of the CSS Grid implementation in WebKit and Chromium, is experimenting with the crowd-funding of new web APIs. The experiment started with six HTML/CSS features. If successful, the experiment may be extended and give developers a larger say on what web APIs get implemented and when. Currently, the prioritization and implementation of web APIs are largely driven by browser vendors, and is characterized by unequal coverage across browsers.

Brian Kardell, developer advocate at Igalia and member of the CSS Working Group, explained in a blog post how browser vendors naturally ended up playing a critical role in the standardization and implementation of Web APIs:

There is an absolute gauntlet that something has to run in order to become a standard, even when there isn’t a particular controversy.
Practically speaking, this […] leads to things backing up. The more backed up things get, the less likely a browser vendor is to entertain new ideas and spend a lot of time discussing things that don’t directly align with their existing investments and priorities.

As browsers vendors attribute their finite resources differently, some web features have unequal coverage across browsers. CSS containment, now a web standard, is for instance not implemented in WebKit/Safari, and supported in both Chrome and Firefox. Similarly, as browser vendors’ interest and priorities diverge, some prospective features may be prioritized for implementation in some platforms and de-prioritized in others. Apple for instance recently declined to implement a few Web APIs, citing privacy reasons.

Igalia, which worked in the last year on the implementation of CSS Containment, ResizeObserver, BigInt, private fields and methods, responsive image preloading, CSS Text Level 3 and more, is launching an experiment in which developers may fund the APIs that they deem worthy. The release note says:

We are launching this experiment because we believe that a commons works best with a diverse set of voices, interests, and investments. Now we’d like to try something more direct. […]
This is an experiment so we are starting with a few ideas that we selected and tasks that are relatively small [and not controversial]. […]
If the process is successful, we can consider generalizing this approach, but we need to test it first.

The initial experiment includes six HTML/CSS features that are described with a target amount of funding to be contributed by developers for Igalia to start working on the feature.

One of the six features (CSS lab() colors) is about giving web developers a way to express colors using the CIELAB color space which approximates better human perception. The default sRGB space is not perceptually uniform and requires a lot of thinking to create adaptive, accessible color palettes. The feature may also be important for design systems which mathematically reason about color contrast.

A second feature, CSS Containment, is not implemented in Safari. CSS Containment’s goal is to improve the performance of displaying web pages. Chrome and Firefox users may enjoy optimized web pages, while Firefox users may not. Additionally, CSS Containment support is a prerequisite of the Display Locking feature.

Some developers on Twitter have welcomed the experiment enthusiastically:

Very cool experiment in web platform improvements from @igalia.
Designers, your CSS compat. issues are now fundable! Would be great to see a way for the commons to decide what is on the list in the future, if this sticks.

Another developer called to support the initiative even without a specific interest in the candidate features:

Even if the pilot projects don’t appeal to you, the en experiment could benefit the Webdev community-at-large. Let’s make this experiment work!

Another one signaled interest in the proposed features:

Focus within was an insta-pledge from me. If you can, this is a great way to fund platform implementations away from big corp control.

Igalia is a free-software consultancy specialized in developing features in all of the major browser engines. Igalia is head-quartered in Galicia, Spain.

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