HTML 5 Issue 10904: Video Parental Controls?

Thanks to @johnfoliot, I have been alerted to a recent discussion on the HTML5 issue list. For various reasons I'd rather make my contribution here rather than create an account and comment on the issue directly. Any of what follows may be quoted if so desired and any comments are welcome though

The original suggestion John raised is that the HTML 5 video element should support some mechanism for linking to metadata that could be useful in child protection. The comments he got back ranged from ill-mannered to simply dismissive. Hixie's own initial response: The parental control mechanism is for the parent to be responsible for their kid. Issue closed" speaks for itself.

John Foliot persisted and has got some more considered responses although the visceral hatred some folk in and around the HTML 5 working group have for namespaces shows itself again. Be that as it may, whilst I agree entirely that parents need to be empowered to control Web content for their children, I have reservations about John's suggestion. I have two basic reasons:

First, no extra markup is necessary.

There are several ways to link to a POWDER document: HTML link element, HTTP Link header or RDFa. These are described in Section 4 of the relevant POWDER specification but please note the erratum concerning wdrs:describedby. That should be enough - that is, there are enough options here through which you can associate a video embedded in an HTML 5 document without needing special measures just because it's a video.

Second, ICRA failed. I wrote about why I think that was a year ago and just recently, the organisation that grew out of ICRA has shut down the whole site so the 'ICRA vocabulary' no longer exists on the Web.

Classifying video automatically for the purposes of filtering is hard, but what filters are good at is classifying the page in which a given video is embedded. Fool proof? No. Usually effective? Yes.

John Foliot's intentions are good. Parental control is essential and the attitude of the few individuals in the HTML 5 WG who were so rude and dismissive to his approach are doing nothing but advertising their own ignorance. However, the idea of a parental control predicated on a label at one end and a filter at the other never took off. Whilst it gives me no pleasure to say so, it's a dead horse and one I've long stopped flogging.

Adding metadata to a whole Web site at once? Now that's worth looking at. Linking to metadata from HTML documents, or embedding metadata within them, is a good thing. I'd want to link videos to all sorts of metadata of which parental control stuff would just be one aspect. If POWDER can help with that, so much the better.

12 November 2010