Over on CSS-Tricks, Chris breaks down what some in the industry have said on the possibility that there will one day be a CSS4. The latest article that Chris references is one by a well-respected member of the community, Peter-Paul Koch (“PPK”).
In brief, PPK believes in initiating some sort of marketing gimmick wherein we basically try to repeat the success of the buzz surrounding “CSS3” by pushing the name “CSS4”.
I think he’s probably right. If we all got together on it, it could have a similar good-for-everybody bang the way CSS3 did.
I love Chris but I have to strongly disagree on this one!
The reason “CSS3” worked is because it was real. It was the successor to “CSS2.1”. Everything after CSS2.1 was considered to be under the umbrella of “CSS3”, and the things it included were really cool (as he points out in his post).
So although you can’t find a specific spec document that’s called “CSS3” like you can CSS2, CSS3 was still a sensible version of the language that had boundaries of what was in it and what wasn’t. And it was great for the industry that we had that little marketing boom.
But there’s no real way for us to do that with some imaginary “CSS4”. PPK is way off base on this one and I almost think he’s trolling us by recommending that. Whatever we try to push using the term “CSS4” will be fleeting and pointless and won’t do anything to contribute to the industry like PPK thinks. The irony is that the very fact that PPK is recommending this makes this a bad idea! It’s like a reverse-Streisand effect or something.
In his article PPK says:
I think that announcing a new CSS version will bring desperately-needed attention to CSS.
This is silly. CSS has the exact amount of attention it needs. It solves very specific problems and it does it well. Developers are excited about things that are really powerful. Like React, and Vue, and webpack, and Web Components, and CSS-in-JS libraries, and PWAs, and the list goes on. As for those that PPK refers to as the “torso” or “longtail” (the not-so-in-the-know developers), they too get excited about the tools I mentioned above – as long as those tools are marketed in a way that’s palatable to them.
PPK also says:
Web developers are profoundly influenced by the cult of the new.
Agreed. See the tools I mentioned in the previous paragraph. A superficial CSS4 isn’t going to excite anyone; we are in the midst of a whole new era of web development now and we already have many reasons to be excited about the industry. CSS4 won’t do anything to contribute to that.
Modules are the Better Way
I think the way this has been done post-CSS3 is much more effective than how it was done before. Previously we were wondering “Does this browser support CSS3?” which is a ridiculous question today and was a ridiculous question then too. In his post, Chris tries to determine what should fall under “CSS4” and he can’t really do it, so that poses another obstacle in this. But with the module system, we can break things down and it makes sense when we say “Does this browser support Selectors Level 4?” or “Does this browser support Grid Layout?”
All this being said, if the W3C wants to start dividing a group of CSS modules into something officially referred to as “CSS4”, then they can try it out. But I don’t believe it will have the same effect that CSS3 had. The marketing around CSS3 evolved naturally. Any attempt to recreate that is just living in the past.
We’re much better off with a fragmented language of separate modules. When you think about it, the marketing pushes that have occurred around features like Flexbox and Grid Layout have been just as valuable as the overall marketing that took place for CSS3 before Flexbox was even a thing. And again, those marketing pushes happened naturally – nobody forced them on the industry. They were just the byproduct of an exciting new thing in web development – just like CSS3 was!
PPK further states:
When considering the pros and cons of CSS4, don’t reason from your own experience. Please put yourself in the shoes of someone whose time is limited, or who has never learned to pay a lot of attention to technical evangelisation. Will they be helped?
CSS4 is not going to improve tech evangelization. We already have effective tech evangelization when we push individual modules like Flexbox, Grid Layout, Selectors Level 4, and so on. What PPK is wishing for is already happening and it’s occurring in a more effective way than it would with “CSS4”.
So let’s keep doing what we’re doing and not try to force the industry to relive the past using a present superficiality. CSS4 isn’t a thing and shouldn’t ever be a thing. And it would be silly for us to try to push it as if it was.