W3C recommends Pointer Events standard – but it's a touchy subject. Right, Apple?

Is Cupertino now the web standard bearer?

Comment The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published the Pointer Events standard as a recommendation, but its future is in doubt as Apple and Google are refusing to implement it.

The purpose of Pointer Events is to handle input from pointers – which might be touch or pen rather than mouse – which is increasingly important in a mobile environment. The standard also covers mapping to mouse events for compatibility with existing content.

However, there is some overlap with the Touch Events standard, an existing W3C recommendation. Touch Events has already been implemented by Apple for iOS, whereas Pointer Events came from Microsoft. That might suggest that Pointer Events are unnecessary, but in fact there are numerous advocates for the later standard since it presents a unified API for mouse, touch and pen – whereas Touch Events assumes touch input. Something like Pointer Events is necessary for scenarios where a variety of input methods may be used, such as with Windows tablets.

There is no sign of Apple implementing Pointer Events, but both Mozilla and Google did some preliminary work towards supporting the standard in their browser engines. However, in August 2014, Google announced that it would not support them:

Growing consensus at Google that pointer events isn’t the right tradeoff for us. Not ruled out, but unlikely to get investment any time soon and we cannot afford to stop trying to improve touch events.

Google changed the status of the relevant bug tracker issue to “Won’t fix.”

The decision attracted substantial protest from developers, and the suspicion that Google’s primary reason was not technical but based on the thought that Apple was unlikely to support Pointer Events, therefore it could not succeed. Is Apple now ruling web standards rather than the W3C?

Following the W3C’s recommendation, further comments arrived on the bug issue, for example:

I know for my applications, I will be refusing to support Chrome considering Blink developers want to bow down to Apple. And that's only because it seems their decision is to not implement a spec that everyone else is supporting besides Apple. Tsk, tsk, Google. You've been slowly turning into the New World Microsoft. I applaud you in evolving to this state. I think there should be more developers boycotting browser vendors who try to work against the standard.

Google has now closed the bug tracker to further comments, but you can expect the debate to continue. ®

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