Web standards and why I still really don’t care

Jan 3, 2012

Web standards and why I still really don”t care

Originally published: 2nd March 2009 but before the content gets lost I thought I would republish it here! I really think this view is even more valid now we have HTML5 and CSS3 appearing, not to mention dealing with IE6, 7, 8 and 9!

I really don”t care about web standards. There I said it. I feel slightly guilty and ashamed about this but I”m rather hoping that there are plenty of people out there who feel the same way. We could form a support group, meet every Tuesday night, stand up and announce it; “My name is James and I am a web standards anarchist”.

Now, I”m sure there are a lot of people queuing up with pitch forks ready to beat down the door and burn me at the stake – but please give me a second or two to explain before condemning me to death by flaming. Firstly, I”m not against standards in general. In fact normally I would be an avid supporter of standards adoption. The problem is not that standards are a bad idea, nor is it that there is anything specifically wrong with W3C HTML 4.01 Recommendation, paragraph 6, subsection Z. The problem is that they are just completely irrelevant to the modern web developer.

“Yes, it should be easy – but…”

How many times have you had to explain to your client, manager or co-worker that “yes, it should be easy – but I have to jump though hoops to make it work in IE 6″? How can this be? Surely a web developer”s job should be simple. With a thorough knowledge of HTML and CSS you simply build the page to the relevant standards and all will be well. If only that were true!

The sad fact, that every web developer knows, is that none of the current generation of browsers is very good at sticking to the specification. Of course I wouldn”t apportion any blame to these browsers (no, not even Internet Explorer) since many of the standards didn”t exist when the browsers were first being built. Also, the lure of breaking specifications to add new and exciting functionality is beyond the self-control of many a developer or start-up company alike.

To prove this point, some clever chaps have built a webpage to test a browser”s ability to correctly render the more complex and controversial points of the HTML specification. Very few (if any) browsers correctly render the page.

So how is any web developer supposed to build a site they can confidently claim works consistently and correctly in a plethora of browsers and ticks all of the boxes on the W3C specifications? Testing. The only way to be sure is to try it. View the site in Internet Explorer, FireFox, Safari, Opera, Galleon,SeaMonkey, Netscape, Konqueror and Chrome. If I have missed your favourite browser please leave a comment to tell me how great it is!

How are we going to fix this time consuming process of testing?

Simple, as conscientious web developers, we blindly keep following the W3C spec and pray that one day (hopefully before we retire) the specifications and the browsers start to match.

Yeah, I don”t think that is very likely either.

So, what are we going to do? We need the big guns of browser development to get around a table and sort out the mess that they (and we) have created. We need to make the issue of standards compatibility not one for web developers, but one for browser developers. We do that by making it a mainstream problem, and I”m open to suggestions about how we do that.

Finally some helpful links in the meantime.

Acid3Test – home of the Web Standards Compliance Acid Tests!

Browser Shots – make screenshots of your web design

HTML 5 Specification – defines the HTML, the publishing language of the World Wide Web.

[IE6 No More][4] – Microsoft’s own campaign to get rid of IE6.

[4]: http://www.ie6nomore.com/