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yea or nay?
For a long time, a number of threads have boiled down to one basic question - are the W3C Standards useful, or not?
In answering that question there are a number of other questions that must be taken into consideration:
• What would happen if there were no standards? (Bear in mind that all browsers today are based on the earliest standards for the Web. They just offer different levels of support.)
• Is the W3C really the ones that should set the standards, or would that be done better somewhere else? If yes, who/where?
• If you agree that W3C standards are good for the Web community, and that W3C should continue to develop them, why is there an argument about one standard vs the other (such as CSS vs. HTML)? Isn't there just one standard, and those who advocate it should be willing to comply with it on all levels?
• Are the standards too strict, or perhaps too forgiving?
• Having standards is one thing, but validation and conformance is another?
• Which role should software companies play in setting the standards?
• Which role should the Web community play?
Personally I think that the W3C standards are crucial to the Web's existebce. Unfortunately they are just neglected by most, or even unknown. I also believe that there's only one standard.
If the W3C recommends accessibility awareness, then that's the route we should take. If the W3C recommends CSS for styling Web pages, then that's the route we should take. There are no grey zones - either you are for W3C standards, or you are against.
I also believe that the argument about backward browser compatibility is lame. All you have to worry about is supporting current and future browsers, not old ones. As an example, Netscape 4 is not a current browser. It only survives because we keep it alive. Stop developing half-baked Web pages, and those hardcore NN4 users will find themselves upgrading to Mozilla Firebird.
It concerns me that many Web developers are holding the overall progress back, when we should promote it instead. Lingering in the mindset of 1998 is not going to help you establish a successful presence on the Internet. You need to be up-to-date. And the only way of doing that is by observing the W3C standards.
Good points. What many optimizers never stop to consider is how search engine spiders interpret pages. They may not be ranking well under certain keywords because of simple html errors on their pages. Can't happen? Happens ALL the time.
Standards are the only thing that keep us from falling into the "microsoft internet". When that happens, your site no long belongs to you, but to the whims of Redmond.
Excellent point, Brett. Glad you brought that up!
Same thing goes for screen readers and various other devices used by people with disabilities.
I think the term "Standards" in the first place is too general. If the W3C standards are actually geared toward accessibility, for one example, then there should be emphasis on multiple standards for multiple separate criterion within the subject of accessibility. Confusing? Only because there isn't any order just yet.
For instance, I think there should be a reorganization of priorities... such as:
1. Standard for Internet (www*blahblah.com/.net/.org/.etc)
2. Standard for Handicapped (www*blahblah.hdc)
3. Standard for PDA's (www*blahblah.pda)
...or something similar. They should all be separate systems and functions.. not existing on the same plane of approach, thought, or theory, even though they remain on the WWW.
When I design a site, I design it for those who can see design clearly.. nothing against handicapped, but I just don't do that. Same goes for PDA's. I don't give a crap about those people who want to view their fantasy football stats from the coffee shop. It's a waste of time in my opinion to design my clients Internet sites for them. Unless it could be effectively targeted to benefit from those viewers, it is pointless.
While W3C is great for suggesting language standards like CSS over HTML, they fail to organize a strategy for actually enforcing the standards on a wide scale to be highly effective against blockheads. Then again, if we were all slaves to the W3C, we would have less and less freedom, and everyone is different-- a fact of life we can't escape. It would be calling for a civil war, eventually.
W3C is a crucial step in the right direction, and we owe a lot to them, but the evolution of events are leading to chaos (as if it isn't already) unless someone steps in and dictates to bring an order to this mess.
<edit> added extra clarification to points </edit>
I should add to also clarify, when I said, "While W3C is great for suggesting language standards like CSS over HTML, they fail to organize a strategy for actually enforcing the standards on a wide scale to be highly effective against blockheads." I mean to imply that the W3C should create some method of stabilizing and empowering their supporters (if it doesn't already have something similar in progress) like creating some sort of Certification process to create a generation of W3C Certified Web Designers.
I'm all for people picking up web design and learning it on their free time to make a living out of it, and learning to the best of their knowledge; but if they are not learning the right way (or, the best of the ways, I should say), then it is indirectly reinforcing bad design theory and habits-- further away from the goal of reaching standards.
|While W3C is great for suggesting language standards like CSS over HTML, they fail to organize a strategy for actually enforcing the standards on a wide scale to be highly effective against blockheads |
It would be impossible for W3C to enforcement its standards. W3C is an international standards agency but it has no legal standing. The only power W3C has is that their standards are treated as industry standards, and developers are locked into them if they want their products to work. But if W3C standards were to start to become a barrier, then industry will push on regardless. It has done so in the past, and W3C has eventually had to incorporate the changes in its standards.
|creating some sort of Certification process to create a generation of W3C Certified Web Designers. |
I view this whole certification idea as an American phenomen, so probably meaningless in an international context. And anyway do you really want to be told what and how to write html?
At the moment it's possible to validate code against W3C standards, and IMHO that's all anyone needs.
I agree with you totally. I'm just saying that there needs to be some sort of regime change or something to get consistency across the board. I'm all for a revolution haha
I'm not for someone telling how to do something a specific way, but rather to provide correct theory and approach to design, while meeting standards. In that sense, people who are educated to validate would be "certified."
It is no different of a concept in comparison to say, Novell or Cisco. There is a certain approach to take to be an expert with IT stuff, that is why there are certification procedures put into place (Internationally too I might add).
One thing I'd liek to see is a reference implementation of a brower or any other piece of software that deals with these standards. Like it happens with harware vendors.
Perhaps, not that AOL is dropping Mozilla, perhaps W3C could pick up hte renderingengineand produce the W3C browser with 100% compliance.
Now THAT would be an argument to get your customers to use a non-IE browser: It's the standard!
validation is an absolute criteria for any website, if it can't validate - rebuild it.
|Standards are the only thing that keep us from falling into the "microsoft internet". |
I broadly agree with this statement, but would add a qualifier: /good/ w3c standards keep MS at bay. If the w3c goes off at a tangent to what MS believes it's customers want, eg xhtml1 as a step towards the "Semantic Web", then MS has a reason/excuse to go it's own way and sideline the w3c.
|When that happens, your site no long belongs to you, but to the whims of Redmond |
I kindof think MS already has major leverage over our sites. What will happen with the next version of
IE/its replacement technology? Will it be more w3c-standards compliant or just XAML-compliant, with a legacy HTML rendering engine stuck on the back? MS are being cagey about their plans, which makes me very worried...
I think it is very important to validate and keep within the standards. Do I always do this a designer, no. We still need to have web readers move to a closer relationship with standards. The problem arises, because the ones who need to incorporate standards also want to have a better product. They try to push out versions before the standards are solidified. Look at NN4. I think everyone learned a lesson from this, but we still have a lot of none standard functionality.
Since making browsers are a commercial business there will always be something extra added that other products don't have. I hope we are moving to none rendering functionality as the add ons like tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking. This will help make standards easier to incorporate across the products available.
|perhaps W3C could pick up hte renderingengineand produce the W3C browser with 100% compliance. |
And wouldn't we be then stuck with that browser technology for ever? If that had happened at the time of the browser wars, all our sites would still be stuck at the NS4 level.
W3C is by nature a bureaucracy. A very necessary orgnisation, but bureaucracies should never be given absolute power. In other disciplines, standards organisations codify best practice, they don't set the agenda.
Independent standards are a must. The W3C has done a remarkable job in staying the course and keeping the browser developers all pointed in the same direction.
My fear is that I also thought DMOZ was a great idea and direction to go in. It appears now to be a great idea fallen to the wayside
|There is a certain approach to take to be an expert with IT stuff, that is why there are certification procedures put into place (Internationally too I might add). |
I completely agree with the first part of your statement, but do not see certification as the answer.
When I said it was an American phenomenen, that is my perception. The US has state registered architects, electrical engineers, plumbers, etc., which is a form of certification. But we don't have anything like that in the UK.
As an example I could set myself up as an electrician if I wanted to. It would be up to the customer to query my ability, get references, etc. But it would also be incumbent on me to do safe and reliable work, which in practice means following the standards set down by the (British) Institute of Electrical Engineers. I would not *have* to follow them, but if there was a problem later I wouldn't have a leg to stand on if it came to litigation.
In the US you can buy products such as "Windows XP Pro Examiner" which prepares the purchaser to "write Microsoft and CompTIA certifications". It is sold by Amazon.com, but is not sold by Amazon.co.uk, presumably because there is no market for such products in the UK.
A search for "certification" in the Software section of Amazon.com gave 29 software results (many available for immediate download) and 13 magazine subscriptions. In Amazon.co.uk the same search produced only 5 references, none of which were immediately available. This must reflect saleability, because Amazon.co.uk lists a vast number of US books that sell in the UK.
Many good points, and great thread
I would like mentioning a favorite of mine
When after a good built I can proudly after validation add a small W3C logo to my pages I still think that anyone could do the same without caring about validating
Do you when viewing a site check if it validates?
Most of our society is built on shake hands, eye contact, and trusting the ability of an interlocutor to deliver.
I am afraid that (as in the electrician example) more and more “sloppy web Joe”
Might claim anything benefiting from a lax of control, I am not stating that we shall add a web police team in charge of verifying credentials
However I cannot call myself a hairdresser without the proper diploma
|However I cannot call myself a hairdresser without the proper diploma |
The point I was making is that certification would not work because not all countries use certification.
For example, in the UK anyone can set themselves up as a hairdresser. You don't need a diploma. You would only fall foul of the law if you called yourself a "qualified hairdresser", and even then someone would have to complain to the Trading Standards body.
To my knowlede there are only a few jobs that are regulated and they are mainly in the medical field.
Why do you care if other sites validate to the w3c standard? I care if my site validates, and I'll smile if I see that your site does and give you a pat on the back. But I'd never expect quality work from everyone who makes a website.
And it's better for my websites when others are not standards-compliant. It means that I will spend less time and money on updating my site and probably have better SEO than my competition.
You might strive for good code from your employees or coworkers, but if you think all code from everyone in the world is going to be perfect you should increase the dosage on your OCD drugs.
Back to the actual discussion, I think the W3C has done a great job and I hope that they continue to make the net a better place and that the browser makers continue to follow their recommendations. Remember that the w3c makes recommendations, not laws.
|Remember that the w3c makes recommendations, not laws. |
Absolutely! And that's the way it should be left.
I am a strong believer in web standards, and I feel that validation is a crucial step on any site - if the site doesn't validate, the layout depends on the good error-handling of the user agent rather than on anything else. If an invalid site breaks, which it invariably will somewhere along the line, then its the spaghetti code which is to blame, not the browser.
However, I would tend to disagree with the argument that there is only one standard, or that only current browsers should be supported. Firstly, HTML 4.01, 3.2 or even 2.0 are still valid standards - the markup on WebmasterWorld (which validates), does in my opinion comply with web standards, but a standard chosen to meet the needs of this particular site and its users. You shouldn't need the latest Pentium 6 with 800Gb of RAM just to view a web page - people with older machines should be able to use older or more lightweight browsers (like Dillo) and still be able to access your content, if not the style, and careful choice of standards can make this possible, with CSS and @import, or if the layout is crucial, a transitional doctype and lightweight tables.
As Brett_Tabke noted, the only other path is the forced Microsoft upgrade path, with the browser welded to the OS, excluding those on alternative operating systems, older browsers, or those too poor to buy a new computer and pay the Microsoft tax every 18 months.
And, I'd have to counter that argument...
When I said that there's only one standard - that doesn't mean that there can't be different versions of the same standard. But it is still only one standard - Web standard.
Which version to use depends on your audience as much as content and functionality.
And, in this case, law and recommendation could mean the same thing. Recommendation just sounds less harsh ;)
A few possible meanings:
A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement, or authority.
A rule or custom generally established in a particular domain: the unwritten laws of good sportsmanship.
A principle of organization, procedure, or technique: the laws of grammar; the laws of visual perspective
|Which version to use depends on your audience as much as content and functionality. |
Ah, then we're in complete agreement! I thought you were saying that everyone should always use full CSS2 and XHTML 1.1 because it's the latest thing. It seems that we both disagree with that idea!
|Ah, then we're in complete agreement! |
The latest recommendations won't be supported until the next generation browsers :)
On the other hand, I wouldn't say that HTML3.2 is always current enough ;)
It's best to stay somewhere in the middle.
Here's my answers:
|What would happen if there were no standards? |
Someone would create one.
|Is the W3C really the ones that should set the standards, or would that be done better somewhere else? If yes, who/where? |
W3C is as good as anyone else. Better than private companies or god forbid the government.
|If you agree that W3C standards are good for the Web community, and that W3C should continue to develop them, why is there an argument about one standard vs the other (such as CSS vs. HTML)? Isn't there just one standard, and those who advocate it should be willing to comply with it on all levels? |
There are many, many standards. In fact, it could be argued that each and every browser creates it's own standard. For example, colors look different in each browser.
|Are the standards too strict, or perhaps too forgiving? |
|Having standards is one thing, but validation and conformance is another? |
The purpose of standards is to make things easier for webmasters, not to create some kind of Borg-like "you will comply" environment.
|Which role should software companies play in setting the standards? |
A huge role, since those companies will be spending millions (or even billions) creating browsers.
|Which role should the Web community play? |
A huge role as well, since if the community plays no role it gets no vote.
This being said, the issue I have with W3C standards is how fast they come out and change. Sometimes it seems standards are being created for the purpose of creating standards. The endless stream of mindless HTML and XHTML standards is a great example.
I think we all have enough to do just creating a useful website which search engines like. Do we really have enough time to edit every single page a half dozen times a year to match the current, in-fashion standard just because the gods at W3C have released it?
|It concerns me that many Web developers are holding the overall progress back, when we should promote it instead. |
Web developers actually have something to do besides act as public relations people for the W3C gods.
|I also believe that the argument about backward browser compatibility is lame. All you have to worry about is supporting current and future browsers, not old ones. |
You should support what your visitors are using. Not what some idealistic sense of "rightness" says you should support.
|There are no grey zones - either you are for W3C standards, or you are against. |
Of course there are grey zones. We're talking about human beings, not robots.
|When I design a site, I design it for those who can see design clearly.. nothing against handicapped, but I just don't do that. Same goes for PDA's. I don't give a crap about those people who want to view their fantasy football stats from the coffee shop. It's a waste of time in my opinion to design my clients Internet sites for them. Unless it could be effectively targeted to benefit from those viewers, it is pointless. |
|I think it is very important to validate and keep within the standards. |
It's totally unimportant whether or not a site validates. What's important is does a site work, and validation is a tool which can be used to check that.
I know that my HTML 4.01 Transitional code will work fine in all major, and most minor, browsers, and is devoid of all HTML typos and markup errors, because the validator told me so. I also know that the content has 100% correct spelling because the spell-checker told me that too.
I'm aware of a site that could be #1 for a nice keyword, but they spelt their main keyword wrong nearly every time they used it on the site. They rate well for the mis-spelling in a short list of sites (with a Google Hint of "did you mean blah blah instead?" at the top of the page), but are nowhere to be found in the main herd.
|the issue I have with W3C standards is how fast they come out and change |
I completely disagree. The drafts are out for years before they become recommendations, allowing everyone (including you and me, and more importantly the browser makers) to give feedback.
|The drafts are out for years before they become recommendations |
I have far better ways to spend my time than cruising through the W3C god's web site. Like actually producing something.
You don't have to memorize everything... But some basic knowledge and staying up-to-date never hurt anyone. But, maybe you prefer catching up on everything when the browsers no longer support your code? Just remember - your power to change and make an impact is pretty much zero in the backwaters...
Personally, it took me forever to start appreciating W3C's Web site. Now I realize it was simply because I didn't understand the language used. And, I didn't see the benefits.
|when the browsers no longer support your code |
When will this be? ;)
Look at what wonders the IETF, ISO, RFC system and friends have brought to us. There are hundreds of different brands of ethernet adapters, including wireless, varying speeds of twisted pair, two types of coax that all talk the same wire protocols. Just about everything speaks TCP/IP these days (even fridges, washers, dryers and ovens), and you really don't need to fiddle with anything to get it interconnected.
And then there are things like SNMP that let you manage all these different products in a common way.
Now if you want to automate something that interacts with the web, can you do it? Yes... but it won't be easy to write a generic product.
If everybody followed a standard, then things would be much, much easier. This is the benefit that the standards give, anybody can become a market player, because the barrier to entry is lower.
With the way things are, you have to be very liberal in accepting input. Since pages have such a huge variety of ways they can be marked up, it becomes very difficult to extract information from them. If you've spent much time browsing at froogle.google.com, you'll see what I mean when a product shows a price, but the price actually applies to a different object than the one you're searching for.
The more people that respect standards, the less this will happen, because finding information will be that much easier.
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