Sunday, December 16, 2007

Breaking the Web Standards Stalemate

This appears to be true:

Until we get some great new (non-standard) CSS features out Mozilla, Opera, and IE nothing will get better to the extent that we will again be optimistic about the future (Safari earns a pass). The size of the improvements they deliver in the future are directly tied to our expectations of how different the future will be. Only when there are large and divergent ideas of how to proceed expressed through competing, successful implementations will standardization really work to whatever extent that it can reasonably be expected to.

Let that sink in a bit. To get a better future, not only do we need a return to “the browser wars”, we need to applaud and use the hell out of “non-standard” features until such time as there’s a standard to cover equivalent functionality. Non-standard features are the future, and suggesting that they are somehow “bad” is to work against your own self-interest.

Web developers everywhere need to start burning their standards advocacy literature and start telling their browser vendors to give them the new shiny. Do we want things to work the same everywhere? Of course, but we’ve got plenty of proof to suggest that only healthy browser competition is going to get us there. Restructuring the CSS WG or expecting IE8 to be “fully standards compliant” is a fools game.

Put simply, Zeldman is hurting you and only you can make it stop. Neither the CSS WG nor the HTML 5 WG nor, indeed, any W3C working group can define the future. They can only round off the sharp edges once the future becomes the past and that’s all we should ever expect of them. As much as they tell us (and themselves) that they can, and as much as they really would like to, the W3C cannot save us.


Stephen Downes said...

I'm generally in agreement, but I think this discussion confates between separate issues:

1. a web browser doing something no other web browser does (good)

2. a web browser doing the same thing some other browser does, but differently (bad)

3. a web browser doing the same thing some other browser does, the same way (good)

You are talking about (1). But the problem Zeldman and the rest identify (mostly, and unclearly) is (2). And what they want to happen is (3). Which doesn't contradict (1).

For example, the spinning div feature Safari introduces is an example. It's OK (possibly even neat, though I'm not sure how useful).

But this doesn't get Safari off the hook for implementing Javascript and oher browser features so badly that I have come, over the years, to adopt as a truism the saying, "Nothing works on Safari".

Or, take the example of how Internet Explorer works with cell-padding. This is a well-documented previously established specification that IE simply gets wrong. A clear-cut case of (2). IE's 'alternative' way of doing cellpadding represents no innovation or improvement - it's simply different for the sake of being obnoxiously different.

I support a world of (1) and (3), which isn't exactly consistent with Zeldman, but is close enough that it doesn't hurt.

Stephen Downes said...

um ... conflates, not confates (MacBook Pro - great computer, but skipping keys is getting to be a major problem...)