Web standards take a beating

If you’ve read any web design blogs during the past week you will no doubt be aware of the hornet’s nest that has been stirred up by Opera’s antitrust complaint against Microsoft. The issues at stake go well beyond Opera’s attempt to put a dent in Internet Explorer’s market share, and commentators have been quick to point out the ramifications for web standards, and the organizations that govern them.

Andy Clarke has called for the dissolution of the W3C CSS Working Group. Alex Russell has accused Jeffrey Zeldman of hurting web developers and called for a return to the browser wars of the 90s. Jeff Croft has stated that “compliance is f**king boring”. Even Wired has provided coverage of the furore.

This is an issue that has been simmering under the surface for a long time now, and Opera’s suit has seen the gloves come off. As Eric Meyer observes, the timing is bad, but I for one am pleased to see the web community’s frustrations out in the open.

For a long time I think web developers have been afraid of criticizing web standards, for fear of sparking a return to the bad old days when browser vendors tried to divide and conquer with competing proprietary technologies. The W3C and the web standards movement provided a way clear from the browser wars, but today the W3C’s progress has been stalled by internal politics, and innovations now seem to occur largely outside the context of web standards – AJAX and Flash spring to mind.

For my part, I think that talk of a return to the “browser wars” (as it they were a positive force) is unproductive. Like many others I am frustrated by the snails pace with which the W3C seems to function, and would love to see CSS3 widely implemented by browser vendors so that we can actually start to use it in our daily practice, but I don’t see that turning our backs on the standardization process will bring us closer to that goal. Let’s not lose sight of the gains we have made. Hopefully this fresh debate will put increased pressure on the W3C to fix the transparency and accountability issues that hamper their progress, and they can get the ball rolling again.

I’m about to head off on my Christmas holiday, and don’t have time to give a more in depth analysis, but here are a bunch of articles and blog entries to flesh out the discussion:

Bad Timing – Eric Meyer
CSS Unworking Group – Andy Clarke
CSS Working Group proposals – Andy Clarke
Re: CSS Unworking Group – Jeffrey Zeldman
The W3C Cannot Save Us – Alex Russell
Do we need a return to the browser wars? – Jeff Croft
Year Zero – Jeremy Keith
Reigniting the browser wars – Stuart Langridge
Slightly broken, but not beyond repair – David Storey

2 thoughts on “Web standards take a beating

  1. Josh says:

    Thanks for this post! I had no idea this was going on and will definetly check out all of these links.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and look forward to more of your posts. Your site is one of my favorite sites to check out.


  2. W3C remind me of some dictatorships that are around at the moment :|

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