Buzz Archive: June 2003

Browsers Come and Go, Standards Endure

The demise of the free, standalone versions of Internet Explorer has caused a great deal of anxiety on the Web. It shouldn't have. Microsoft's announcements just underline the importance of developing to standards: browsers come and go, standards endure.

As well, Microsoft has promised to release bug fixes for the free versions of Internet Explorer as needed. Their customers (that's almost all of us) should demand they include standards bugs among those they'll be fixing. In the latest WaSP Opinion, we do.

Walking the talk

There are a growing number of resources available which appeal to the selfishness of the individual designer or producer in selling the advantages of Web standards, but concise case studies and finished, live sites built around standards are still something of a rarity.

Simon Willison points out today a case study of just that sort: explaining the benefits gained by a single designer working alone as a result of following the spirit and letter of Web standards.

FrontPage to Improve Standards Support?

There are encouraging signs that Microsoft might be addressing one of the biggest problems with its FrontPage software - that being the dire quality of the markup that it generates. In a CNet news article entitled Microsoft aims higher with Web software, Melisa Samuelson, a Microsoft product manager is quoted as saying:

"We've heard in the past that customers felt our code wasn't transparent enough, that we generated messy code ... We've really focused on generating clean, industry-standard HTML code."

One of the Web Standards Project's stated aims is to encourage software vendors to write tools that generate compliant markup, not the tag soup or proprietary markup that many have been guilty of in the past (and none more so than FrontPage). WaSP has been successful in engaging some sectors of the industry, but FrontPage has been a difficult one to crack to date. Given the number of governmental and public offices that use FrontPage as the default web authoring tool (on the basis that it's 'free' when bundled with the MS Office suite), it's especially important that the tool generates markup that complies with W3C standards (that Microsoft itself helped to define). Add to this the fact that US government agencies - many of whom will be using FrontPage - are required to make web pages comply with Section 508 accessibility guidelines, and you have even more reason to expect that the markup produced is clean and compliant.

We sincerely hope that Melisa Samuelson's comments are based on fact, and were not simply for the purposes of providing an enticing quote for this news story. If it was the latter, it certainly caught our attention - and we'll be watching to see if this holds true.

Setting the Record Straight

In a recent interview with Jeffrey Zeldman, Meet the Maker's Brian Alvey complains that his role in WaSP “always gets overlooked.” Zeldman suggests that Alvey just might be overestimating his influence, but despite that lil' snipe, goes on to set the record straight about the history of WaSP and the role of the many people who worked collaboratively to make it happen.

For those readers interested in learning the history of WaSP and how we came to be, who we are today, and what the status of Web Standards is now, the Zeldman interview is quite informative. What's more, you can read about a variety of contemporary standards concerns such as dealing with pixels versus ems, managing commercial sites using standards, and of course, a forward look on standards compatibility from Zeldman's new book, Designing with Web Standards.

And yes, while there's the ubiquitous Zeldman-in-hat picture gracing the interview's home page, something about this one is just a little odd. You'll want to go see for yourself.