Webstock 2008: Why Web Standards Aren’t

by Luke Wroblewski February 14, 2008

Molly Holzschlag's Why Web Standards Aren’t talk at Webstock 2008 described how the current manifestation of Web “standards” hasn’t lived up to the original vision of the Web and explored why.

  • The grand vision of the Web was always: anyone, anywhere, any platform, and any user agent.
  • In 1993, Lynx allowed people to explore text but because it was just text, it was accessible everywhere.
  • The Web standards name came from the Web standards project, which was trying to enable the original vision of an inter-operable Web by accounting for cross-browser development issues.
  • What we currently think of as “standards” are really a set of best practices. For example, writing meaningful mark-up, separating presentation/document/behavior, etc.
  • A standard is an authoritative principle or rule that implies quantity, excellence, correctness.
  • Interoperability is the capability of different programs to exchange formats, read/write, interact.
  • The Web is not standardized. It is not developed to for complete interoperability. We have ideologies & best practices but not a set of standards.
  • Ten years after the publication of HTML 4.1, a new working draft of HTML 5 standard is developed. But the specification has been mostly drafted by a single person -which is problematic.
  • We need to create common baselines to manage interoperability.
  • We should clarify ambiguous specifications
  • Standards bodies need transparent development cycles when developing.
  • Browsers need to compete on user interface & features not on standards.