Monday, October 18, 2010

Standards aren't standards until they're standards

I was idly thinking about html today.

HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language. Basically the "code" (markup language) used to make websites.

HTML is a standard that is fraught with inconsistent implementations. The way that Mozilla Firefox interprets that mark up language and displays it is different from the way that Internet Explorer or Opera etc. interpret that same mark up language.

In the past, there have been different standards being followed. Or the standards were "extended" with features not part of the standard and proprietary to the particular browser. This is most evident with Internet Explorer. Take ActiveX for example. In South Korea, leaders of Internet speed and interconnectivity, are stuck on Internet Explorer 6 because the government standardised on security protocols implemented in ActiveX.

And then the standards just don't go far enough in my opinion. CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) came about with great fanfare. If you weren't using CSS, you were back in the dark ages. It offered some brilliant features like separating the formatting from the content.

The problem is, it only separates the font formatting from the content. The page formatting still needs to be established in amongst your content. Okay, so it's a bit less than it used to be, but it's still there. To be fair, this isn't entirely due to the standard, but also the implementation. There are ways in the standard to include the content of other files - which might have solved the problem. Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox both implement this functionality a little differently. Not being able to tell one these sections to use up a certain proportion of the page, makes it less than useless.

So the other way to do it is to use a scripting language like php to pull in files and present them to the browser as the browser would see them without having to hack your way around half implemented features. The problem with this is portability. You then need to make sure you have much the same environment to move to as what you're coming from.

What does this mean for the average punter? It means that the cost of entry in to designing your own pages is high enough (there's testing to be done in the different browsers) that most users won't bother. Instead, we've now got a whole bunch of platforms - Content Management Systems, Blogs, Wikis etc.

Welcome to Web 2.0. A world where standards aren't standards.

1 comment:

  1. True. This has a lot to do with history and not being able to move on. Backward compatibility is a lie. What we would need is to scrap everything and start from scratch. Unfortunately, I don't think many people would appreciate.

    Note that I don't find the fact that random people can't design websites particularly unnerving. If it was the case, we would probably get Geocities 2.0!