TAG: Web Standards

Web as Platform

Tim O’Reilly is returning to the definition he started with: Web 2.0 is the Web as Platform. This is the definition that got me interested in Web 2.0 in the first place. It makes sense, easily contrasts with “desktop as platform”, and is accurate: we are seeing a tremendous platform move to the Web. Unfortunately, […]

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Re-inventing HTML

Tim Berners-Lee in Re-inventing HTML:

“Some things are clearer with hindsight of several years. It is necessary to evolve HTML incrementally. The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn’t work. The large HTML-generating public did not move, largely because the browsers didn’t complain. Some large communities did shift and are enjoying the fruits of well-formed systems, but not all. It is important to maintain HTML incrementally, as well as continuing a transition to well-formed world, and developing more power in that world.”

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On Web Standards

At this point in time, the best web applications aren’t built using web standards.

Web technologies, yes, but these sites certainly do not validate, which if you ask any standardista, is absolutely necessary. Joe Clark states the most extreme view: “It indicates not merely unprofessional Web-development practices but outright incompetence.”

However, I think this is the wrong message to send to fellow web designers. Designers should not dismiss sites simply because they don’t validate. They should judge sites on completely different criteria: usefulness. After all, the three sites I mentioned above are some of the most useful sites out there…are their designers unprofessional or incompetent?

The answer is not “no”. It’s “who cares?” Who cares whether or not the designers are incompetent if they consistently deliver their users a great user experience? Certainly not the folks who are happily using the sites…they wouldn’t care a whit. The fact that a site doesn’t validate says more about the designer’s priorities than it does about their competence.

So instead of tearing down designers whose code doesn’t validate, let’s re-evaluate our work by asking what is the most important thing we can do to make our user’s experience better? Let’s question the questioners, and not view the world in black (does validate) and white (doesn’t validate). Some time ago I wrote a long riff about why we are having trouble articulating design.

Anyway, here’s a start:

The most important standards on the Web are not technological, they’re social. They are the standards that software and web sites need to reach before people find something useful. If you can, yes, use web standards to make your app more accessible, or to save on your bandwidth costs, or give you better visibility among your peers.

But standards are a false idol, and praying to validation is putting technology before humans. The mere act of validation doesn’t suddenly make something accessible to all, so judging designers on validation doesn’t say much either. Don’t make standards validation an absolute necessity if they’re going to hold you back from coming up with something like Gmail that completely changes the way we use the Web.

Mozilla Firefox 1.5 to Kick Ass

I think that sums up the new browser, now in beta. Just look at some of the new and updated features:


  • SVG support
  • Support for the <canvas> element
  • CSS 3 Columns
  • DOM inspector
  • Javascript console
  • Syntax highlighting on view source

Supported web standards

  • Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML): HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0/1.1
  • Cascade Style Sheets (CSS): CSS Level 1, CSS Level 2 and parts of CSS Level 3
  • Document Object Model (DOM): DOM Level 1, DOM Level 2 and parts of DOM Level 3
  • Mathematical Markup Language: MathML Version 2.0
  • Extensible Markup Language (XML): XML 1.0, Namespaces in XML, Associating Style Sheets with XML Documents 1.0, Fragment Identifier for XML
  • XSL Transformations (XSLT): XSLT 1.0
  • XML Path Language (XPath): XPath 1.0
  • Resource Description Framework (RDF): RDF
  • Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP): SOAP 1.1
  • ECMA-262, revision 3 (JavaScript 1.5): ECMA-262

See the Mozilla Firefox 1.5 Beta for Developers page for more info.

Quick Overview of Greasemonkey

Paul Boutin writes a nice, quick overview of Greasemonkey, a Firefox plugin that allows you to run your own, local javascript when viewing a web page: Monkeying With the Web.

Mark Pilgrim has written a book on the subject: Dive Into Greasemonkey.

Standards-based Ajax Beats Flash Anyday

A few weeks ago I got an interesting call at work: John Fontana of NetworkWorld wanted to ask me a few questions about Ajax for an article he was working on. He had read a piece that I wrote called Using Ajax for Creating Web Applications.

The article he was writing is now online: Battle lines drawn again between browsers. In it Fontana provides an overview of the current browser tension between Firefox and IE.

You’ll find a short quote in the article from me (and thankfully it is one that I still agree with):

“I would say going forward that AJAX is going to have a ton of focus and support behind it,” says Joshua Porter, research consultant and director of Web development for research firm User Interface Engineering. “Because it is built on open standards, it is going to be the next plateau that we reach on the Web, like with HTML.”

On this note, I was listening to a podcast earlier today called The Platform Revolution that included Kevin Lynch of Macromedia. He talks about HTML not being robust enough for most web application needs, and suggests that Flash is becoming the front-end application tool of choice.

I think that developers will soon prove Lynch wrong, as they (WE) value open, de facto standards over proprietary tools.

Writing Semantic Markup

Digital Web Magazine has published Writing Semantic Markup, Richard MacManus and I’s latest article in the Web 2.0 Design column.

I had the writing duties on this one, and it wasn’t easy. What I tried to do was to use a relatively innocuous definition of “semantic” and expand on it to show how we might be writing markup going forward. I also had to balance the idea that XHTML had semantic elements but wasn’t really fulfilling that purpose, for better or worse.

Let me know what you think.

A Short Introduction to Microformats: a Stepping Stone on the Way to Semantic Markup, or a Distraction from It?

Up until recently I had been struggling with understanding microformats, those mysterious formats built in XHTML that several folks have been talking about passionately: promising everything from better search engine visibility to better structured code to a realization of true semantic markup. The reason for my struggles was that there were few actual examples of […]

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The Battles for Peace and Web Standards: Two Battles We Shouldn’t Have To Fight

In which I pine for the Democratic Web to quickly win the Battle for Peace and the Battle for Web Standards: two causes near and dear to many of us.

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Who Cares How Pretty Web Sites Are?

An internal debate I had recently about how user behavior shows that prettiness may not be what web site visitors really want.

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