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Web Standards

I'm into web standards and by following them, I am able to create websites that cost less to design and maintain, load faster, and reach more users.

In the beginning, the WWW acronym could have just as easily stood for Wild Wild West. The early and mid-1990s saw Netscape and Microsoft engaged in the so-called "browser wars." During this time, one browser vendor would implement features that the other browser did not have, which led to websites that did not work properly in both major browsers. For example, you may recall seeing disclaimers indicating which browser was best for viewing a particular site.

The goal of creating web standards, such as the HTML standard, was to eliminate these discrepancies and formalize the de facto standards, enabling developers to create sites that worked reasonably well across all browsers. Standards bodies such as the W3C were created as forums to establish agreement across the industry and among vendors. Other standards groups have formed since, most notably the HTML5-focused WHATWG. While there is often political maneuvering involved, the goal of each of these standards bodies is to find agreement and thereby formulate standards, often referred to as specifications, across the industry on the technologies that drive the web, including HTML and CSS.

So, what do you get by using standards when making websites?

  • Reduced Development and Maintenance Time
    Coding in accordance with standards can shorten both development and maintenance time. Debugging and troubleshooting therefore becomes easier, because the code follows a pattern.
  • Allow Backward Compatibility and Validation
    Standards are written to be compliant with older browser versions. This is what the W3C refers to as "backward compatibility". While these browsers may not show everything as initially intended, they will still understand the basic structure of Web documents, and display them accordingly.
  • Graceful Degradation Now, and in the Future
    Another important factor to remember is that most Web standards are designed with forward and backward compatibility in mind. This means that Web pages coded for old versions of the standards will still be supported in new versions of browsers, while Web pages coded for new versions of the standards will gracefully degrade to produce an acceptable result in older browsers.
  • Increase Search Engine Success
    From a page ranking point of view, complying with standards also guarantees better results and increased visibility in search engines. Standards-compliant documents get indexed more accurately due to the structural information present in them, as they can be easily accessed and evaluated by mechanical and human methods alike.
  • Achieve a More Stable Web
    With the arrival of new hardware like mobile phones and hand-held devices, coding 100% compatible Web applications will only get harder, if not simply impossible. Following the standards is the most efficient way to achieve a better, more stable Web.
  • Common Knowledge
    Web standards offer a set of rules that every developer can follow, understand, and become familiar with. When one developer builds a site according to standards, another will be able to pick up where the former left off as easily as if he had been the one designing it in the first place.

The Web has come a long way since the creation of the W3C in 1994. While the Consortium actively works at bettering things, much is still to achieve and it is up to Web developers worldwide to make the dream of a better Web a reality.

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