Oh Look – a Dead WaSP

The Web Standards Project (WaSP) has come to an end. The news was announced in a post titled “Our Work Here is Done”.

WaSP was founded in 1998 by Glenn Davis, George Olsen, and Jeffrey Zeldman. Few of you will remember those dark times, but the web was caught in a battle between Microsoft and Netscape. Both were attempting to out-HTML each other with features such as blink tags, marquees and DHTML layers. It was a mess. Creating interactive web pages incurred two sets of code; one for IE, one for Netscape.

WaSP’s primary goal was to encourage browser vendors to support W3C web standards. Their mission statement:

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has established standards for interpreting Web-based content.

By releasing browsers which do not uniformly support those standards, browser makers are injuring Web developers, businesses and users alike.

Lack of uniform support for W3C standards makes using and developing Web-based technologies unnecessarily difficult and expensive.

We recognize the necessity of innovation in a fast-paced market. However, basic support of existing W3C standards has been sacrificed in the name of such innovation, needlessly fragmenting the Web and helping no one.

Our goal is to support these core standards and encourage browser makers to do the same, thereby ensuring simple, affordable access to Web technologies for all.

Recommending HTML4.0, CSS, the DOM and ECMAScript was revolutionary in the days of table layouts, spacer GIFs, and “best viewed with…” statements. Few people listened at first. Microsoft and Netscape were actively competing against each other while web developers were caught in the crossfire doing their own weird and wonderful non-standard stuff.

Fortunately, vendors and developers started taking notice of WaSP toward the beginning of the millennium. By 2001, the group had persuaded Microsoft, Netscape, Opera and others to follow HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, CSS1 and ECMAScript guidelines. Had this not occurred, the web could have fragmented into separate browser-specific areas.

Since that time, WaSP continued to evangelize and educate. However, the original mission was accomplished and there were fewer reasons to visit the website. So it’s goodbye to the WaSP, but let’s not forget that the job is never over…

Thanks to the hard work of countless WaSP members and supporters (like you), Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of the web as an open, accessible, and universal community is largely the reality. While there is still work to be done, the sting of the WaSP is no longer necessary. And so it is time for us to close down The Web Standards Project.

The job’s not over, but instead of being the work of a small activist group, it’s a job for tens of thousands of developers who care about ensuring that the web remains a free, open, inter-operable, and accessible competitor to native apps and closed eco-systems. It’s your job now, and we look forward to working with you, and wish you much success.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://niteodesign.com Blake Petersen

    Good read, Craig.
    It must be bittersweet to have to shutter one’s initiative because it actually worked, lol.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Thanks Blake. Yes, it’s slightly ironic but let’s be thankful that vendors eventually listened. Now if only we could encourage all web developers to use browser-agnostic best-practice techniques…

  • Len

    I shudder when I imagine a world where they failed.

    When you think of the economic and social cost of failure these guys have really done the world a solid favour.