Why web standards can cripple the web

according to post #6, standards have to come first –

Someone has things backwards in their thinking since standards are a necessary precursor to innovation. Without standards there is no time to consider innovation

They are maybe a necessary precursor to widespread adoption of innovation, but short of that the statement sounds completely detached from reality to me. Sometimes this isn’t even the case. AJAX took off pretty well without them.


Standards DO have to come first. If you have a team of ten people working on an innovation then those people need to first agree a standard that they will follow in developing the innovation. Without that standard you end up with the work each is doing being incompatible with the work the others are doing and they will not be able to complete the innovation.

Even with just one person working on it they need to decide on what standard they are going to follow for fitting the pieces together.

felgall, have a read of your first post in this thread. You were talking about official web standards.

You only need look back to the days of having to write each page twice to cater for both IE3 and Netscape 3 to see what not following standards can do.

That above quote makes your latest redefinition of “standards” completely meaningless. Each team probably was keeping to their own internal “standards”, yet what you’re saying now is in stark contrast to what you were saying then.

So, are you just arguing for the sake of it or what?


Arguing’s fun and informative.

Luckily we’re not rocket surgeons. Then it would be a problem!

[*]IE 6 was a very innovative browser back in the day.
Not controversial : it’s not a coincidence IE6 became so prevalent. They even invented xmlhttprequest. Yes, AJAX’s father is IE.

[*]Flash isn’t evil. It simply saw a gap that web standards weren’t filling and tried to make up for it.
As all technologies, it can and is misused. I’d say too much for this one, but Flash got us video sharing websites long before HTML5 added <video>

[*]Forcing users to use a specific browser to use certain features on site may be better than the “since all browsers don’t support it, I am not going to implement support for it” stance.
This, is a bad idea.
You don’t have to force your user. The same mindset as the one used by Javascript or Flash only website is the root of evil.
Stop starting with some technology in mind and add some time for gracefull degradation if you can (which is almost never the case). Progressive enhancement is the way to go.
Make your website usable simply with a browser and no javascript and css. Then add pretty things so it looks good and use modern technology from some browsers if you want. You’ll have a functionnal website people can use even with IE6 but it will look awesome with CSS animations, HTML5 goodness and some flash on other browsers.

Arkh: ++ : )

[FONT=“Georgia”]This is something I’ve been thinking about since Mobyme mentioned something similar sometime ago.

I can say that for me, I’ve begun using the web-standards as general guidelines, but I’m not as religious about it as I once was. Which is to say, I use the standards to make sure my site works. To make sure it can safely run on most platforms.

From there, though, I branch away from the rules to add on special features, or other functionality that can be more efficiently coded in another way (prime example is the target=“_blank” attribute).

One more thing…

As web-designers, and most of us self-taught, we should count ourselves lucky that these rules are mere suggestions and not hard-and-fast law, or many of us would never have fumbled and experimented to get where we are today.

Would you have built your first website if you needed a licence and a decade in school to do so?


Well, Joe Hewitt is saying that browser vendors shouldn’t wait for standards because it slows/stops innovation. Mostly because of his drool-worthy love of Cocoa (sigh). He wasn’t saying anything about us adhering so hard to the standards, however we do owe it to our users NOT to write in such a way as t force them to use some particular user agent…

…though he is talking about web apps. That crosses a line. At some point, an application, like a game, needs to demand something hardware- and software-wise. When it becomes a full-fledged web application, it’s not longer a web document. HTML was created for web documents, not Desktop-imitating applications.

No. Some of the other posts since my first succeeded in modifying my opinion. I was shown that the specific example that I gave at the start was incorrect. The more general example I have subsequently given is still correct though and does relate back to the first since once you have iterated through the private standards/innovation loop a few times then public standards then become necessary in order to make further progress.

First browser to improve CSS wins.

This is exactly correct. Facebook has the luxury of dreaming fondly of the browser war days when people wrote one version of a website for each browser. Most of the rest of us, have to do things on a budget. My clients don’t get their estimate and say “Hey, do you think you can double this?” So I appreciate that Facebook may be going in their own direction. However, I think for Hewitt to make these kind of statements about the web in general shows of lack of realism.

The W3C standards help the web to look as a activity field “regulated” by some rules. I appreciate a lot the work of web developers like Mr. Hewitt, but they deal with innovations and are focused to invent things and to put them into practice. However it takes time for users to understand novelties and for companies to adopt them. I don’t think that anyone would push this ahead.

I’m glad tht we have a strong web standards. Otherwise it would be mess.

This is a passionate subject, personally I’m grateful to have standards to work with. Most of the innovation I’ve seen is making those standards do things that are perhaps outside the box they were designed for, if these methods become popular additional functionality is implemented in the standard to simplify these techniques. Great progress.

The real trouble with standards is they’re run by committee (I’m sure that this falls into the category of a productivity joke) so progress is normally a slow democratic consensus or when consensus is eluded you end up with alternate standards and have the politics of each dominating the industry. If this is the crippling referred to then I’d have to agree. But I still believe standards are a very worthwhile thing to have.

On a slightly different subject, we should think of the technology available when the web started, I remember using a 9600 baud modem and an early version of Netscape to browse static pages. Over the years bandwidth and technology and standards progressed, websites began to run more like programs and with today’s bandwidth they’re achieving amazing things.

But here’s a point to consider, do we need web browsers anymore? Are their days numbered? Will operating systems become the browsers of tomorrow? Internet speeds are high enough to work with applications and give an excellent user experience, have a look at the number of phone and tablet apps available.

Software vendors would then control the standards, developers will start to create methods outside the box that will become popular … here we go again.

I think the guy is just upset Steve jobs don’t like him flashing on the web.

It is actually worse, it shows a very annoying attitude because nothing and nobody stops him to implement those “innovative” browser specific features as much as he likes. But he actually comes up with old, badly biased,totally wrong and already debated million of times crappy arguments against standards.
While I’m writing this, I’m trying to plug my swiss-bought laptop into a german adapter in an italian socket, next time someone says standard are detrimental for innovation, I’m gonna fart really loud…

I’ll fart with you.

Can we just say Firefox is the best browser and kill the other ones? LOL… only in my dream. I don’t care what browser as long as they are multiplatform compatible (no IE!). Then, we don’t need these standards to slow us down!!! What he says is true of the standards… for others they’re excited to see new browser like Chrome…for me I see it as another browser to test on and more work…

I’m going to start out with a minor correction. 99% of what’s being said about IE6 is also true of IE 5. The only MAJOR difference between IE6 and IE5.5 is the doctype trigger fixing the box model and IE6 obeying margin:auto; and even IE 5.0 has MOST of IE 5.5’s functionality if you know what you are doing. (Only major thing missing I’ve ever had issues with was the lack of behaviors and expressions and some oddball text-align vs. float behaviors). Someone here mentioned XMLHTTPRequest - that *** goes back to Office 97.

It was IE5 that drove the nail into Netscape’s coffin and made Opera a non-player since it at least TRIED to implement CSS2 years before anyone else was even trying.

Though in a lot of ways, the problems we see with IE today all stem from people deploying specifications that weren’t even out of draft - it’s why browsers specific ‘features’ are such a danger.

In a lot of ways most of his arguments sound like me BEFORE 2004 - I said a lot of the same things… but to be honest most of that came from the fact that there were no practical alternatives to IE in the functionality department… Mozilla suite was a buggy bloated train-wreck, Opera was still barely giving us CSS 1 support, and there were no other REAL players in the market.

But I think the focus of the entire discussion is missing the thing I realized that changed my viewpoint. When it comes right down to it people do NOT visit websites for the goofy animations, “gee ain’t it neat” javascripted nonsense, or even the graphics hung on the layout or fancy layout chicanery. USERS visit websites for the CONTENT - the information presented on said sites.

What do I mean by “gee ain’t it neat” bull? 99% of what people are throwing jquery at these days is unnecessary bloat - about two thirds of what people are throwing AJAX at either consumes more bandwidth than flat pages would (see what’s happening with webmail) … and then you have the flashtards building entire sites out of flash or other “gee ain’t it neat” technologies that are a complete accessibility /FAIL/, and if nothing else annoying as all hell when they blow 3 megabytes on delivering 3k of plaintext.

There are useful web applications - but for every google docs there are a few thousand websites that blow javascripted crap like jquery and mootools on doing CSS’ job, and result in several hundred K of javascript for NOTHING of any use to the end user.

Just look at the steaming pile of crap vBulletin 4 has become with it’s new skins - take the main index at digital point for example - they upgraded to it recently. 200k of markup, 226k of javascript on firstload, 75k of CSS - all to deliver 19k of plaintext (less than 10k of text that’s actually visible to the user). Whoever thought this was a good idea needs to hang their head in shame. (that it abuses ordered lists and uses content cloaking to present tabular data just makes it worse)

There is NO legitimate excuse for a forum index like theirs to consume more than 40k of HTML, 40k of CSS and maybe 40k of javascript apart from the ineptitude of the coders at vBull (who just keep layering hack upon hack over the core codebase from a decade ago). They’ve got balls of thunder to even THINK about charging for that fat bloated trash.

A lot of it is just developers trying to stroke their own… ego. They’re bragging “Look what I made it do” instead of “Yeah, but what good is it when it makes the page take three times longer to load and doesn’t work for more than half the people out there?”

The latter part of that being the problem with using any “browser specific” features or specifications not ready for real world deployment.

That’s actually part of what I consider to be HTML5’s biggest shortcoming - while there’s lots of “gee ain’t it neat” stuff like SVG, you look at JUST HTML 5 core and CSS3 - and they really don’t do anything we cannot do right now by other means. Sure it might be a bit more work - but most of the ‘big’ features people are clamoring for just aren’t that impressive.

It’s made worse by HTML 5 seeming to have been hijacked by people who want to undo ALL of the progress we’ve made in STRICT - that being SIMPLER MARKUP and separation of presentation from content. Dan used to joke that the same people who made bloated nested table layouts now just make boated nested DIV layouts - with HTML5 now we have endless pointless nested presentational tags being feigned off as being ‘semantic’ (when most of them are NOT or are just a waste of time)

The biggest thing strict brought us was LESS tags and attributes - want an example of HTML 5 undoing that? AUDIO and VIDEO, and making EMBED officially part of the spec - WHAT THE *****. HTML 4 had it right - OBJECT. Most people don’t realize this, but OBJECT was even supposed to replace EMBED, APPLET, and even IMG - YES, I SAID IMG!!! The only reason it couldn’t was IE being a retard about supporting it until IE8 (unless you have quicktime installed - no joke)

The whole idea was if you are including an external file to be shown in the page, you have ONE tag to do it regardless of file type. Apparently that was too hard for people so instead we have to take a browser specific tag that’s redundant and make it official, and add two new tags?

As it stands most developers cannot even bother to learn about TH, TBODY, THEAD, TFOOT, CAPTION, LEGEND, LABEL, FIELDSET, ACRONYM, COL, COLGROUP, DFN, KBD, SAMP - hell most people can’t even figure out how to use CODE properly and the only people who know ABBR are the microformat junkies… Now we add some twenty new tags and a equal number of attributes (weren’t we supposed to be moving AWAY from having more attributes?) to make it ‘better’ and ‘easier’? Yeah, RIGHT. I don’t even want to THINK what Joe coder is going to do with HTML5 given that most developers still seem to have their heads wedged up 1998’s backside.

But really, it’s NOT a question of “standards” or making it easy for developers or having new “features” - it’s about what you can deliver to ALL users in the here and now. In the here and now new browser specific features and specifications not even out of draft are more harm than help. Oh noes, to support the majority of users you have to restrict yourself to HTML4/CSS2.1 with some minor bugfixes for IE6 - NOT THAT!?! That’s why today my opinion is get off your lazy ass and code it properly to support as many users as possible, and forget all the extra bloated bull. There’s a reason it’s called WORK and not “Happy Happy Fun Time”. Use that extra crap that doesn’t work in IE on a clients page, show it to them in it’s full glory, then enjoy explaining why NONE of it works in IE. They’ll tell you where to shove your work - to the point it might not even be anatomically possible.

If nothing else, it goes back to the original point of HTML. To present content in a device neutral manner so anyone anywhere can access it regardless of the capabilities of the user agent. It’s WHY the HTML specification doesn’t actually specify what the default appearance of 99% of the tags even should be - since that’s ENTIRELY up to the user agent (browser for those of you who don’t know the term).

There’s a reason I want to *****-slap the people who want to bring back the “best viewed in” nonsense like it was 1998… and that on my websites I usually put “Best viewed with eyeballs”.

Extremely well said and accurate. Great post.