What are Web Standards?
      by Kris Gosser AKA Kristopher : 27 January 2005

Web standards
are the talk of the HTML town as of 2005. But many of us are scared off by the thought of this new wave because we either don’t know what it is or how it works. I will attempt to give you an overview at what the web standards project is, and why there’s a huge push for it lately.

The Idea
First off, it should be known that the term “web standards” is a general grouping for an idea, not so much a single programming language. In 1998, Jeffery Zeldman and others realized that the way professionals were making Web sites was very unprofessional. He correctly recognized that the jumbled mess of nested tables, browser sniffers, and broken server-side scripts were going to hurt the industry in the future. His proposal was to push browser-making companies to accept one universal way Web sites would be made. Thus, the Web Standards Project, or WaSP, was created (Check out the official Web site at www.webstandards.org.)

This sparked a new way of thinking. The languages of choice picked were Cascading Style Sheet (CSS), EMCAscript (also known as JavaScript), and XHTML. The goal was to create a system that would separate content from structure. In his book Designing With Web Standards, Zeldman explained the system like this: Think of a site as a movie. The art director is CSS, the script writer is XHTML, and the special effects creator is JavaScript. They all work in unison to create one final product, but one can be switched and it won’t affect the others.

An important idea with web standards is the accessibility across multiple browsers. In the past, large bits of code would be made so developers could sniff out Netscape 4 users from Internet Explorer 5 users, etc. All this extra code put stress on bandwidth and was ideally useless. Therefore, if browsers would all come together and accept the same rules for mark-up, code can be easier to make, less of a hassle, easier to update, and put less stress on bandwidth. All of these variables add up to saving a lot of time and money for everyone.

Extra Sources
For further reading, I really encourage reading Zeldman’s book Designing with Web Standards. His blog is a great resource as well, along with many other pioneers like Dave Shea, Shaun Inman, D. Keith Robinson, and Dan Cederholm just to name a few.

For more outside resources, I encourage you all to visit Stylegala, CSS Zen Garden, Web Standards Awards, and the World Wide Web Consortium itself.

If you were hooked by the thought of less mark-up and the ability to have your site viewed by everyone including Palm Pilots, then I encourage you to keep reading the tutorials and post on the forum. The best way to learn is to try it yourself and ask questions! Good luck!

  Kris Gosser




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