The Web is back to One Standard.. sort of

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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) wrote the original HTML and DOM standards and has been setting web standards ever since. A group unhappy with the W3C branced of to become the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) in 2004. The two groups have kind-of been fighting for web standard dominance ever since. They've finally come to terms with each other.

The two groups signed a "Memorandum of Understanding and agreed to work together to advance the open Web platform on May 28th. This ends a 15 year old increasingly irrelevant war between the two groups.

WHATWG had some power and say when it was founded by individuals from the Mozilla Corporation, Opera Software and Apple in 2004. Opera Software never had any major market share, Mozilla's been dwindling and Apple's been following Google's lead for years. A truce and and an agreement between the W3C and the WHATWG makes a lot of sense, none of those "standards" bodies have any say as to what standards the most widely used modern web browser implements anyway.

Writing about this without throwing in the following very personal opinion is hard so you'll just have to suffer: It really is quite sad that we are back to the days of Internet Explorer 6. Microsoft's browser used to the de-facto standard in corporate environments and websites and Intranet services were built for and tested against MSIE and nothing else. MSIE had it's own standards so these websites would only work in that browser. This became a huge problem when later versions of MSIE no longer worked with sites built specifically for MSIE 6. Lessons were learned and web designers would test their sites against multiple browsers the following years. Today we're largely back to one browser ruling them all: Chrome. Chrome has it's own standards and technologies and Google's aggressively pushing mobile Chrome-specific AMP pages.

Many web developers are clearly testing against just that one browser. This forces other browser vendors to try to be compatible with it's not-standards. No browser vendor wants their users to get a broken website which works fine Chrome. Trying to catch up to Chrome's new not-standards takes a lot of effort. Microsoft eventually gave up and abandoned their own rendering engine - their Edge browser is now nothing but a skin for Chrome.

It would be great if anything good comes from the truce between the W3C and the WHATWG. One browser vendor setting web standards thanks to a near-monopoly is not a good thing. The sad truth is that it's about as likely as pigs flying.


last edited 2019-05-31


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