Web Standards and why we care


There has been a number of interesting threads going on around this subject, particularly as it concerns Internet Explorer 7.  A recent article by Kevin Yank does a great job of summarizing the dialogue that started with Molly Holzschlag’s interview on the Vitamin.  Also, Chris Wilson posted an excellent response about the IE’s team commitment to standards.


Also, I’d like to remphasize my teams commitment to supporting standards.  Over the past few years we have been working closely with WaSP and others in the standards community to improve the quality of standards support with our Web Platform (aside from the browser).  ASP.NET 2.0 goes a long way towards this by emitting XHTML 1.0 Transitional and Section 508/WCAG conformant mark-up by default.  We also recently released a set of CSS Adapters that makes it very easy to learn how to customize the rendering of ASP.NET controls to be more designer friendly (semantically friendly and CSS friendly).  This is a first step on a path to continue to grow our CSS support at the platform level.  Further, Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition provide rich tooling support for standards by providing real-time validation of markup for standards like XHTML 1.0 Transtitional and Strict, XHTML 1.1, and browsers like IE, firefrox, safari, mozilla, etc. to simplify standards targetting.  Not to mention this model is extensible so we can easily add new/changing standards and browsers into the tool.  Lastly, we also have an accessibility checker in VS05 that helps validate developer created markup for Section 508 and WCAG conformance to help simplify the process of targetting those rules.


Through platform and tools improvements, and a renewed commitment to the browser I think Microsoft is on an excellent path for increasing our support for standards.  My team, and me personally, like Chris and others, is extremely committed to this cause and our work (espeically on the platforms and tools side) is starting to show.


I hope you think the same, and would love to hear your feedback.

Comments (13)

  1. Garry Trinder says:

    Brian,

    Everything is very simple.  

    Long time ago IE team decided to do a good job for all the browser users and make it possible to render any website even with invalid html.  

    They tested a lot of websites and put workarounds in code to address all HTML issues on them. It was good for users in short term – as this allowed them to not wait for website to be updated – but see content they need.

    But in long term this resulted that a lot of companies (including MS) decided that if IE will render HTML they produce – it’s good HTML and there is no needs to change.

    Thus – instead of separate issues on lonely website IE team addressed – bad HTML spread all over Internet.

    I hope more and more folks from Microsoft will realise this and will follow/define standards instead of using hacks in code.

  2. Dave Massy says:

    TAG,

    I’m not sure it is fair to put the blame on teh IE team for invalid HTML on the web.

    The reason that invalid HTML is supported in IE is because IE like any browser has to parse and render the content that is on the web at the time it is released. If a browser does not parse existing web content then no one will use it because as far as teh user is concerned the new browser does nto work.

    At the time of IE3 and IE4 the dominant browser was Netscape Navigator which supported invalid HTML and there was (and still is) much invalid HTML on the web. As a result the IE team had to produce a browser which parsed and rendered the same content as Navigator. I know from my days working on IE4 that the team spent much time reverse engineering the unusual parsing characteristics of Netscape Navigator so all existing web content would render fine in IE.  

    In IE6 support for the strict doctype was introduced allowing us to have greater support for standards while still rendering content that does not specify the doctype as it did before. We continue to build on that in IE7 with many CSS improvements only takign effect if the strict doctype is present on the page. See http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/IETechCol/cols/dnexpie/ie7_css_compat.asp for details of compatibility changes unde rthe strict doctype in IE7.

    Unfortunately it is not a simple case of deciding to follow standards and not use hacks. It is a case of supporting existing content on the web and improving standards support at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive but along with security, compatibility is a major concern.

    Thanks

    -Dave

  3. IanMuir says:

    It’s nice to see that some of the leading people in the Web-Standards community are starting to recognize that the developers on the IE team are working towards better standards support.

    Often times, web designers and developers fail to realize that the people at Microsoft are developers too and they face the same problems that we do.

  4. k says:

    i’d say you still have a long way to go, but please don’t stop trying.

    for example in asp.net 2.0 there’s no way of using css adapters to customise the rendering of the HtmlForm control, so that it’s semantically correct (using a fieldset tag instead of div’s and having the __VIEWSTATE id replaced with something that doesn’t start with an underscore).

  5. Brian O' Connell says:

    I think the work done with Asp.Net is exceptional but what I want to see now is a committment to eradicate inline Javascript and it would be nice if Atlas aimed for the same before it gets totally out of hand. We move gracefully from the world of spagetti vb code to spagetti javascipt code. Time to move that out of the html too.

  6. Harshang Pandya says:

    To take a stand on other side —

    All browsers should also support invalid HTML. The reason is very simple. With a broadband connection, it is very easy to download hugh chuck of html and render in the browser. But when you are using a dialup connection, you can download portion of html, render while it is still being downloaded. This will give end users ability to see what they are going to see in the browser.

  7. Nik Le Page says:

    I’ve recently been heartened by the [beta] release of the CSS Adapters for ASP.Net 2.0 – however, given that there has been so much hype about MS’ commitment to accessibility in VS2005 et al, it seems bizarre that there is still so much JavaScript/Viewstate stuff present, without any commentary on why it has remained in the release, given that use of JS can render a lot of pages useless if it is not enabled in the browser – a serious aspect of usability and accessibility that seems somewhat ignored?

    Out of the box support for XHTML 1.0 and CSS Adapters would have been more useful, together with some documentation on how to construct applications using existing server controls without relying on JavaScript [where possible], surely?

    That said, I’m still getting used to the system as I’m new to it. I’ll take the rough with the smooth for now, as long as I don’t have to write any more php…

  8. Dan B says:

    ASP .Net 2.0 and VS2005 have really made great improvements in the way they render far more standards compliant code. However, I do agree with Nik that it would be nice if the CSS adapters came as standard and were not an after-thought. For instance, for what possible reason is the standard FormView enclosed within a table?

    It would also be nice, as Nik mentions, if you could at least use a sub-set of the existing server controls without them relying on JavaScript. This would help developers who need to make fully accessible sites. Accessibility is not just something that is "nice" to have but, in the UK at least, it’s a legal requirement for any public-funded website. In many cases the way ASP .NET utilises JavaScript make it difficult or impossible to use for these kind of sites.

    So, whilst I am really pleased with the progress made, there is still a way to go. I hope and pray that IE7 really does conform to web-standards because it will make developers lives so much more easy. However, IE does not exist in isolation – so please try and ensure that other Microsoft products also can render valid HTML (I’m talking about saving Word documents as pseudo- HTML, or FrontPage etc.) There must be a cross the board support. Thanks!