The Curious Process of Web Standards

Its interesting to note that many folks don’t really know what it takes to get a feature in a browser and how all the browsers align with how a feature will work. You would think there is a cabal of browser vendors sitting in a smoke-filled room coming up with how features will work.

That is not the case. In fact, the process is interesting. A browser feature can come from a variety of places but most efforts start at a standards body like the W3C. The W3C is an organization that handles a lot of the standards we use such as HTML and CSS, but there are also other standards bodies like ECMA responsible for things like JavaScript. Usually the first draft of a specification starts out as a working draft that can be authored by members of browser vendors and/or folks from the community. Then it is discussed in an open manner and goes through a series of changes so that it works for almost everyone. This is one of the reasons folks like using web standards as it takes into account the needs of the whole and not just a specific browser vendor.

Then, when a specification has been discussed and worked out, typically browsers will begin to support it and then when it has had some real-world testing, then it will reach its final destination in the process which is considered a Candidate Recommendation.


Now, this doesn’t always necessarily work in a waterfall-like model. Sometimes a browser vendor will go ahead and do an implementation even though a specification has not gone through the full process. There is nothing that stipulates that a browser vendor must wait for a specification to reach Candidate Recommendation. In these instances, browsers will typically implement a feature with a vendor-prefix but still work through the web standards process and even change its implementation.


If you are intrigued by this process (as you can imagine, it is much more complex than my simple explanation) of how a feature becomes a standard, I recommend checking out the FAQ at the Web Standards Project.

Also, I would be remiss to not also let you know that we have a great write-up of how you can set up your site to take advantage of web standards. Also, make sure that you check out the latest Internet Explorer 9 as well as the upcoming Internet Explorer 10 that continues to implement web standards on par or even surpasses other browsers.

Comments (0)

Skip to main content