[NPL] Web Standards Project
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[NPL] Web Standards Project

BROWSER INCOMPATIBILITIES INCREASE WEB SITE COSTS AND THREATEN TO FRAGMENT
THE WEB, ACCORDING TO LEADING WEB DEVELOPERS

Los Angeles, August 10, 1998 - Resolving incompatibilities among browsers
adds at least 25 percent to the cost of building Web sites, according to
The Web Standards Project (WSP), a newly-formed international coalition of
leading Web developers dedicated to promoting a worldwide standard for Web
and browser design. Calling on browser makers to live up to promises made
in July 1997, the WSP ( http://www.webstandards.org ) is urging browser
makers to fully support the standards created by the Worldwide Web
Consortium (W3C) in the upcoming round of browser releases, as well as
support emerging standards that are being developed. Otherwise, contends
the WSP, millions of dollars will continue to be wasted each year on Web
development.

"The time for proprietary innovation in Web browsers is past," says Glenn
Davis, Chief Technology Officer of Project Cool, Inc., a Palo Alto-based
educational resource center for Web development. "It's time for the
browsers to start fully supporting W3C core standards - standards that
Microsoft and Netscape helped develop and promised to support - so that
people building Web sites can spend more time building better sites and
less time fighting browsers over compatibility issues that create unneeded
expenses for everyone, at every level of the Web."

Currently, beta versions of both Netscape's Navigator 4.5 and Microsoft's
Internet Explorer 5.0 are adding more proprietary enhancements without
providing complete support for existing standards. ))Because the 5.0
browsers will likely become a new baseline for desktop ))browsers due to
their support for XML, the WSP believes that resolving the current
patchwork support for HTML, Cascading Style Sheets, Document Object Model
and ECMAScript is crucial.

"Because Web developers have to build multiple versions or perform
time-consuming workarounds to accommodate visitors on different browsers,
most shy away from using proprietary features because of the extra costs
involved," says George Olsen, ))Design Director and Web Architect at 2-Lane
Media in Los Angeles. "While clients may want to see these features, few of
them are willing to pay for having the site built more than once."

In addition to increasing the cost of Web sites, the lack of common
standards is breeding a sense of frustration among developers who face the
progressively difficult task of performing workaround upon workaround.
"Most of my design ideas are really simple, but executing them consistently
across Internet Explorer 3 & 4, as well as Navigator 3 & 4 is anything
but," says Jeffrey Zeldman, a New York Web publisher/designer. "I have to
engage in laborious workarounds, simply to end up with a very basic design
that works."

This lack of consistent support for sophisticated presentation standards,
such as Cascading Style Sheets, has its long-term effects as well,
according to the WSP. As the difficulty of building new workarounds on top
of older ones increases, developers will focus on simpler solutions rather
than concentrate on longevity. "In the absence of standards for these great
technologies, we tend to create disposable content dismissively instead of
sticking to a solid foundation for the long-term," says Martin Diekhoff,
Web/Applications Developer for the Getty Information Institute.

Todd Fahrner, Design Technologist for Studio Verso in San Francisco, adds,
"browser makers should try to take the long view, and realize that
surviving the 'browser war' won't matter much if the Web itself breaks
apart. Supporting the standards might sound like an altruistic goal in a
competitive market, but developers and their clients are losing patience
with compromised support for baseline standards like CSS1."

"The current problem will only be further complicated with the rise of
television-based and PDA-based Web browsers," said Ann Navarro, owner of
WebGeek Communications in Carmel Valley, CA, and treasurer for the HTML
Writers Guild. Navarro said the WSP is also urging browser makers to
participate in and support the efforts of the W3C's recently formed Mobile
Access group, which will be developing standards for PDA and cell
phone-based Web browsers.

About the Web Standards Project

The WSP's primary objective is to advance the Web development industry. Its
effort to bring attention to the existing and potential problems involved
with browser incompatibility does not mean the WSP is opposed to
innovations by browser manufacturers. The coalition merely urges browser
manufacturers to use open standards for enhancements and support existing
ones before adding new features.

 
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