Differing browser standards are making the Web?s foundations ?increasingly shaky?, warns a coalition of Web developers and experts in a recent report.
"Imagine if every brand of television set required a different kind of signal to receive your favourite show," said George Olsen, project leader of the Web Standards Project (WSP). "It sounds ridiculous, but that's close to the situation on the Web because browser makers have failed to implement a common set of standards."
Although the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been a standards body since the Web?s birth, key Web standards remain incomplete. As a result, web developers have to choose between excluding large portions of their potential audience, or engaging in costly workarounds.
In fact, nearly two-thirds of top 100 consumer Web sites are now built in multiple versions, according to a recent report by Jupiter Communications. Working around browser incompatibilities adds at least 25 percent to the cost of Websites.
"The sad thing is that the browser makers who helped W3C develop the standards are the very ones who've repeatedly failed to implement these standards - some of which are more than two years old now," explained Olsen.
"These standards are crucial to building a solid foundation for the future development of the Web," added Olsen. "Unfortunately, each new browser release without full support for these standards means the Web's foundation becomes increasingly jerry-rigged and creates needless expenses for anyone doing business on the Web."
Although Microsoft?s Internet Explorer and Netscape?s Navigator browsers have continually advanced in each release, they have still failed to meet the needs of the Web?s meteoric rise.
The Jupiter study found that 85 per cent of the top 100 commercial sites have "no immediate plans" this year to support new browser technologies - a decision which WSP believes is based on these developers' continued difficulties in working around browser incompatibilities.
"The reality is that Internet Explorer and Navigator dominate the market, therefore it's crucial for them to actually achieve support for Web standards - and not just talk about doing so," Olsen warned.
"Web-based content is creeping into every aspect of our lives. If this lack of support for the Web's foundations continues, the effect will not be felt only by Web developers, but by anyone vested in the new, networked economy of the next century," Olsen added.
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