The Web Standards Project has joined forces with the Open Group in an attempt to persuade browser vendors to support Internet standards.
The outspoken lobbying group describes itself as a grass roots movement of Web designers, and its founders have been present at a number of industry events over the past few months, trying to rally Web professionals to speak out against the Web browser suppliers.
George Olsen, a Web Standards Project (WSP) steering committee member, said at Internet World in New York this week, that the ultimate goal of the WSP was to ensure that developers only had to write Web pages once to work with all Web browsers.
Web developers currently need to check their pages against an increasing number of different browser versions and, with a more sophisticated application, often need to build several versions of the same page to run against each browser.
As a result, the WSP is calling on suppliers to offer complete support for two long accepted standards, the Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
While the two leading vendors, Microsoft and Netscape, officially endorse these standards, the WSP pointed out that their implementations were riddled with incompatibilities.
These were often caused by suppliers rushing out new releases and adding new features that were later rejected by standards organisations.
Olsen claimed that approximately 25 per cent of Web development time was now wasted on checking for compatibility and debugging, which increased development costs by 25 per cent.
And Dan Shafer, also on the WSP steering committee, attested that the problem was only going to get worse. Web designers will soon have to deal with version 5.0 of the leading browsers on top of releases 2.0-4.0 and also alternative browsers running on personal digital assistants and devices such as WebTV.
While the organisation acknowledged that Web designers will have to live with the bugs in older browsers for some years to come, it urged vendors to make a "clean start" with new releases.
While key Web standards such as HTML are guarded by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Shafer complained that "The W3C is fundamentally closed to those of us who are in the trenches using the stuff. It?s dominated by the browser vendors".
As a result, the WSP has a number of projects in the works to try and persuade browser vendors to do a better job at supporting standards.
The Open Group has developed a test suite to check for browser compliance with the HTML 3.2 standard and is working with the WSP on publishing the results of compatibility testing, which all Web browsers will be subject to.
The Open Group is also developing a similar test for the current HTML 4.0 standard and is extending the W3C tests for Cascading Style Sheets version 1.0 (CSS 1).
In addition, the WSP is calling for Web designers to share their "war stories" about browser incompatibilities, and to post them at http://www.webstandards.org/warstories.
It is also urging developers to sign a petition aimed at Netscape to urge the company not to move away from its new layout engine, Nglayout, which, the WSP believes, is more standards compliant Netscape?s current layout engine.
The organisation fears, however, that Netscape will drop the new engine in order to ship Navigator 5.0 earlier.
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