Defining and reaching consensus on web standards is a daunting task indeed. Trying to get the entire internet community to concur on new standards may be best compared to the time honored cliche of “trying to herd cats”. Every developer has their own ideas on the “right” way to do things, compounded by how the customer wants them done. Not to be ignored, is how the site visitors want the site to work. Everybody has their own vested interest. The visitors just want the site to be as user friendly as possible, whereas the customer wants the site to be supportable. Finally, the developer…well, he wants to reduce the amount and complexity of the code. Expecting the community to be able to bring those three distinct interests in line to establish unified standards is to expect the unreasonable.

What's the difference?

Accordingly, there is no surprise that we have two competing standards vying for support in the next generation of HTML standards. According to some analysis by Adriaan de Jonge, the standards take two separate approaches at improving structure issues in the current standards. For instance, the W3C’s new XHTML v2 standard works to further establish the separation between content and presentation, whereas the WHATWG’s HTML v5 approach investigated how HTML is used today, and tried to make it simpler for the average web developer.

Disclaimer: I’m Not a Web Developer

I don’t even play one on the TV. But, as an architect that’s rather passionate about standards compliance, this was of interest to me. Are the two ideals so mutually exclusive that it’s not possible to bring them together as one? Simplification of code, it would seem to me, would be in the best interest of the developers as well as their corporate customers. The less time necessary to ascertain what the code is doing and how it is doing it, the better for the developer. And for the customer…well, time is money, as they say. But, couldn’t it be argued that the W3C could simplify code, in part, by an effective definition of code structure?

Flexibility or Fragmentation?

If we can’t agree on a standard, the parents of the common browsers are going to have to determine which code standards they are going to support. Because the browsers are going to have decisions to make on supportability, the likelihood is strong that the acceptance of standards will be inconsistent. If the standards adopted by the browsers are inconsistent, the developers are going to have to spend more time working on debugging and browser compatibility. In the absence of that debugging and browser compatibility testing, the haphazard standards adherence will result in a degraded user experience. And let’s be honest. If it wasn’t for visitors, we would have a reason to publish that material. The developers, customers, and user community can not exist without one another. If everyone remains cognizant of that, maybe we can move back toward a single, universal standard. Because, though I’m not a developer, it would seem to me the HTML standard should be agreed upon AS a standard before becoming one.