Re: Web Browser Standards or Guidelines

Daniel W. Connolly (
Fri, 15 Dec 1995 14:34:06 -0500

In message <>,
>To my knowledege there are no official standards for Web Browsers or page
>definition (HTML,PDF).

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Your knowledge of ICADD in HTML
2.0 shows that you know about the IETF standards work on HTML.

And I'm sure Adobe maintains a standard for PDF.

What is in your definition of "official standard" that these don't
meet? You might quibble over vendor-neutrality, openness, fairness,
review process, voting, pay-to-play, etc. But that doesn't mean
there's no standard.

> HTML is not a standard, it is (today) simply the
>preferred method for coding and accessing a document on the Web.

Again, I'm not sure what you mean. If, by "HTML is not a standard,"
you mean "not every document on the web must be expressed in HTML,"
then I'd agree. It's just one of many choices.

If by "HTML is not a standard," you mean that different folks have
different ideas about what HTML is, then I'd agree again. HTML, in
general, is more of a de-facto standard than a standard in the sense
of having been through a standards process.

The language is evolving quickly, and the process of deciding which
innovations to standardize, and capturing those decisions in
well-organized documents takes longer than hacking code, or even
shipping products :-) On the Internet, standard lag behind
implementation experience by design. (on the other hand, the standards
aren't supposed to lag behind widespread deployment as much as they
currently do for HTML, but we're working on that :-)

>Netscape, Mosaic (all of them), Lynx, Acrobat, etc..etc...are all browsers, bu
>to my knowledge there are no documents that stipulate standards for designing
>and building a web browser.

Yup. That's on purpose. The web specs cover protocols, data formats,
and the like. As to implementations and applications, "let a thousand
flowers bloom."

Hmm... as a counterexample, Mosaic is something of a
standard. Spyglass administers the trademark in such a way as to keep
consistency between all the products that claim to be Mosaic. I'm not
sure what document defines the "Spyglass Mosaic Standard," or even
if one exists.

So while some web browsers may become standards in and of themselves,
I don't expect there will ever be one "web browser standard."

>And we haven't begun to look at authoring tools, servers, or security

Err... who's we?

I've spent a LOT of time looking at authoring tools, servers, and
securty. I'd agree that the protocols don't adequately address the
related issues yet, but progress is being made.

For example, just yesterday at the WWW4 conference developer's day,
there was a discussion between Navisoft, Vermeer, SGI, Microsoft and
others about what enhancements are needed to HTTP and other bits of
infrastructure to support distributed authoring tools.

>1) Why not?

W3C isn't interested in standards for implementations nor applications
-- browsers, servers, etc. Even CGI, as important as it is, takes a
back seat to the protocols -- the world-wide agreements that cross
network boundaries.

> Who would organize them? W3? IETF? ISO?

W3C and IETF are working on closely related issues. ISO is working on
stuff that's perhaps not quite as closely related. Some of the
payments work just got handed to ANSI. I expect IEEE is looking at web
stuff too.

This brings up another topic: conformance testing, ala X/Open for
unix. It's one thing to have "a browser standard." It's another thing
to have HTTP and HTML conformance test suites that browsers and
servers can be validated against. W3C is interested in such things, and
I'm coordinating them. See:

>2) Are there HTML guidelines? I know there are HTML books/white papers/languag
>descriptions, but are there specific guidelines for using it?

Yes. See:

Style Guide for online hypertext
by Tim Berners-Lee

>3) Are there browser guidelines?

Not really. Just lots of examples :-)

> How about their viewers and plug-ins? Again,
>if this stuff exists, where?

Yahoo lists zillions of them.

>I am doing this for a specific reason: To develop and provide guidelines that
>will assist Web product developers in building Web-based products that are
>also accessible to people with disabilties.

Ah! The hidden agenda at last :-)

That's a priority for us as well. See:

The Web and Disabled People
Henrik,, October 1995

>Classic Example: GUI-based browsers are inherently inaccessible to the blind.
>BUT, if the Netscapes', Microsofts', Quarterdecks', and Adobes' of the world
>knew what it would take to make them accessible, they just might be in a bette
>position to implement the changes

If you'd like to write a report explaining these issues, I bet we
could issue it as a W3C technical report. See:

Daniel W. Connolly "We believe in the interconnectedness of all things"
Research Scientist, MIT/W3C PGP: EDF8 A8E4 F3BB 0F3C FD1B 7BE0 716C FF21