Web Goes the Way of SQL

On theOpenSourcery.com, I have been doing a revamped series of reviews and tutorials on CSS. One of the facts that is emerging is that W3C standards like CSS, DOM, and DHTML JavaScript are being abused, ignored or delibrately bypassed and thwarted by browser vendors despite having close to ten years to deliver on a very clear and reasonably well conceived set of standards. As I continue the CSS series of reviews, gross failures of implementing CSS and other standards becomes ever more evident – see our review of CSS shortcomings so far. This situation is very reminiscent of the abuse of the ANSI SQL standards by database vendors which have been very debilitating in the BI and Enterprise IT arenas – data and database integration have been in the top 5 issues of C-Level executives for the past 20 years. However, the ill effects of casual support for W3C and other Web standards are have their own pernicious perversion:
1) Web development projects are at the mercy of wide variance in their schedules and are high risk for completion on time and on schedule let alone on budget. Typical development teams add 40 to 100% more time for output to Web pages because getting the
2)Even with the extra effort on coding many web projects are delivered with Web pages that will only work in a small subset of browsers – says IE7 (but not IE6 or earlier), Firefox and Safari;
3)Constant changes/updates to browsers for security and licensing reasons take Web pages into and out of working order over relatively short quarterly time periods adding to the maintenance burden;
4)Microsofts continuing support of its own proprietary HTML, JScript, DOM , and CSS which almost all of the other browser vendors have abandoned and which add huge amounts of extra development time for the workaround, hacks, and two sets of code – one that works for some Microsoft browser(but not all) and then the W3C compliant code that works in almost all other browsers. Now Microsoft defends this proprietary code in that it offers features that clients could not obtain elsewhere (true maybe in 1998 but patently false for the past 5 years at least with the emergence of SVG, SMIL, Flash and Microsofts own Expression SUITe and Atlas products). So then Microsoft says it must not endanger customers working code. But this rings false as well because Microsoft has made no effort to deprecate proprietary code.
5)Microsoft continues to be remiss in meeting promised compliance with HTML, JavaScript, DOM, CSS and other standards. What is particularly galling is that since 1998 Microsoft has promised to meet these standards and is still remiss as our CSS and upcoming DOM tests show. True, not the only vendor remis but with 70-80% market having the largest impact and being the furthest behind for nearly 10 years.
6)Microsoft has stalemated and thwarted all progress on Web standards for at least 7 years from 1999 to 2006. With 90%++ market share for most of this period Microsoft could have helped to move these standards to completion quickly. Instead, Microsoft has chosen to bypass standards such as XForms, SVG, SMIL, DOM rationalization and others as it worked on its alternative offering, the PC based Smart Client. Microsoft has chosen to delay and ultimately go with their own very much later proposals to challenge PNG, JPEG2000, XUL, and a slate of XML standards. For example, CSS3 work drafts date back to 2000 and nothing has been done until 2007. Microsofts WMP proposal only emrged in late 2006 several years after both PNG and JPEG2000.
7)Other vendors have been remiss in implementing W3C and other Web standards. One vendor disclosed – "we have to go proprietary here, otherwise we get eaten alive by Redmond and others". The net result is that Web standards work is considered a thankless minefield.

There are consequences for this misbehaviour lead by Microsoft but followed in part by others.

The principal result of poor support for W3C and other Web standards has been a fractioning of Web development similar to what has happened in the SQL database arena. In database arena, cross database queries, updates and other integrating transactions are very difficult if not impossible to do. This is one of the chief cuases of isolated silos of information. In a similar fashion on the Web, cross browser integration is the bane of developers and adds untold malfunctions, delays, security hazards, and costs to Web Development. CIOs, CFOs, and CEOs need to demand much better of their IT vendors. Colleagues who work in the mechanical and chemical engineering field are astounded at the cavalier attitude to major IT standards exhibited by IT vendors. As one chemical engineer friend noted, "its not as if many of these standards are state of the art – they are 7-10 year old technologies and there is common consensus on what should be done. I am amazed that large IT shops dont insist on better". So am I.


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