Web standards religion? What religion?

In a recent ZDNet column, John Carroll tells makers of alternative (meaning non-Internet Explorer) browsers to drop the religion. What religion is that?

Carroll claims his article was triggered by reading about The Web Standards Project’s recently launched Browse Happy campaign. The campaign aims to make people aware of the security flaws in Internet Explorer, and point them in the direction of more secure browsers, which also happen to be much more standards compliant. In summary, Carroll suggests that other browsers have to support every non-standard feature of IE to be successful, and that standards are a limiter on progress. Oh, really?

Particularly strange is his statement that Standards are designed as a means to ensure interoperability when such interoperability is necessary, not a limiter on progress.. I fully agree with that, but we seem to interpret it in completely different ways.

What is limiting the progress of the web right now? Most definitely not web standards. It’s Microsoft’s unwillingness to implement standards that have existed for years. The real problem is Internet Explorer, the new Netscape 4, the lowest common denominator when it comes to modern web development, supported only because of its market share. That’s what’s holding us back. Not web standards or the W3C.

Web standards are not a religion, and web standards advocates are not religious zealots. Web standards are about building a better web, accessible to anyone, no matter what browsing device they use. Web standards are about reducing development and maintenance costs and increasing reach.

I could go on and on, but instead I’ll point you to other responses to this. Dave Shea has posted A Response, noting that Jeff Croft has taken a close look at Carroll’s article and made some great comments in Carroll on Standards: Drop the Religion. Jeff’s post is excellent, and ends with this:

IE doesn’t do basic, long-standing CSS properly. Until it does, I’m not interested in Microsoft’s “bonus features.” Sorry, John.

Neither am I.

Posted on September 20, 2004 in Web Standards


  1. “What is limiting the progress of the web right now? Most definitely not web standards” : I 100% agree with you !

    “The real problem is Internet Explorer” ..

    Yeah … but IE is the default web navigator in Windows, and “everybody” have windows at home.

    Why should I-surfers download an other “non-microsoft” navigator ?

    Because it is safer ? Because IE does not support Web standarts ?

    “Web standarts ? Damn what’s that !?? If a website does’nt work, that’s because the code is bad !! IE is great, it’s an obligation : it’s a microsoft product !!!”

    Apparently, there is about 90% (or more) of Internet surfers who believe in that and don’t understand IE’s problems ….

    I’ll never drop the “religion”, i’m a real believer :)

    PS: sorry for my english, I’m french ^^ PS 2: great website ^^

  2. Roger-

    Thanks for the link. :)


    I think the way to sell “average joe” users on FireFox (or your preferred modern browser) is with security and features. Like you say, most of them aren’t going to get the fact that it doesn’t supposet standards well — that just goes right over their head. But, tell them they’re less likley to get viruses and trojan, demonstrate tabbed browsing, and show them the pop-up blocker, and all of the sudden they get pretty interested…

  3. September 20, 2004 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Ditto, Jeff ;)

    Yes, some people will be convinced by the “utility” arguments, but many don’t see the need for those either. To them, whatever works reasonably well is good enough. As long as they can muddle through their everyday online needs, they’re happy enough to stick with what they have.

    The only way they will start using a better browser is if Microsoft updates IE with some real improvements, like full support of HTML 4 and CSS 2.1.

  4. The problem is the Big Blue ‘e’. It’s on every Windows desktop since last century. The average user doesn’t consider it a ‘browser’, they consider it ‘the internet’.

    When I install Firefox on someone’s machine, I set it as the default browser, then I remove all IE icons I can find. If I don’t do this, invariably the user will click the Big Blue ‘e’ at some point, blindly click “yes” to set it as the default browser again, and then it’s all over.

    It’s too bad that when you install Firefox, they can’t delete all shortcuts to the Big Blue ‘e’.

  5. Well writ.

    I’m so sick of the attitude I run into “well, web standards inhibit innovation.”

    What a crock. What’s inhibiting innovation right now is lack of standards. That’s why it is religion to me, and will remain that way until I find a better one to serve - after all, this is not just about technical innovation, but human progress as well.

  6. That wouldn’t be such a bad idea - a third-party installer which changed the average windows-user’s settings so that IE seemingly vanishes from the computer, never checking whether its the default browser if it is started up, and then kicks the official Firefox browser into action.

  7. September 22, 2004 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Hehe. Perhaps someone should write a virus that replaces IE with Firefox/Opera/Safari/whatever ;-p

Comments are disabled for this post (read why), but if you have spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to contact me.