Google, meet Web Standards

In the last few months I have written a couple of posts about the lack of Web standards and semantics in the code Google uses. The most recent one is Google valid and strict, where I present a quick rewrite of the HTML and CSS used for Google’s home page. It’s basically just a proof of concept to show that Google would benefit from using Web standards.

A few weeks prior to that I noted that Google Accessible Search rewards accessibility. It turns out Google could have done a lot better, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction despite being focused on blind and visually impaired people and not exactly leading by good example in the accessibility and Web standards departments.

However, in that article I also mentioned Joe D’Andrea’s work on a Google Search Appliance Mobile Stylesheet, which he describes in Google Goes To Web Standardsville, Part One. That got my hopes up about Google eventually fixing their markup. With that in mind I was very excited when Joe contacted me some time ago to let me know that he was working on a complete rewrite of the XSLT used by the Google Search Appliance.

The intention was, of course, to make the code used for the GSA’s search interface conform to Web standards, be accessible, and work in all devices. Joe asked me if I would be interested in taking a look and suggest improvements. You can’t really say no to a request like that, can you?

After a bit of suggestions and tweaking and back-and-forth, the Google Search Appliance XHTML Stylesheet is now available for the Google Search Appliance. The Stylesheet will make the GSA interface use Web standards – XHTML 1.0 Strict for structure and CSS for presentation. Instead of going into the details on how this was developed, what it does, and what it means, I’ll refer those who are interested to Joe’s detailed article Google Goes To Web Standardsville, Part Two.

Here’s hoping this will lead to eventually being converted to Web standards.

Posted on September 22, 2006 in Web Standards


  1. That’s a nice step in the right direction :)

    If you don’t mind me asking, why did you choose XHTML?

  2. Excellent news! Well done for shaking ‘em up.

  3. September 22, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Olly: I didn’t make that choice, so maybe Joe has an answer.

    David: Thank Joe for doing all the hard work.

  4. September 22, 2006 by Kenzie

    The Google Mobile Search page is valid:

  5. This is certainly good news.

    Olly: I’m not sure if it was Roger’s choice.

  6. oh oops I guess Roger already answered Olly’s question before I posted. My bad.

  7. Kenzie: Yep, Google Mobile uses valid XHTML-MP. Now the Search Appliance does too!

    Olly: Regarding my choice of XHTML, between the Search Appliance employing XSLT (already in the XML realm) and my daily use of XHTML, it was a natural choice.

    However, there’s more to it than that. I’ve also seen firsthand how XHTML can be a catalyst for positive change - especially in the business world - hence “XHTML” front and center in the project title. It’s a differentiator (or poster child, depending on your point of view).

    More Info - the W3C weighs in on XHTML-vs-HTML.

  8. September 22, 2006 by Festus Burgemond

    At times like this I wonder why AT&T let a genius like Joe go. He lead the charge to redevelop their sites using XHTML and CSS, then SBC bought AT&T, Joe was let go, and SBC reskinned all the sites using 1998-style coding.

  9. Hopefully someone at Google will ask you for a copy of the code. They are losing money by burning the bandwidth.

  10. George: Indeed - they’ve got the source! The folks at Google Enterprise deserve a chunk of the credit, as I’ve been getting a lot of encouragement and support from them since day one. They’ll be keeping an eye on future improvements as well.

    As for proper, well … first things first. :)

  11. Ah. Let’s feed our forgiving HTML tag-soup parsers with xhtml and pretend this is the right thing and HTML’s SHORTTAG YES, be damned, cause nobody bothered to implement it.

    And Google employs Ian Hickson who should know better…

  12. It seems the Giants might now be listening to some sense about standards.

  13. Update: I can appreciate both sides of the ongoing XHTML-vs-HTML debate. With that, I’m working toward the XSLT generating your choice of XHTML or HTML instead of just XHTML. (Follow the link to monitor progress.)

  14. Great news! I’m sure a lot of people will be pleased:)

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