Is it time for CSS 2.2?

As most designers and developers who use CSS on a daily basis know, it’s been a while since a new CSS Recommendation was released. There are several possible reasons for it taking so long, something Andy Budd brings up in CSS2.2.

While I agree that the W3C’s process is way too slow, I don’t think we can lay all the blame on the W3C. Browser vendors are a big part of the problem. Especially one of them (you-know-who).

Of course there are many neat features in CSS 3 that I would love to be able to use now, but just imagine for a moment that all browsers had full support for CSS 2.1. They really should, considering how long they have had to implement it. Don’t you think that would be a great first step forward, and that it would open up for completely new approaches to designing with CSS?

I do. So I think the first thing is to get CSS 2.1 fully implemented. How to make you-know-who do that, I have no idea.

In the meantime, some people could form the 2nd Generation CSS Samurai and write a CSS 2.2 specification in the hopes that it will be adopted, or at least put some pressure on the W3C and browser vendors.

Posted on May 25, 2007 in CSS


  1. I’m not sure that you know who will ever fully implement CSS2.1; they seem to show no interest in things like generated content or display: table, for example (and, to be honest, I think the use of display: table will get some developers into the bad habit of using it on divs for table-similar layouts, which is not what it’s for).

    Some of the CSS3 properties - like opacity - are much more useful to us as designers/developers, and I’d like to see multiple background images and multi-column text implemented before display: table and some of the other, less obvious, CSS2.1 declarations.

    I think Andy’s proposal is a sensible one.

  2. I think we can learn a lot from javascript here and principles of progressive enhancement. Technorati is a good example where users get a richer experience with javascript but can still perform the same actions without. Why not give capable browsers a better experience? I’m thinking of things like attribute selectors. Providing it works for all users I have no problem with it looking better in more capable browsers.

  3. ” multiple background images and multi-column text “…

    and implemented in all the current browsers! Yipee! That would be a blast. Let me know where to sign-up.

  4. “Why not give capable browsers a better experience?”

    If your site’s target audience is web geeks, no problem.

    But most web sites aren’t designed for web geeks. They’re designed for normal people, and paid for by normal people. Normal people don’t care that it doesn’t work in the world’s most popular browser because Microsoft haven’t implemented CSS 2.

  5. Well, before it’s time for CSS 2.2, W3C needs to finish CSS 2.1.

    Which it hasn’t done. It’s still a “last call” working draft. Then it’s six more months at the “Candidate Recommendation” stage—which it’s been in once before—before it becomes the real deal.

    That said, if little old CSS 2.1 has had such a bumpy road, then small, progressive enhancements to the specification make perfect sense, so a CSS 2.2 is warranted.

  6. May 25, 2007 by sbuluf

    “How to make you-know-who do that, I have no idea.”

    The web is rotten to the core. Nobody can enforce any standards. Simply, no such thing.

    W3C is perceived as an authority, but isn´t. It has no power.

    You have seen exactly the same happen with HTML (before, with HTML 3.2, nd now with HTML 5.2).

    W3C has to do what whatwg wants. And whatg has to do what you-know-who wants.

    “Standards by consensus” is flawed.

    No enforceable standards.

    We need a new web.

  7. May 25, 2007 by Ryan

    Why do Mozilla insist on integrating extensions like the browser tab sessions and a spell checker when they could be spending this time improving the css engine? It just seems absurd to me they would add in something that already exists as an option and ignore something that really would progress the internet.

  8. Off-topic: Have you noticed that your Quicklinks area is showing recent posts instead?

  9. I couldnt agree more Roger though how far it will get is anyones guess. I also dont understand why the browser vendor would not support the progression of CSS etc - seems to me a retrograde step not advancing these standards but then they of course have a strong history of insular profit-only driven behaviour. Ideally the more people come away from using unsaid browser the better and I think that day is (very slowly) creeping upon us with ever increaing users moveing to Mac or Linux etc. Like empires, all monopolies come crashing down in the end.

  10. May 26, 2007 by Martin

    If a browser vendor does not conform to standards, it must be doing innovation instead.

    We need a healthy dose of both, but I think it’s high time that all user agents must conform 100% to a standard, say CSS 2.2.

    And they shouldn’t start conforming to parts of the CSS 3 specification without fully implementing the CSS 2.2 standard (or lower). One at a time. Clear and simple. Everyone should understand. That’s the point is it?

  11. May 26, 2007 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)


    Why not give capable browsers a better experience? I’m thinking of things like attribute selectors. Providing it works for all users I have no problem with it looking better in more capable browsers.

    Yes, I think that is one way forward, and I do it whenever possible as long as the end result is still acceptable in the dinosaur browser.


    Off-topic: Have you noticed that your Quicklinks area is showing recent posts instead?

    It isn’t actually :-). It just looks that way because the difference between a “quicklink” and a “normal article” is blurring. I am thinking of how to handle that.

  12. Are there any browsers that fully supports CSS2.1? I know Opera passes the Acid-test, but does Firefox or Konqueror? Safari? Yes, Microsoft has been slow over the years, but I think we can all safely say that they have come a long way in the last year or so - and to me they DO seem interested in supporting web standards…

  13. I agree. I don’t think we can put all the blame on W3C for moving slow with a new CSS recommendation. The you-know-who browser is still the biggest problem in creating a web where the same code can give the same results across the board, at least for me. If you-know-who implemented a full CSS 2.1 support I would be more then happy.

  14. I think it should be an easy transition from CSS2 to CSS3 and improving CSS2.1 to CSS2.2 would be a good way of doing that and approaching people to CSS3 so it’s not a sudden step.

    As for “you-know-who” seems like the only way to make it follow the patterns is to make it official that every browser must follow them or they are breaking the law. I’m pretty sure that way they would comply.

  15. I never see or relate to what version works in what browser but i use what works for my general default browsers. IE6-7, Firefox, Safari, basically, its enough!!

    I don’t have time to try fixing problems to IE6 but I am in need of all implementation to work. So i simply uses what works similar in my standards…

    I hate things to look different in the different browsers so i use just what i need and its great… Css2.2 might give some more options but i doubt it would help me with IE6…

    The trick is to ALWAYS develop EVERYTHING for IE6, and you will have a 99% secure basic website that works in the rest of thebrowsers..

    Sorry Roger, i got a little speed here with cross related thinking..

  16. May 27, 2007 by edbm

    Successful standards are not built out of thin air, they are built on existing implementations. No standards organization invented HTML (Cern), or SSL (Netscape); they were created by people or organizations to fill an immediate need; later on, they were “standardized” and had some details fleshed out.

    Also the development of HTML has to some extent at least, been driven by companies not standardization organizations. HTML, CSS, and for that matter XML and its related technologies are too complex with too many dependencies to be developed without extensive implementation testing. Other examples are for instance X500 vs LDAP directories - the first was hugely complex from the start, the second was lightweight at the start but evolved in complexity over time, allowing implementors to keep up.

    Just my 2 cents…

  17. Are there any browsers that fully supports CSS2.1?

    Opera, Konqueror, iCab, Firefox 3, Seamonkey, and Safari all pass the Acid2 test but that doesn’t mean full CSS 2.1 support.

    See the following for more:

  18. May 28, 2007 by pd

    I really don’t think anybody can claim that Internet Exploder and MS are really that evil until some vendor has the discipline and BALLS to do what they proclaim they already do - support standards.

    Or more specifically - support much faster writing, negotiation and stricter implementation of standards.

    Mozilla is as much to blame in this respect. Firefox is still not ACID2 compliant (unless you are a guinea pig running Alphaware) and moves like implementing <canvas> instead of, or in addition to, SVG just seem divisive and wasteful.

    Mozilla proved MS can be dragged kicking and screaming back into the web browser scene to mould their mudware into something at least resembling a workable clay model of a browser. As soon as they achieve this, they diverge from the W3C for the WHATWG and the exact same thing MS has always been canned for - using their power as vendors to dictate over standards bodies.

  19. I’ll risk to sound very naïve on this one, but let’s go…

    Trully, the problem with you know who’s browser is not that is a lousy browser.

    There are probably hundreds of lousy browsers around that we never even hear about.

    The problem with the mega-lousy browser is that is used for an obcene amount of people.

    I don’t really think there is anything at all that to be done to convince you know who to do something of behalf of other people. Their whole history was about trying to take over the world and impose their under-optimal standards.

    So, maybe the way to go is to think into real strategies to convince popular belief that they should not use that particular browser, as they don’t use any other lousy browser as well.

    I know, I know… this is extremely hard to do but between “extremely hard” and “impossible”, I think I’ll stick for the first one.

    On my own blog, I decided not to tweak anything for IE to make all features work, only the ones that brake it. Perhaps people with the lousy browser eventually chose to upgrade to a browser that let them have better web navigation.

    The problem will persist while web designers limit their work or tweak to extremes to support the lousy browser.

    I don’t think any good browser’s develoment team will spend time implementing features they won’t believe are going to be used.

    I think it is our responsibility as web developers hinting browser developpers that we are really going to use CSS 2.1, CSS 2.2 and even CSS 3.0 if they exist, even at if you know who decides not to follow.

    I really think is time to move on without asking for blessing from you know who. We must let them fall onto obsolescency.

    As I said before, not an easy task, but better than impossible.

  20. At risk of being naiive, isn’t it a good idea for us to take a breather from the relentless “you-know-who” bashing, given that their involvement with Molly Holzschlag has to be a good thing - oops, I guess I’ve referred to who they are. ;-) Let’s maybe see what comes out of that process?

    That said, the case presented by Andy Budd makes good sense to me and is perhaps something that Molly can take up with you know who.

  21. Roger, I do also empathise with your sentiment about let’s just get to the ‘first base’ of 2.1.

    To mix my sporting metaphors, there’s an even lower bar I’m keen to see jumped, namely IE7 uptake. Flawed though it is, it’s still a big improvement on its predecessor and it frustrates me to see that its uptake seems to have stalled since it first became available as an Automatic Update.

  22. June 4, 2007 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Jonathan: Until Microsoft starts taking Web standards seriously (as in really making an effort to fix enough bugs in IE to at least come close to the other browsers) they deserve all the bashing they can get. Maybe Molly can make a difference, but I’m not holding my breath. MS had their chance with IE 7 and blew it.

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