The W3C process may be slow, but browser vendors are slower

Every once in a while when someone gets frustrated by the lack of browser support for standards such as HTML and CSS (mostly CSS), the W3C is yelled at for being too slow. I think it’s a little unfair.

Sure, the process of writing a W3C specification may in fact be too slow. It can (and does) take years. It would be nice if that could be sped up a bit. But I don’t think that is the main reason you can’t use all of the features that have already been specified.

The way I see it, the main reason is that browser vendors are not spending enough resources on implementing the specifications that do exist. Some argue that you can’t implement any specification until it is a W3C recommendation, but just look at Opera, Safari, and Firefox. They have all implemented some very useful parts of CSS 3. Unfortunately their implementations don’t fully overlap, but at least they have started. So it clearly is not impossible or too risky.

Imagine if all browsers supported CSS3 Backgrounds and Borders (including multiple background images and rounded corners), CSS Advanced Layout, CSS3 Multi-column layout, CSS3 Color (where the opacity property is defined), CSS3 Selectors, and CSS Media Queries fully and interoperably. Imagine how much easier it would be to turn those pretty design comps of yours into lean, semantic, accessible HTML and CSS.

So, next time you bang your head against a browser not supporting a CSS property that would make your life that much easier, don’t put all the blame on the W3C. Also blame whoever develops the browser that lacks support for that specific feature. Tell them you want them to support it. If one or two browsers have implemented the feature you want to use, let the vendors who have not implemented it know that they are falling behind their competition. Some of them might care about that. Others won’t, but at least you’ll have tried.

Posted on November 6, 2007 in Web Standards, Browsers