Why are HTML standards so important?

Web & HTML standardisation has been a big talking point over the last year with HTML5 now moving into candidate recommendation and becoming very well supported across all the latest major browsers. But why is standardising the web so important?

Where do the standards come from?

W3C_logoTo start explaining why standards are so important for the web, we have to go back to where the web first originated; CERN. Tim Berners-Lee, the founding father of the web, worked at CERN as a fellow. He had already developed a concept of hypertext, a standard of page and formatting, which could be transferred over Internet. He then took this hypertext concept and joined it with a domain name system and the Transmission Control Protocol and in the words of Tim Berners-Lee; “ta-da!—the World Wide Web”

The World Wide Web has now been up and active for the last 22 years and has gone through some largely drastic changes, some being the way that the web is coded and some being the way that people behave on the web. All-in-all, the web started out as a standardised model of simple text based pages with a small link tag (<a>) to link it to another page and has kept the same concept of linked pages since its inception.

These standards are created and looked after by the W3C, along with some help of other developers and web companies.

Why are standards important now?

Web standards today are even more important than before. Major browsers are competing to have you use their browser over other ones. This ranges from Google Chrome, Apple Safari and the much despised Microsoft Internet Explorer. Each has its advantages and dis-advantages but the one factor that keeps them all similar under the hood is the standards set by the W3C.

Without these standards, each browser would display things in a completely different ways.

You may be thinking “why do some browsers still show pages different to others” and that’s a perfectly reasonable question, but the artist and physical design of a page come from styling sheets and JavaScript modifications which are added onto a HTML page and don’t come under the HTML standards. If you were to take away all the CSS & JS and leave the core HTML, every page on any browser will look exactly the same.

These standards also help with the accessibility of pages for disabled users and for helping search engines index a web page correctly. If there was no standard way to look at a page, then page readers for the blind would be impossible to create to accommodate every variation of web page.

Where to find the standards and how to adhere

HTML is exceedingly easy to learn and is one of the most accessible languages to around today. However, because of how large website development has come it can be quite difficult to find out what the latest standards are.

An easy way to keep up to date is to keep up with either the W3C themselves, as they are the ones making the standards, or my personal choice is to go with community driven developer networks such as Mozilla’s MDN. Developer networks are great places to chat to other developers and to learn about the latest bits of technology and to also see what’s getting deprecated and what will replace it.

Web page validators are also a great tool to help check if a web page is well coded and standardised. W3C’s very own validator is probably one of the best out there and is also pretty much guaranteed to be up-to-date with the standards.

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Darren Kayes

Darren is Linear Blue's Chief Operations Officer, ensuring the smooth running of the company and making sure nothing gets in the way of our developers creating top-notch web and database solutions for our clients.

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