The Battles that Remain.

For over 3 years the Web Standards Project harped, cajoled and harangued browser makers to build stuff that supported W3C recommendations of HTML, DOM and CSS. Finally, nearly 5 years after the CSS1 recommendation, browsers that support standards are coming out, even Microsoft is finally playing by the rules.

The use of @import gives us web designers and developers a chance to break cleanly with the broken browsers of the past. It divides browsers into three groups:

  1. Those that don’t understand @import–Lynx, Arachne, Internet Explorer 3, Internet Explorer 4.5 for the Mac, Netscape Navigator 4.
  2. Those that do understand @import and have good, if not totally complete, implementations of CSS.
  3. And Internet Explorer 4 for Windows, which understands @import but doesn’t have a good implementation of CSS.

Most page designers and web developers worth their salt know that this allows us to break cleanly with legacy browsers. Just hide all the presentational stuff behind @import and deliver straight, presentation-free markup to the browsers that don’t get that method of linking stylesheets. The content is still delivered, the links still work and the site is still usable–hurrah! No more broken browsers!

This still leaves us two problems though:

  1. How to convince the bosses of big commercial sites that this is beneficial and won’t alienate customers.
  2. How to protect amateur page builders from their own ignorance and ensure they generate valid markup and CSS.

The first problem is deeply political, economic and philosophical and we as web technicians need to frame our arguments right to assuage the fears of our bosses.

The second problem is somewhat easier. Just start bugging the makers of WYSIWYG web page editors to make certain their programs generate W3C valid markup. This is the new focus of the Web Standards Project.

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