W3C Open Standards

» Making the Internet More Stable, Durable and Accessible, or “It’s About Time!”

Whether you’re an e-tailer, site designer/developer/marketer, a site host, a Google shareholder or just someone who downloads tunes to his I-Pod, you want Internet standards (though you may not realize it).

Ever since the Internet became the Internet, there’s been a strong need for standardization of I-net protocols — a uniform code, a set of rules and regs that applies across the full spectrum of e-commerce — from developer to seller to consumer. Why? Use some off-brand, proprietary software to construct your site and six months from now, you won’t be recognized by certain browsers, or visitors to your site will have to do a hard reboot because their computers lock up when they set foot in your cyber-store. Without standardization, e-commerce will continue to grow in different directions using a variety of standards — different programming languages, different or improper use of existing program metrics, or worse, personal preferences that become outdated by lunchtime. So, what are the benefits of open standards across the board? There are a lot of them.

When you spend beaucoup bucks to have a site developer design your e-commerce enterprise, you want it to be as viable 10 years from now as it is the day you launch. Compliant standards will ensure that your XHTML title tags are still recognized in 2015 by the great-grandson of Google — SuperMegaGoogle III.

Broad-Based Benefits
You don’t know who’s going to drop in to browse your site. You won’t know what capabilities their computers have, what browser they’re using or how computing will change. I-net standards are designed to provide the most benefits to the most web users as possible. This will better enable hardware designers and manufacturers to equip computers with the technologies agreed to via I-net standards.

Site Access From Cell Phones, PDAs and ESP
Who knows what the future holds for the world of e-commerce? Open standards will enable sites to be accessed by a variety of devices — cell phones, wireless hookups, PDAs and, who knows, maybe even ESP. If we’re all working to the same set of standards, adapting web technology to other electronic devices becomes much simpler for the designers of those devices.

And, does anyone doubt that new devices will be developed, enabling you to access everything from your e-mail to the status of your Amazon order by way of your ATM, TV set, satellite radio, GPS or, yes, even ESP. (It could happen.)

Lower Development Costs
If we’re all writing lines of code using the same protocols, designers won’t have to spend the extra time to make sure their sites run and look good on AOL, Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves, AltaVista and MSN. Uniformity across the Net will ensure that a gif is a gif is a gif, regardless of what browser the user uses. Updates to existing sites will be simpler (read less costly) and won’t require some MIT brainiac to implement them.

Increased Flexibility
From site design and redesign, to hosting, to access, a standardized approach might seem to limit flexibility by adding constraints — a list of do’s and don’ts — but, in fact, just the opposite is true. Here’s an analogy: writers (the good ones, at least) adhere to a set of conventions called spelling, grammar and punctuation. This enables all of us to understand and utilize what we read because in every case, a comma is used to separate items in a list.

Now, because these rules apply, writers can be sure the reader will understand the text, and because of that knowledge, writers actually have more flexibility in what they write. The same is true of I-standards — the spelling, grammar and punctuation of the Internet. The Internet is an amorphous, expanding collection of stores, information sites, entertainment and game sites, downloadable e-books and applications — the list is endless and still growing. If standards are applied across the board, as a collection of individual e-entities, the Internet will grow in new directions (increased flexibility), offering new, better, more useful services because the entire Internet community can focus on improving the Net as a whole, rather than spending time, energy and money making sure their piece of the Internet puzzle fits in its proper place.

So What Does This Mean to You?
There’s no law (yet) that requires the use of open Internet standards. It’s a voluntary movement, as it should be, but a movement that is gaining momentum and support from the entire Internet community. There’s an “It’s about time.” sentiment that pervades e-commerce and support industries, such as digital design and development.

The World Wide Web Consortium, better known as W3C, is made up of expert, professionals from the four corners of the on-line world, and together, these opinion leaders have compiled and published a list of standards as a starting point — a first step, if you will. The list (shown below) establishes a standard language, coding protocols, and a list of what W3C calls ‘best practices’, which include the validity/viability of code, the use of semantically correct code and code that is accessible to everyone from designers and site owners to browsers and non-computer electronics.

So what does all of this mean to you? Well, if you’re planning to launch a site of your own, determine that the designer you’ve chosen is up-to-speed on these standards and, more importantly, understands that you want your site constructed to these standards.

If you’re a site developer, it means that you might have to pull out your old HTML manual to brush up on your semantics. An essential aspect of open standards is the development of semantically correct codes, using HTML operators for the purpose they were intended, while avoiding the creation of HTML elements intended to have the appearance of something else, i.e. using a paragraph element to generate a list instead of actually using a list element. Think of HTML semantics as the rules of grammar for coding. You may not want to learn them, but they’re a necessary aspect of your profession.

Finally, if you’re just an Internet user, web surfer, downloading consumer, you really don’t have to do anything except sit back, wait for uniform standards to take hold and get more from your on-line experiences than ever before. Access, stability, durability and an end to planned obsolescence. With voluntary, open standards, your 10-year-old browser will still be tracking down the sites you’re after — no upgrades required.

Open Standards Developed by The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Structural Languages:
Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) 1.0
Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0

Scripting Language:
ECMAScript 262

Presentation Languages:
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Level 1-3

Additional Presentation Languages (Markup):
MathML 2.0
Mathematical Markup Language 1.01
Scalable Vector Graphics 1.0

Object Models:
Document Object Model (DOM) Level 1 (core)
DOM Level 2

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