Web standards

Mike Taylor - A case for browser-engine diversity... - View Source 2019

Given the recent demise of Presto and EdgeHTML rendering engines, and dominant market share growth for Chrome (and its Chromium engine), can we make a case for browser engine diversity in a decreasingly diverse browser engine world? In this talk, we’ll talk about web compatibility, interoperability, the web standards process, and hopefully conclude that we should care about these things in 2019.

The W3C At Twenty-Five - Rachel Andrew's #WebStory

One of the reasons I care so much about the web platform remaining open and accessible to new people who want to publish on and build things for the web is because of the route I took to get here.

As mentioned earlier, the W3C is celebrating their anniversary by inviting people to share stories of how they became involved in the web. In that spirit (and perhaps to encourage Smashing readers to share their stories), here is mine.

I had never intended to work with computers. I intended to become a dancer and singer, and I left school at 16 to go to dance college. My father is a programmer, however, so we were fairly unusual at the time as we had a computer in the house by 1985 when I was 10.

As a child, I liked typing in the code of “choose your own adventure” games, which appeared in books and magazines. I liked spotting the strings of text which would then show up in the game I would later play (usually, once my dad had fixed it up) on our Amstrad CPC464. I liked to visit the computer lab at Newcastle University, see the huge computers, and talk to the women who worked on them. Perhaps most importantly (and despite my arty interests), I never grew up thinking I couldn’t use computers. I just wasn’t especially interested.

[…]

Then I became pregnant with my daughter and had to leave the theatre. I was good at crewing and loved the theatre, but it was heavy and sometimes dangerous work with unsociable hours — not really a job for someone with a baby. I didn’t know what I would do, but I could type so I thought that perhaps I could type up essays for people. I was upsold to a computer — having gone into PC World looking for a wordprocessor. It was a Packard Bell 486 with a built-in 640×480 screen — a terrible machine that would allow me to either get the sound card working or the modem, but not both at once. I chose the modem and this is where my web story really begins. Even getting this modem working and getting the computer onto the Internet was something of a challenge and, once I did, I went looking for information about… babies.

I didn’t know anything about babies. All my friends were men who worked backstage in theatre. I had no support network, no family around me to help, and so I logged onto ParentsPlace and found people who didn’t mind my questions and were happy to help. At the time, there obviously was no Facebook. This meant that if you wanted to share photos and stories, you built a website. So among the forums about childbirth and toddler tantrums, there were people teaching each other HTML and sharing sets of graphics along with the code to place them. It was like typing out those “choose your own adventure” books again. I was amazed that I didn’t need anyone to fix my code — it just worked!

[…]

Before long, people would pay me to build them a website, and I felt that I should repay at least in some way for all of the questions I had asked. So, I started to answer questions in the forums. That was how it seemed to work. People would learn and move one step up the ladder, the new people would come in with the same questions and the people a step ahead would answer — all the while asking their own questions of those further along. I loved this. I could never have afforded lessons, but I had time. I could help others, and in return, people helped me.

[…]

I became interested in web standards essentially because it made no sense to me that we would have to build the same website twice — in order that it would work in both browsers.

Preventing downloading images or objects until they are visible in the viewport - WHATWG

This is an interesting discussion on the possibility of standardizing a way to request that the browser not load or delay loading images or objects. The key point that developers from the BBC stress is that for a non-zero number of users, JavaScript fails to run yet is enabled, so having a way to ensure they can still view images is important. As excellent as they can be, relying on on JavaScript solutions and serving non-functional markup can lead to broken pages in those cases since we don’t truly control our webpages.

See also: A standard way to lazy load images - WICG

Style List Markers in CSS

It’s a perfectly reasonable to want to style the marker of list items. You know: blue bullets with black text in an unordered list. Or red counters with knockout white numbers in an ordered list.

There is a working draft spec that defines a ::marker pseudo-element that would give us this control.

Code language: CSS

/* Not supported anywhere; subject to change */
li::marker {
  color: blue;
}

It’s possible to do this styling now, though, thanks to CSS counters. The trick is to remove the list-style, then apply the markers through pseudo-element counters.

Code language: CSS

ol {
  list-style: none;
  counter-reset: my-awesome-counter;
}
li {
  counter-increment: my-awesome-counter;
}
li::before {
  content: counter(my-awesome-counter);
 
  /* Style away! */
 
}

Annotation is now a web standard

Many have tried over the years to bring us web annotations. The lack of standards has been one of the key things holding these efforts back– a need we highlighted in the first of our 12 original principles back in 2013 and have been working towards ever since.

Yesterday, on February 23, things took a giant leap forward when the W3C, the standards body for the Web, standardized annotation.

Twenty four years after Marc Andreessen first built collaborative annotation into Mosaic and tested it on a few “guinea pigs” before turning it off, annotations have finally become first-class citizens of the web.

From the W3C Web Annotation co-chairs, Rob Sanderson and Tim Cole:

“Many websites already allow comments, but current […] systems rely on unique, usually proprietary technologies chosen and provided by publishers. Notes cannot be shared easily across the Web and comments about a Web page can only be saved and viewed via a single website. Readers cannot select their own tools, choose their own service providers or bring their own communities.”

 

So what exactly does this mean for you?

Comment widgets may soon become a thing of the past.

The W3C standards (called Recommendations) are a key milestone towards a future in which all pages could support rich layers of conversation without requiring any action by their publishers—because that capability can be built into the browser itself and be available as a native feature, just like web search. The shared vision is that conversations will be able happen anywhere on the Web, or even on documents in native apps, and inline instead of below-the fold, in a federated, standards-based way.

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