Tim Berners-Lee's dream for his invention, the World Wide Web, is
a common space where users can share information to work together,
to play, and to socialize (
Wide Web, A very short personal history). As web developers, creating
business, social, and educational sites, we turn this dream into reality.
But in this period of tremendous growth, the Web needs guidance to
realize its full potential. Web standards are this guidance. These
standards help ensure that everyone has access to the information
we are providing, and also make web development faster and more enjoyable.
Standards compliance makes it easier for people with special needs
to use the Web. Blind people may have their computer read web pages
to them. People with poor eyesight may have pages rearranged and magnified
for easier reading. And people using hand-held devices can browse
the Web just as easily as those using high-end workstations.
As we will explain, there are also many practical reasons for developers
to be concerned with web standards. Search engines can do a better
job of indexing sites, for example. Using browser-specific code often
doubles or triples the work to create web pages, and leaves a lot
to be desired when new media are introduced. This situation will only
get worse without the sound direction of web standards.
Some people fear that standards are limiting. In reality, they remove
much of the tedious labour involved in web development, and give developers
more time and more flexibility to be truly creative. They are both
open to future improvement and mindful of past technology.
Many uses of the Web, including some that are only dreamed of today,
will not be possible, or will be more difficult, without widespread
standards compliance. At the moment, there are systems and software
that are very common, seemingly close to universal, but who knows
what tomorrow will bring? Tying ourselves to the control of any single
company means limiting our future to the fortunes and misfortunes
which that one company can or will provide. Maintaining universal
standards will allow the Web to survive while encouraging innovation
to continue at its current pace.
Standards have so much to offer that
The Web Standards Project
(WaSP) consider it necessary to help you learn more about them. This
document is merely a starting point; it will give you a solid understanding
of what standards exist, why they do, and why you should care about
them. Every time we create a piece of the Web, we contribute to the
common information space that is the Web. We can build it up, or we
can add weight that will tear it apart. The choice belongs to us;
the consequences belong to everyone.