The days of “this site is best viewed in...” are over! We shall no longer be discriminated against for using the browser of our choice. Forget tedious template management, and be prepared to save some dollars on bandwidth! The World Wide Web Consortium have come to agreement on the new Web Standards that will allow us to code and maintain our pages with far less effort, all the while resting assured that everyone can see them as we intended.
I recall the first time I successfully built a web application that was truly cross-browser functional. It felt great to know that a Mozilla or Opera user would not be penalized with my app. They would see approximately the same visual rendering of the pages, and receive the same DHTML functionality. What did not feel great was the knowledge that literally hours had been wasted just finding ways to 'hack' my own code to hopefully make it work across the board.
Naturally this dumped all kinds of unnecessary HTML code into our pages, but we could justify it by saying “it's a-OK, the world is all going to broadband”, and we'd throw in a few extra tables for good measure!
But here are just a couple of problems with this rationale. Firstly, what happens when we decide to modify the look of our entire website, even just a little? We want to shift the logo 10 pixels to the right on all 60 pages within our site. If any of you have had the privilege of doing a global search and replace to add in another 10 pixel spacer.gif to 60+ files, you no doubt wished you hadn't.
And then what happens when your site becomes popular, and people (OK, maybe just you) start to visit the site on a portable device? Oh, the pain and humiliation of seeing your wonderfully advanced tabular interface reduced to little more than a complete mess.
But take heart! There is hope! Our friends at the W3C have acknowledged measures of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value, yes, standards. As these relate entirely to the Web, they are aptly named: Web Standards.