HTML gurus modernize Acid3 browser test

Flexibility is the order of the day as Web technology developers try to keep the easy-to-run but imperfect test from holding back developments of new standards.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
A perfect score on the Acid3 browser test looks like this.
A perfect score on the Acid3 browser test looks like this. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Two browser experts have pared back Acid3, a test that browser standards fans held up to spotlight Internet Explorer's shortcomings, so the test won't hold back development of those standards.

Ian Hickson, editor of the HTML specification, and Håkon Wium Lie, chief technology officer of browser maker Opera, decided to make the change, and Hickson announced it on Google+ on Saturday.

"Håkon Wium Lie and I are announcing that we have updated the Acid3 test by commenting out the parts of the test that might get changed in the specs," Hickson said. "We hope this will allow the specs to change in whatever way is best for the Web, rather than constraining the changes to only be things that happened to fit what Acid3 tested!"

Web developers will be interested in his list of standards under debate for serious change--in the real world of standards, not just in the test. And fans of fonts and animations using SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) should brace themselves for the possibility that those technologies will be excised altogether from the full array of Web standards.

Acid3 measures 100 aspects of Web standards compliance, but the test arrived in a more informal period of standards development when Opera, Mozilla, and Apple had picked up a lot of Web standards work through the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG). Now Web standards are back in the limelight at the more formal World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), with broader involvement from companies, including Microsoft.

The Acid3 test is easy to run--all you have to do is point your browser to the site and see whether the resulting graphic develops smoothly and looks like it's supposed to. But some of its tests measured technologies that various browser makers had decided against building in or expected to change. Those browsers will see better results on Acid3 now, Hickson said:

Note that since some browsers have so far avoided implementing some of these areas (because they are likely to change, and browser vendors don't want to implement them only to change them again), especially the SVG parts, commenting out some of these tests does result in some browsers' results improving, in some cases all the way to a full pass [a perfect score].

Anne van Kesteren, who works on Web standards for Opera and who has been involved in the WHATWG, posted a list of Acid3 tests in need of revision. "This update will ensure that the Web platform can continue to be simplified and improved while Acid3 remains a great test for browser interoperability," van Kesteren said.