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Browsers: Don't ignore the specs

In response to the Aug. 20 Media story by Paul Festa, "Opera casts off legacy code for speed ":

Monte Hurd's statement in your article deserves some commentary from one Web author who does read the specs:

"What these other browser makers should do is stop complaining about what Microsoft is doing and start supporting what Microsoft is supporting," Hurd said. "People out there aren't reading these specs; they're using IE."

This may be true, but Internet Explorer is so broken in so many ways that there is little choice but to do this for mass-market sites. If you try to use many useful features from the 4-year-old HTML 4 and CSS2 specs in IE, the browser ignores them or gets them wrong in ways that render the page unusable or at least ugly.

But these are important capabilities that Web authors could use to produce much more usable sites, with greater functionality and longevity. To say that every browser vendor and author should ignore the standards (which Microsoft helped write, by the way) is condemning the Web to a stagnant future of cross-platform incompatibility and reduced functionality.

It seems clear to me that the one Web developer you quoted is one of those who doesn't really want to be an expert--akin to a newspaper editor who doesn't want to be bothered by grammar or spelling.

Once Netscape finishes version 7 of its browser, and AOL integrates it into AOL 8.0, he'll suddenly have to care a lot more about those standards and coding for multiple browsers--which is best done by coding to the specifications, not a bastardized implementation of them.

Peter Sheerin
Foster City, Calif.