Web Standards Group "Disappointed" With MS IE 5

Not everyone is pleased with the latest browser software rolled out by Microsoft Corp. The Boston-based Web Standards Project said it feels Internet Explorer (IE) 5 falls short on standards support, and in the process, forces Web developers to take extra measures in designing their content. The standards initiative contends that while IE 5 makes "marked improvements" compared to the previous version 4.0 release, the software still falls short of fully supporting key Web standards. The group asserted that in some instances the omissions could be considered "significant."

"We realize that many business considerations go into selecting a release date, but we wish Microsoft had delayed Internet Explorer 5.0's release to focus on getting standards support right," said WSP Project Leader George Olsen. "This would've benefited Web developers, Web users and Microsoft itself."

Instead, Olsen contends, Web developers will be forced to continue extensive and expensive workarounds and debugging to deal with IE's "failure to fully implement standards" created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). "We'd hoped that the latest round of browsers would take the opportunity to get things right," continued Olsen. "Internet Explorer 5.0 is an opportunity lost. We'd like to know: When will Internet Explorer have full support for any one Web standard?"

"We're disheartened because Microsoft helped W3C develop the very standards that they've failed to implement in their browser," he said. "We're also dismayed to see Microsoft continue adding proprietary extensions to these standards when support for the essentials remains unfinished."

Microsoft could not be reached for comment on this story by Newsbytes' afternoon edition deadline. WSP believes that the patchwork support for these standards among browsers ends up wasting millions of dollars spent on Web development each year and threatens to further fragment the Web, particularly as browsers move beyond the desktop to televisions and other applications. WSP's standards-related problems with Internet Explorer 5.0 include Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) 1.0. CSS is supposed to give control over the appearance of many pages at once, from the typography to the behavior of links, as well as precise control over page layout.

The group said IE continues to not fully support the 27-month old standard, meaning page layouts aren't always displayed as intended by the Web designer. By contrast, Gecko, the new layout engine under development for Netscape's next browser, already achieves accurate layouts in a number of tests devised by W3C, according to WSP. Further, WSP said that Explorer implements key parts of CSS in ways that assure incompatibility with standard-compliant authoring tools and other browsers including Gecko, Opera 3.51, and in some cases even Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 for the Macintosh. As in previous releases, Internet Explorer 5.0 introduces "CSS extensions" that aren't part of the actual CSS standard, WSP said.

Other complaints lodged by WSP against Explorer 5 include "spotty" support for DOM 1.0 (Document Object Model) which lets developers use scripting languages, such as ECMAScript to manipulate text, images and other parts of Web pages. Again, WSP said Gecko already shows much more extensive support for DOM despite being still in early alpha testing. Other areas where the group is taking issue with Explorer 5 include questions around use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0, Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), and HTML 4.0 standards.

"We're disappointed that Internet Explorer 5.0 has not done a better job supporting standards because they have shown that they do have excellent programmers," Olsen said. WSP is an international coalition of Web developers and Web experts who are urging browser makers to fully support Cascading Style Sheet Level 1 (CSS-1), the Document Object Model (DOM) and XML in their browsers.


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