Browser Differences Trouble Developers

FRAMINGHAM (04/18/2000) - The Web Standards Project last week sharply criticized Microsoft Corp. for not adhering to certain standards in its new version of Internet Explorer. But Web developers said they care less about browser standards than they do about having to support multiple browser versions, following the recent releases of Explorer 5.5 and Netscape Communications Corp.'s Netscape 6.

"The bottom line is that just when you think it should get easier to design Web pages, it gets harder," said Glen Lipka, CEO of New York-based Kokopelli New Media LLC. "I'm annoyed with both [Microsoft and Netscape] because neither can say, ‘Why can't we get along?'"The Web Standards Project said the beta version of the new Internet Explorer fails to meet specifications set by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based World Wide Web Consortium for document object model (DOM) and cascading style sheet (CSS) rendering.

It also accused Microsoft of abandoning standards that it had publicly committed to support and of fragmenting the market.

"This puts developers in the position of developing for standards or developing for a product," said Jeffrey Zeldman, co-founder of the New York-based advocacy group. "Unless you're a Web shop with blue-chip clients, you won't be able to develop for everyone."

Microsoft responded to the charges in a statement, saying it "provides the highest standard compliance of any fully released browser" and that it "implemented a significant portion of both DOM Level 1 and CSS support."

But Steve Nevill, CIO at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.-based florist Gerald Stevens Inc., said the real issue is that Web developers are still faced with writing code for two different browsers. Two weeks ago, Netscape released a preview of its new browser, a completely rewritten version that uses the open-source Gecko browser engine.

"Regardless of who claims they are open or who is closed, there are two standards you have to address," Nevill said, adding that Explorer's market share has made it the more important standard.

With older versions of both products still in use, the latest releases further complicate the browser situation. That's particularly troublesome for Nevill, whose company is moving its applications to a browser base.

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