July 19, 2005
Web standards activists are launching an initiative to make sure Web authors are sticking to their scripts.
By Paul Festa
The Web Standards Project, or WaSP, on Monday launched the DOM Scripting Task Force, whose goal will be to promote adherence to Web standards like the World Wide Web Consortium's Document Object Model and to establish guidelines in the comparatively unstandardized world of scripting.
A primary offense the task force will target is the one that spurred the creation of WaSP seven years ago: coding to one specific browser, usually Microsoft's market-leading Internet Explorer.
In founding the task force, the WaSP described today's Web programming model as a three-legged stool, one leg being structure (XHTML), another presentation (Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS), the last behavior (DOM scripting).
The group identified "obtrusive" DOM scripting as the reason for scripts' bad repuation.
Scripting also plays a prominent role outside the browser. Macromedia's Dreamweaver Web-authoring tool, for example, uses scripts within the application. Widgets in Apple Computer's Tiger operating system also use them.
The renaissance in Web scripting has come at a cost to accessibility and adherence to Web standards, advocates warn.
Many pages that rely heavily on scripts do not present their content in a way that blind people and others with disabilities can access them. And Web authors who are intent on using the latest scripting techniques may leave older browsers choking on their code. WaSP wants authors to provide scripts that "gracefully degrade" with older browsers, providing some data and functionality, if not the full effect.
The WaSP task force launched with several posts from founding members. The group intends to compile "best practices" and goad high-profile sites with poor scripting methods to improve.
"People are so in love with the stuff that DOM scripting can do," Smith said. "They aren't saying, 'We need to support these older browsers and be accessible to people with disabilities.' We're saying you can do both. It's not either-or."
In other WaSP news, the group earlier this month said it was working with Microsoft on testing Version 7 of IE. WaSP, which for the first several years of its existence relished its outsider status and razzed Netscape and Microsoft for lapses in their standards adherence, has taken to working more closely with software providers in recent years. It maintains a similarly close relationship with Macromedia, for example, in evaluating the Dreamweaver tool.
"We're telling them up front that we want to work with them and make a better product," Smith said. "We want something everyone's happy with, at the end of it all."
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