Web Standards, Microsoft and You

A few months ago I was invited to join the Web Standards Project (WaSP). The WaSP and Microsoft were to cosy up and talk about web standards and I was invited to the party. Some high level politicking by Robert Scoble and Molly had opened a channel. Microsoft wanted to talk about standards and the WaSP wanted to talk to Microsoft. And now it’s official.

The press release has all the details. And Molly captures the spirit of this collaboration very well. I’m pretty optimistic about this venture, especially when I read encouraging comments from Microsoft employees. The future for web standards looks bright.

Finally, all my nagging on the IEBlog has paid off.:-)

The purpose of this post is to open the dialogue further to include all web developers. Post your questions and suggestions here and I’ll do my best to filter and pass them on. I want this to be a continuous process. That means for as long as I represent the WaSP on this task force I am open to your input. The channel is open.

Please ensure that comments are related to web standards.

Comments (30)

Leave a comment

Dean –

This is great news. Here are my three suggestions for the IE team:

1) Look at the latest revision of your IE7 project and make all of that CSS stuff work natively in Microsoft’s “IE7”.

2) Make Microsoft’s IE7 a fully compliant XHTML platform. That means no more of the ‘two DOM’ world (where we have one DOM that is the visual DOM that is not-at-all XML compliant and the other, offscreen, XML DOM that is created using invocations to ActiveX controls). In other words, I should be able to create nodes offscreen and just move them into the on-screen DOM like I can in Mozilla. I should be able to run XPaths on the on-screen DOM, etc. etc.

3) Put the JScript.NET engine into Microsoft’s IE7. The current JScript 5.6 engine is pathetic when dealing with more than 10K object instances (serious memory manager problems, memory leaks when using DOM objects in closures) and has a serious performance hit whenever you touch the ‘arguments’ object.

I’m sure I can think of more but, as Dr. Evil would say, “Its a start…”:-)


– Bill

  • Comment by: William J. Edney
  • Posted:

If IE 7.x rolled in all the features you’ve replicated in your IE7 script, MS could pretty much rest assured that web *designers* will get off their back for a while… DOM2 compliance would rock too, of course!:) As a side note of far lesser importance, how about raising the char limit on URL’s so IE can handle larger favelets?

  • Comment by: Andrew K
  • Posted:

I’ll say the same thing that I said on Molly’s site. This is all very suspicious to me and I can’t help but feel WASP got owned by MS. The very press release gives the impression of pushing MS products, specifically, Visual Studio. When IE7 comes out with no improvements regarding standards, how will Wasp address this? With a “Microsoft IE7 is a giant step forward in browser design” press release? Or a scathing “What are they doing in Redmond?”

Why does MS need Wasp? Aren’t they a member of W3C? Do they need Wasp to teach them how to do standards? Maybe they do since they are already five years behind the times.

  • Comment by: Rob Belics
  • Posted:

I am currious at how far they want to fix bugs in IE. Especially WRT fixes that break css hacks. Assuming they intend to really bite the bullet.

Quirks vs. Standards Mode is not enough, when Standards Mode in IE7 is different to Standards Mode in prior versions. Conditional Comments to distinguish them?

Also, getting in line with the DOM in JScript would be highly appreciated, so the different handling for Events, CSS handling etc. could be phased out. More green fields on

Oh, and memory management. Big thing. Getting rid of the circular references mess would be a great step forward.

  • Comment by: Martin
  • Posted:

To me, this was good news when I first read Molly’s post! I can understand Rob’s skepticism against Microsoft, and call me naive, but I actually think they want to make their products better, get a better reputation amongst web developers and maybe even get them to promote the MS products.

To answer Rob’s question: They need WaSP to help them make better products while getting a better reputation through them at the same time.

As everyone else, for IE I want better CSS support, event handling, memory leak fixes and support for the application/xhtml+xml MIME type.

For ASP.NET I want it to generate valid code that is not JavaScript-dependant. I also want the code to be separated into its different corresponding layers (unobtrusive JavaScript etc).

What I wonder is how far MS will take these two areas before the next official release? Is the first beta of IE 7 late due to this?

> The press release has all the details. And Molly captures the spirit of this collaboration very well. I’m pretty optimistic about this venture

I’m not. I can’t be, it’s just been too many years of web developers being ignored for me to forget overnight. The press release? What has actually been committed to, besides “we’ll try”? Read the IE blog. Lots of *talk* about commitment, no actual specifics. It reminds me of when Microsoft said that they’d spend a whole February on security. Didn’t do any good, did it? It reminds me of all Gates’ and Ballmer’s bluster about interoperability – while they are busy patenting file formats.

The only specifics we’ve heard are two layout bugfixes (peekaboo/guillotine, which I suspect to be two symptoms of the same bug) and PNG alpha. That’s it. It would be a hell of a lot easier to be optimistic if we had actual specific statements about what Internet Explorer 7.0 is intended to support.

Where’s the statement from the Internet Explorer developers saying “we’re going to put display: table-cell into Internet Explorer 7.0”? Where’s the statement saying “we’re going to implement CSS 2 selectors”? Where’s the statement saying “We’re going to *fully* comply with the CSS 1.0 specification”? I know, they already said that, but it’s not true – fixed backgrounds for example. Where’s the statement saying “We’re going to comply with CSS’s mandatory error parsing”? Where’s the statement saying “We’re going to use the DOM 2 event model”? Where’s the statement saying “We’re going to implement the object element properly”?

The CSS 1.0 fixed background – Hixie posted a comment on the IE Blog straight after the Microsoft guys claimed to fully support CSS 1.0. The Microsoft guys completely ignored the comment, but answered a bunch of other comments posted after his. Where’s the communication? If we are actually going to get a better Internet Explorer 7.0, why the suspicious silence? Why didn’t they just say “yeah, we’re going to fix that”?

What I’m looking for is *any* concrete information. I don’t care if they can’t say yes to all of it, so long as they say yes to *some* of it, instead of hiding at the back of the class because they haven’t done their homework. The IE Blog is just mind masturbation at this point. We had a couple of good posts, and 99% filler that avoids talking about the elephant in the room. That makes me *very* cynical about the support for the W3C specifications that Internet Explorer 7.0 will have.

  • Comment by: Jim
  • Posted:

[…] somewhat scary. There’s plenty happiness about our alliance, but critics have also piped upget over it. Any changes to browsers will be incremental and WaSP can’t fix that for […]

Well said Jim!

  • Comment by: Tom
  • Posted:

A response to Rob, Jim and Tom.

I must say I find your responses to be very childish. Here you have an opportunity to put some of your concerns direct to the source. Instead, you rant and flap your arms like four-year-olds.

Nobody expects Microsoft to suddenly turn into Mozilla. But any small step toward openness and better standards is a good one and should be encouraged. There is a larger issue at stake here – web standards. I am not going to carry your negative attitudes into any talks with Microsoft. So, if you want to rant and throw your toys, use your own blogs.

  • Comment by: -dean
  • Posted:

Childish? Microsoft needs Wasp to take steps toward better standards? As I questioned before, aren’t they a member of the W3C standards consortium?

Why is Wasp talking up Microsoft products? If I was Adobe/Macromedia, should I be upset or at least concerned?

How much of this will go toward promoting the Microsoft business model rather than web standards? I just don’t see any clarity in the press release or responses.

My negative attitude isn’t toward Microsoft. I question the agenda of this partnership.

  • Comment by: Rob Belics
  • Posted:


I see no progress here. I’ve seen simple, direct questions posted to the IE Blog remain unanswered since the IE Blog first started. *That* is putting questions direct to the source. And we’ve had a lot of silence in return.

I readily admit that there is a frustrated tone to my comment. That hasn’t magically appeared out of nowhere, and isn’t caused by childishness. It’s caused by banging my head against a brick wall for a long time. If it was just me, then I’d be quiet. But everyone is asking questions like mine and we’ve had precious little in the way of answers.

> But any small step toward openness and better standards is a good one and should be encouraged.

What step has been taken? Saying “we’ll try” isn’t a step – Microsoft have been saying that all along. It counts for nothing until we actually see some results. And if you’re looking for the benefit of the doubt – well Microsoft has ruined that for you by crying wolf way too many times.

Please. I *want* to be optimistic about Internet Explorer 7. Just give me a reason to be. A press release about a task force that is going to try and persuade Microsoft to do something it has refused to do or even talk about for four years is not a reason.

> I am not going to carry your negative attitudes into any talks with Microsoft.

I don’t care, so long as you get them to *communicate*. And I want you to succeed, even if you do think I’m childish for not being polite and cheerleading at every opportunity.

  • Comment by: Jim
  • Posted:

OK. Fair enough guys. Maybe “childish” is too strong. But let me say this:

WaSP members are individuals first and foremost. Most of them would resign en masse if there were any suggestion that we “got owned by MS”.

Please don’t doubt our integrity. If you trust that, then what is the worst that could happen from this venture?

  • Comment by: -dean
  • Posted:

I want to be clear and state that I don’t think that you have been bought off. And I do hope that good things can come from this, and I wish you the best of luck in your attempt.

But, at least for Internet Explorer, Microsoft already has a direct line to the community. And they are ignoring it. I don’t see why a task force should be necessary.

Molly said: “this is HARD.” It’s hard for people *outside* Microsoft, because all we do is ask and get ignored. But for Microsoft themselves? It’s not hard. Apple have a website where we can see individual commits. *Apple* – one of the most secretive companies in the biz!

It’s not hard to communicate. It’s particularly not hard for the world’s biggest software company that employs people to do nothing but communicate, e.g. Scoble, evangelists, etc. So I can only interpret the lack of communication as an attempt to avoid bad publicity – i.e. Internet Explorer 7 is going to be a disaster on the W3C front.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope my cynicism is misplaced. I’ve said before that Microsoft could avoid a lot of ill sentiment by communicating with the community. But they don’t need your help, they *never* needed your help, which is why I’m not optimistic about your involvement. If they wanted to do what we want them to do, they’d be doing it already.

Sorry for the negativity, but good luck anyway.

  • Comment by: Jim
  • Posted:

As for the minimal communication in the IE weblog: I can image that the developers simply may not write anything that had not the ACK of management or is some meaningless blurb.

Sad and somewhat defeating the purpose, but reality in most corporations.

It would help, if MS could setup a comprehensive list of IE bugs from the various sources like pie or quirksmode. So you would see what bugs they know about, how they rate them and what priority they have. Although I imagine but this may be seen by their managers as too embarressing.

They would gain considerable goodwill, if they opened up the process somewhat. Noone knows, if they really do anything at all.

  • Comment by: Martin
  • Posted:

Oh, and as for why MS may want to talk to WaSP: They might like to deal with some “entity”, not with the “public at large”. Corporations generally feel more at home with this. Like Debian as the representative for the non-profit Linux in OASIS DocBook committee.

This all is unter the pretense that MS really wants to play along and not only boast about involving WaSP, doing its thing anyway and claiming WaSP approval of the result. But I am confident that Dean will raise his mighty voice, when he feels being screwed that way.

In the not so distant past, MS had stated that it is their policy to not follow standards to “better suit our customers” if they see fit. So it can only get better.

  • Comment by: Martin
  • Posted:

The only thing that I could suggest to MS is: hire Dean Edwards to fix IE from the inside!

  • Comment by: knocte
  • Posted:

Please, don’t try to help Microsoft, they probably won’t listen anyway. Instead, help Mozilla making a better browser:

  • Comment by: Martijn
  • Posted:

I’m of the same mindset as Martin, I think M$ is using WaSP as a way to deal with the community without actually dealing with us. Furthermore, I don’t blame them a bit. The IEBlog is a joke, and we (the developer community at large) made it a joke. For every post they make, there are 100 comments flaming them before someone chimes in with a “stop flaming, ask questions” which goes unanswered.

1) I’d like to see some tools from M$ for validating pages, or helpers to write better/faster code.
2) Full CSS2.1 support (with full documentation on their implementations at MSDN).
3) If they plan to implement the W3C box-model, then PLEASE include support for the CSS3 “box-sizing” property.
4) I use a few hacks (the “* html {/* haha */}” comes to mind) in my CSS, I’d like to keep compatibility with IE6, so I’d love it if IE7 didn’t work with those hacks.

  • Comment by: Alex Lein
  • Posted:

I work in the web platform & tools team (IIS, ASP.Net & Visual Web Developer – Visual Studio) at Microsoft, and we are one of the teams involved in the Wasp relationship along with IE and FrontPage. Its no secret that we are behind in the standards compliance of our tools and technologies, but are making strides in that direction. Its not going to happen overnight, its going to take time, and in many cases multiple releases to get right. Microsoft may be a large company with a large staff, but its spread across a large number of products/projects, which means don’t have the resources to do everything we want to in any given release.

One of the things that I am looking to Wasp assistance with is prioritizing what to work on first – what is going to have most impact for the professional web community. Also how do we make the products work better for you, for example the way I may go about building a page is probably different to how someone who knows css back to front may go about it. Because of that our tools may not be as optimal as they could.

In the tools space, I would say that we have mostly targetted more of a code developer audience in the past, and most our relationships have been with that class of customer. I think the wasp relationship can really help to bring the web developer customer requirements to the table. The wasp folks live and breath web development, and I look to them for a strong advocacy role for a customer segment we traditionally haven’t had much involvement with.

I know in the division I work in, we are trying to be more open and communicative with our customers. For example, everything entered into the MSDN product feedback center, is routed into our bug tracking database, and is reviewed by the product team. I see this as the start of a relationship that should help us build better products for our customers.

  • Comment by: Sam Spencer
  • Posted:

Nice words of Sam Spencer, but…

For years, web developers screamed for better CSS support, but then Microsoft decided to stop the development of IE6 completely.

Now, suddenly when Firefox becomes more popular and IE6 loses market share, Microsoft starts to listen.

This is not thrustworthy behavior of Microsoft.

Imnsho, let Microsoft do what they want to do, and just ignore them. Microsoft has ignored web developers for years, and there is no guarantee, they will not do that again. Instead, concentrate on Opera/Mozilla, as those are organasition that live from the support of web developers.

  • Comment by: Martijn
  • Posted:


I do believe you want to do the right thing. But there is one thing I really miss from MS management. A *commitment* to FULLY support CSS 2.1. Noone ever said at MS that this is a definitiv target. So far, it is only “we look here and there and see what we do”.

This is something I like Dean to ask frontmost. Microsoft’s target. Are they going to commit themselves to CSS 2.1 (executives publicly stated in the lines of “css2 has some faults so we do not plan to support it but wait for css3”) or only doing is-good-enough work? What roadmap and time-table?

Moreso as MS deliberatly chose not be fully standards complient, because this served its strategy best, fully in line with network economics.

The only reason MS really would want to be FULLY complient is a change in strategy to make the cake bigger by wideing the possibilities for developers (FULL css 2.1, easier scripting) with the possible consequence of a smaller relative share in the browser market. But with the opportunity to cash on products in the tools department that helps using these new powers and help building these new apps.

But again, nobody at MS ever said anything about such a change. And this keeps people very suspicious. And who would blame them?

So far, MS was very happy to deliver and encourage (directly and indirectly) applications that won’t work (or far worse) with standards compliant browsers and only fully work with IE, even when there IS a standards complient way to solve a problem. See the whole ASP.NET mess with “Adapting Renderding” and using document.all. ( et al.) Feature detection could have been used if anyone had cared.

Well, so far for now:-)

PS: As for makeing things easier in the future: document.all, attachEvent and the like should get their standards compliant twins, the lagacy methods officially depreciated in IE7 and removed in IE8 (when in the all new standards modus). *Hint* *Hint* New business opportunities for MS to help with migration. No, this is not crazy. Mozilla got rid of the document.layers et al. stuff; Java does it that way regulary.

PPS: Martijn, Opera and Mozilla do know what the right thing to do is. Like bringing XMLHttpRequest from “works with gmail” to full state and implementing a Midas/contenteditable thingy in Opera or bringing ­ to Mozilla (five years old bug *grrr*). There is nothing WaSP could give them advice on.

Internet Explorer’s dust covert CSS support and DOM incompatibilities do massivly hinder innovation in the web-application field, as one mostly cannot ignore IE. It is in developers best interest bringing IE up to date, as the alternative (dropping to insignificance) is not realistic.

  • Comment by: Martin
  • Posted:

Jim- we did not ignore the comment about background-position:fixed completely; I discussed this thread in another blog on someone else’s site. Sorry I did not repost to the IE site, and I’ve now forgotten whose blog it was. I’m sorry you consider the IE Blog to be mental masturbation; I will try to improve that, but I would point out that information about what we’re doing about improving standards support is not the only thing our entire readership wants to hear about. Also, saying “we’ll try” *IS*, in fact, an improvement over saying nothing of the future of IE whatsoever. If I tried to answer every question posed on the IE Blog, however, I would get nothing else done. Hmm, my last post got 349 comments.

Anyone who thinks that the WaSP could be bought off to give Microsoft give good press if Microsoft is not doing the right thing by standards is severely mistaken, in my considered opinion.

knocte – I was not under the impression Dean was looking for a job (though of course the core of IE is not in Javascript). Dean, if you are, let me know.

-Chris Wilson Lead Program Manager, IE Web Platform

Dean, I agree that the prize is universal acceptance of a true web standard. Kudos to you and your efforts. My 2 cents…….native SVG support…..pleeeeeeeze!


  • Comment by: marv
  • Posted:

“Anyone who thinks that the WaSP could be bought off to give Microsoft give good press… “

“I was not under the impression Dean was looking for a job … Dean, if you are, let me know.”

  • Comment by: Rob Belics
  • Posted:

Why is it that when a bunch of autists get together and hold forth on their “superior” judgement regarding the experience that should be had by developers and users, the blithering masses say, “YAY STANDARDS” ???

Call it what it really is, like say: condescension, or sovietism, or at the very least, a thumb in the eye of the free market. Miniature demagogues and petty tyrants is a more apt description of these bureaucrats.

@malaclypse the tertiary: WHAT?

@Dean: have you had a chance to play with the IE7 release? The Microsoft one… *shifty eyes*

  • Comment by: Alex Lein
  • Posted:

Alex, I haven’t yet seen MS IE7. When I (eventually) receive my copy I probably won’t install it anyway. I only have one PC it can run on (the other is Win98) and I can’t afford to lose access to IE6. So, no IE7 for me until I can run a standalone version.

  • Comment by: -dean
  • Posted:

@Dean: glad that you and the WaSPers are talking to MS.

@Chris: glad MS is moving in the right direction.

@permanent MS-bashing nay-sayers: looking forward to the point in time when you learn how to work in the real world for positive change and development by all entities

My own fantasy is that MS will pull IE’s hooks out of the OS, and make it a stand-alone app. Yep, a far-fetched fantasy, but it’s the technically correct thing to do, and would allow MS to bring web standards to older versions of Windows, as well as free the IE team greatly in the future. Unfortunately, such a move would have to be a BillG decision, and one he’s unlikely to make. But it’s good to have some fantasies.

— stan

  • Comment by: Stan Krute
  • Posted:

Looks like a long haul. Paul Thurrott calls IE a cancer on the web and recommends boycotting it.

  • Comment by: Rob Belics
  • Posted:

Just hope IE7 will give proper css support, they’ve got some time left and already done a great deal on fixing bugs. Still think IE7 could make the web a better place!

  • Comment by: Groningen
  • Posted:

Comments are closed.