All posts tagged ‘standards’

File Under: privacy

W3C’s New ‘Do Not Track’ Group Aims for Better Web Privacy

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has announced a new project to standardize the “Do Not Track” opt-out tools already a part of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. To help move the “Do Not Track” tools from browser novelty to web standard, the W3C has launched the Tracking Protection Working Group. The new group will bring together browser makers, advertisers and developers to standardize a simple way for web browsers to opt-out of online tracking.

Behavioral advertising, as such tracking is known, is becoming increasingly common on the web. Advertisers use cookies to follow you around the web, tracking which sites you visit, what you buy and even, in the case of mobile browsers, where you go. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has already outlined a Do Not Track mechanism (PDF link), which would work much like the FTC’s Do Not Call list, offering a way to opt-out of online tracking.

While the new DNT header is already part of Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, and a wide range of sites now respect it, it has lacked one key ingredient — standardization. The new Tracking Protection Working Group is the first step on the road to standardization and will hopefully mean Opera and Chrome will both soon adopt the DNT header.

To help web developers get a handle on the new header Mozilla has put together a Developer Guide on DNT. The guide includes a walk through of how to detect a DNT header, and what to do about it when you do, as well as some sample code to help developers build DNT compliant sites and apps.

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Footprints photo by Vinoth Chandar/Flickr/CC

File Under: Multimedia, Web Standards

Use Web Standards With Flash

It’s everywhere I turn. The cry is impossible to escape. I hear it shouted from the mountaintops with thunderous urgency: “Web Standards! Adhere to them and everything will be good.”

Web standards are understandably necessary, and I use them all the time in my own work, as should you. But is there still a place for Flash in this new standards compliant world? The answer is yes, of course.

Continue Reading “Use Web Standards With Flash” »

File Under: Web Basics

Set a Reminder For iCalendar’s Birthday

November is 10th birthday of iCalendarProminent author John Udell notes that the iCalendar specification turns ten next month. Known to its friends as RFC 2445, the standard for describing events is used by Microsoft Outlook, Apple’s iCal, and many other calendar programs.

Udell thinks calendar sharing hasn’t reached its potential. The way RSS has been adopted for sharing and syndicating content, iCalendar could be better used, according to Udell. Where there is support for iCal, it tends to be read-only:

“Services like Eventful and Upcoming produce calendar feeds. But because they do not consume them, they don’t encourage individuals and groups to publish feeds, and to think and act in a syndication-oriented way.”

Calendar aggregators, which work in both directions, are the answer, according to Udell. He created a prototype of how these might look. There are eighteen separate calendars, local to Keene, NH, flowing into one events page. Similarly, there is an open source project, Calagator, based in Portland, OR, working on the issue. There are likely others. Let us know in the comments.

A related project, hCalendar, is a microformat based on iCalendar. As with all microformats, the event data is embedded within a standard HTML document, with special tags surrounding the data, which is often styled for the user. For more on microformats in general, see our microformats tutorial.

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File Under: Software & Tools

WebKit Sails Smoothly Through ACID 3 Tests

ACID 3 testWebKit, the rendering engine that powers browsers Safari and Chrome, among others, says it has passed all three stages of the ACID 3 test. The test checks how well a browser supports JavaScript and the Document Object Model (DOM), as well as a few other treats, like SVG graphics. You can check your browser here.

Opera and WebKit passed the first two stages of the ACID 3 test shortly after its release in March. These measure the actual tests themselves (100/100), plus the pixel-perfect appearance of the page. The final stage, “smooth animation,” has been a more difficult task. The passing version of WebKit does render for me without hiccups, but there appears to be no solid definition of “smooth.”

On the official release browsers I have access to, the highest score was a 75, for Safari 3.1.2. Firefox 3.0.2 was close with a 71.

Shortly after WebKit and Opera passed the test, Mozilla’s Mike Shaver said Firefox would not scramble to pass the tests and that ACID 3 was a missed opportunity:

“Acid 3 could have had a tremendous positive effect on the web, representing the next target for the web platform, and helping developers prioritize work in such a way as to maximize the aggregate capabilities of the web. Instead, it feels like a puzzle game, and I can easily imagine the developers of the web’s proprietary competitors chuckling about the hundreds of developer-hours that have gone into adding another way to iterate over nodes, or twiddling internal APIs to special case a testing font.”

Regardless, some within the Firefox community appear to be working on it, reporting scores in the mid-90s earlier this month.

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File Under: Web Basics

Opera Taunts IE8 Over Standards

Opera flings arrows at IEHakon Lie’s rant against Internet Explorer 8′s interoperability promise is making a big stink where Microsoft should instead be lauded. Lie, the Chief Technical Officer for rival browser Opera, complains that IE8 defaults to a previous rendering engine for intranet pages. Microsoft had previously promised to always support the highest standards.

Lie goes on to invent statistics to show intranets make up half of the page view on PCs. While the method for determining his numbers may not have been scientific, the point is being made solely to imply that Microsoft is only half-supporting standards. In 2005 Lie wrote a similar attack complaining about, among other things, Microsoft’s site not validating. This is picking nits, and it’s akin to schoolyard bullying. That’s right, Microsoft is getting bullied this time.

I think Microsoft was right to note a differentiation between the web and intranets, and it even chose the defaults correctly. There are many different types of intranets, but one thing most have in common is that they suck. They’re duct-taped together pieces of software. Microsoft is right not to expect most intranets to support standards.

Indeed, much of the web is not 100 percent standards-compliant, partly due to Microsoft’s previous partial support. Internet Explorer 8 comes with a “compatibility view” that reverts to the previous rendering engine whenever a page has no DOCTYPE, or when the developer has chosen to render in the older Quirks mode. Users can also manually implement compatibility view by clicking the icon next to the location bar, or by setting it permanently for a given site.

Here is an animated GIF of the W3C website with and without “compatibility view” enabled:

Regular and Compatibility views animation

Compatibility view makes sense to me. Why make users suffer just because a developer has not kept up with standards? Click a button and, without restarting the browser, IE 8 gives you a glimpse of how the site may have been meant to look.

Compatibility view icon in contextWhere I do agree with Lie is about the icon. Microsoft chose a broken web page to represent compatibility view. While Lie seemed to assume the icon was meant to represent standards, it’s clear to me that the broken page is activated when going back to previous versions. If Microsoft is dissing anybody here, it’s itself.

But using a broken page as an icon is just a bad idea. Users are bound to wonder, “will this break my web page?” Granted, I’ve wondered that often when loading sites in IE, but I’m hoping that IE 8, with its smart selection of when to support standards, will make broken pages a thing of the past.

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