October 6, 1998 2:45 PM PDT

Groups work for browser peace

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Two forces in the world of technology standards tomorrow will announce collaborative efforts to reduce browser war casualties on the Web.

The Web Standards Project, an advocacy group founded in August, will join with the Open Group, a compliance testing and standards consortium, in announcing joint initiatives meant to encourage compliance with established Web standards, such as those recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium.

"With the problems content providers face today, it's impossible to write truly portable content," said Shane McCarron, Open Group program manager for network computing. "I can put up some flat text, and that's pretty portable. But for any kind of interesting and intricate content, you have to adapt to every browser you might encounter. The goal is to develop content once and have it work on every machine plugged into the Internet."

In the first of these collaborative initiatives, to be announced in New York at Internet World, the Open Group will make freely available its testing suite that evaluates browser against accepted standards and formats including HTML 3.2, the .gif and .jpeg image formats, the .wav and .au audio formats, the Java Development Kit 1.1, and HTTP 1.1 and 1.0.

The second initiative is the building of a second Web testing suite that will measure support for a second generation of Web standards. These include HTML 4.0, CSS 1.0, the .png image format, and the .mpeg video format. The Open Group will invite the industry to weigh in on its test specification as it develops.

Another part of the groups' strategy is to organize and query content providers to find out what kind of standards they require, then push for those to be recommended by industry organizations and followed by browser makers.

The Open Group licenses its seal of approval for products that it deems compliant with industry standards, for example with network computers sold by IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Network Computer. The Open Group has not ruled out licensing a similar mark for Web products, McCarron said.

"We are examining market demand and whether browser vendors and content providers care enough to support it," McCarron said.

In another move, the Web Standards Project will solicit horror stories from content developers to illustrate the costs of patchy standards support, project leader George Olsen said.

Both Olsen and McCarron expressed optimism that their combined efforts would help fix the Web's fragmented standards situation. They also said the two groups were ideally suited to team up.

"The collaboration really builds on each group's strengths," Olsen said.

The collaboration is also something of a coincidence. When the Web Standards Project launched this summer, Olsen said, its founders did not know that the Open Group had been planning to get into the Web standards area.

 

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