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World Wide Web Standards

There is a set of web standards, or best practices, for the design and development of web pages...

...and professional business websites should adhere to these.


The term “Web standards” has been used generally in reference to the formal standards and technical specifications that describe and define various aspects of the World Wide Web. (It is worth noting at this stage, that the World Wide Web, WWW, or W3, - also known as the web, is a system of interlinked hypertext documents. This is not to be confused with the Internet which is used to refer to the global system of interconnected computer networks. So basically the two are not the same and the web is accessed via the Internet). More recently, the term web standards is frequently used to describe a set of standardised “best” practices for the construction of websites, and the associated philosophy of website design and development that accompanies these methods.

in a broad sense

There are many interrelated and dependent specifications, or standards which manage aspects of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Some of which have a more direct affect on the development and administration of web services and websites, including interoperability (the ability of systems to work together i.e. inter-operate), usability, and accessibility of websites and web pages. In the broader sense these web standards come from, and consist of, the following:

  • Recommendations published by W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium)
  • Internet Standard and Request for Comments documents published by IETF (the Internet Engineering Task Force)
  • Standards published by ISO (the International Organization for Standardization)
  • Standards published by Ecma International (formerly ECMA)
  • The standard and technical reports (UTRs) published by the Unicode Consortium
  • Name and number registries maintained by IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority)

Common Usage

The statement that a web page or website complies with web standards, usually means that it has Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), JavaScript, and suggested design methodologies, that are in keeping with the guidelines and recommendations that have been put forward by various standards consortiums. (This should mean that the HTML meets the accessibility and semantic guidelines as well - although this is not often the case). The term "Standard-Compliant" is also used to suggest that proprietary, non-standard methods are not used in the website development, (or, when it is used to describe browsers, that their features ensure interoperability).

Typically this means that the web pages or website should comply with the following web standards;

  • Recommendations for HTML from W3C.
  • Recommendations for CSS from W3C.
  • Standards for JavaScript from Ecma International.
  • Recommendations for DOM (Document Object Models) from W3C
  • Properly formed names and addresses for the page and all other resources referenced from it (URIs), based upon RFC 2396, from IETF
  • Proper use of HTTP and MIME to deliver the page, return data from it and to request other resources referenced in it, based on RFC 2616, from IETF
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from W3C

These consortia and associated groups work to encourage the use of these standards globally by software and hardware manufacturers, content providers, academic institutions, telecommunications companies and other companies/organizations involved in creating applications for the Web. Their recent efforts have been to promote the use of and adherence to the CSS 2.0 web standard by browsers, including how browsers respond to invalid markup and styles.

Implementation of standards

The implementation of standards over the years by software vendors (i.e. Internet Browser companies) has been patchy at best, particularly by some browser software companies. To a large extent this has slowed down the adoption of the standards by website designers and developers. There is more about this in the article "Browser Standards Adherence".

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