Why do standards matter?

So it’s still Blue Beanie Day for a few hours yet, and perhaps you’re wondering what the point is. Well, the beanie/ballcap part was fun (the point was to emulate Jeffrey Zeldman, who wears one on the cover of the new edition of Designing with Web Standards). The idea was to bring some (at least virtual) visibility to the effort to standardize the web experience.

Why is this important? One of the great things about the Internet generally, and the Web in particular, is its ability to serve as a Great Leveller. Everyone should have the same opportunity to interact, discuss, watch the same YouTube videos, play games, experience the Web in the same way. There’s two critical pieces to form the basis of this level playing field: Net Neutrality, which gives everyone equal access to bandwidth; and Web Standards, which gives every browser an equivalent experience on a site.

For far too long, various working groups at the World Wide Web Consortium slaved over definitions and specifications for  what the web should look like, and web designers ignored them, and just put together pages that looked good in Microsoft Internet Explorer (and maybe Netscape Navigator). This is now beginning to change, in part thanks to Zeldman’s efforts. But we need to push harder, so that all browsers support the latest version of cascading style sheets, XHTML and the other wonderful things.

Did you do anything to mark Blue Beanie Day? What do web standards mean to you? Feel free to comment below.

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