Nowadays, in this period of tremendous growth, the Web needs a guidance to realize its full potential. Web standards are this guidance. These standards help ensure that everyone has access to the information we are providing, and also make web development faster and more enjoyable.
Web standards are technologies, established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and other standards bodies, that are used to create and interpret Web-based content. These technologies are designed to future-proof documents published on the Web and to make those documents accessible to as many as possible.
Currently, most of the standards have been officially implemented by the W3C. One standard, however, originated at another organization, called ECMA.
The European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA) is an organization officially founded in 1961 in order to meet the need for standardizing computer operational formats, including programming languages and input/output codes. In 1994, the organization’s name was changed to the ECMA - European Association for Standardizing Information and Communication Systems, in order to reflect its broader range of activities.
Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) is widely used on the Web for adding structure to text documents. Browsers interpret these documents, representing the structure in media-specific ways to the user.
Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a markup language like HTML, but instead of having a single, fixed set of elements, it allows you to define your own - or use a set made by someone else.
XHTML is a reformulation of HTML as an XML application. XHTML 1.0 can be seen as ideologically coming from HTML 4.01, and being technically stricter because of XML’s influence.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a mechanism for changing the appearance of HTML or XML elements, by assigning styles to element types, self-defined classes of elements or individual instances.
Why should you care?
- The structural information present in compliant documents makes it easy for search engines to access and evaluate the information in those documents, and they get indexed more accurately.
- Standards are written so that old browsers will still understand the basic structure of your documents. Even if they can’t understand the newest and coolest additions to the standards, they’ll be able to display the content of your site.
- Compliant documents can easily be converted to other formats, such as databases or Word documents. This allows for more versatile use of the information within documents on the World Wide Web, and simplified migration to new systems - hardware as well as software - including devices such as TVs and PDAs.
- Accessibility to a wide audience is guaranteed. Web pages are accessible by people using browsers other than the usual ones - including voice browsers, Braille browsers, hand-held browsers, teletext displays, and other unusual output devices.
- Web standards offer a set of rules that every Web developer can follow, understand, and become familiar with. When one developer designs a site to the standards, another will be able to pick up where the former left off.