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Standards Under Siege

With Mozilla 1.0 finally a reality and Netscape replacing Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) as the default browser for AOL's CompuServe customers, many are speculating IE's dominance may be on the decline and the browser wars may be on again.

But a quick look at most Web site log files still shows IE with a market share as high as 90 percent, with Netscape, Mozilla, Opera and the infamous Code Red/Nimda virus filling out the rest of the field. (Of course, these statistics are skewed: Sometimes Mozilla and Opera lie about their identities, claiming to be IE to circumvent poorly coded sites that block access to non-IE browsers.) So don't bet on a resurgence for Netscape. Microsoft's lead is simply too large, and there really isn't any money in it for vendors to fight hard for share.

That said, Netscape's insistence on staying in the game could renew the push for browser standards, because Web site authors have to address more than one vendor's browser.

Developers are beginning to code to and verify their sites against W3C standards. And yet many of those same sites do not render correctly in some browsers because the browsers themselves do not implement standards correctly. Vendors are not keeping up with standards or they're not implementing them correctly. Today, no browser is 100 percent standards-compliant, though Mozilla comes the closest, followed by IE 6.0. However, neither Netscape 4.x nor IE 5/6 deal well with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). IE implements the core of CSS, but not CSS1 in its entirety. Even worse, Netscape ignores the fact that you don't have a matching end tag within a table -- big no-no.

Encourage your Web site authors to comply with published standards. When you encounter a site that is not standards-compliant, drop the Webmaster a note and let him or her know what browser and OS you're using. If you use a browser that is non-compliant, get a new browser and let the vendor know why.