Browsers cascade their way to compliance

Perhaps feeling the heat of a fire-breathing fox on its neck, Microsoft will be closer to compliance with the CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) 2 standard when Internet Explorer 7 is released in the new year. The software giant, however, is stopping short of saying just how close.

The CSS standard was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, an industry group dedicated to building consensus around Web technologies, as a standard for adding style, such as fonts, colours and spacing, to Web documents so they can be viewed in any browser. A new version, 2.1, is currently in development.

Some of the newer browsers, including Firefox, Safari and Opera, all come close to full CSS2 compliance, while as an older browser Internet Explorer 6 predates the standard. That means extra work for developers who want their pages to load in all browsers or choosing to design for just Internet Explorer, which still dominates the browser market, although Firefox is making inroads.

Firefox’s popularity may have pushed Microsoft to move up the schedule for IE7, Microsoft’s first major browser update since IE6 was released in late 2001. Carol Terentiak, security incident and response manager for Microsoft Canada, said IE7 was originally planned to be part of Windows Vista in 2006, but Web developers had issues they needed to deal with sooner.

The target release date for IE7 is now early 2006. The first beta has been released and Terentiak said it mainly addresses security issues, which developers have told them is their biggest concern.

While Microsoft fully supports standards, she added as a legacy browser many applications have been developed to run on IE, and they’d face serious backward compatibility issues if they made major changes.

“We have to make sure we’re not giving developers a new nightmare while getting rid of the old one,” said Terentiak.

Full compatibility with CSS2 is currently under evaluation, and Terentiak said they expect to be much closer when the next beta is released.

“If we could all work to one standard that would be great, and it certainly is our intention to move as close to the standard as possible as quickly as we can,” she said.

Vancouver’s Haba

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