Standards and What You Can Do With Them

Users of some browsers, particularly if you use both Netscape and Internet Explorer, and users of certain HTML authoring tools, particularly those manufactured by Microsoft, will notice that there is a significant difference, which can sometimes be pretty extreme, in the way a page is rendered in one browser compared to another. This is because Microsoft, particularly, seems to have a rather casual attitude about adherence to standards which are designed to make it easier for authors to design web content which renders the same on all browsers. The fact that Microsoft does not design its products to comply with these requirements is largely due to Microsoft's flagrant disregard for HTML standards (and, in my opinion, standards in general). Microsoft seems to have the attitude that if they do something a certain way, that everyone should do it that way, regardless of whether other, more knowledgeable bodies of expertise have decided that the way Microsoft does it is not the "best" way. It is for this, and many other reasons, that I, personally, do not recommend Microsoft products, especially to those who are beginners. It is better to learn to do something correctly first than it is to learn the way Microsoft does it and then to have to re-learn the "correct" way to do it later.

Many HTML authoring tools, particularly those manufactured by Microsoft, frequently do not delimit attribute values correctly. In other words, attribute values are frequently not enclosed in quotation marks. Let me make this very clear: Except in very specific circumstances defined by the HTML specification, attribute values must be delimited correctly. If attribute values are not delimited correctly they simply will not work in any browser except maybe the one made by... you guessed it. If you're looking at HTML code in which the attribute values have not been delimited correctly using Microsoft's browser, sometimes the browser software will be able to "figure out" that there are supposed to be quotation marks there and sometimes will display the markup correctly anyway... but only sometimes.

While working as a software test engineer for Microsoft, I logged a number of bugs concerning lack of adherence to specifications. For the most part, response to these bug reports took the form of "We don't care, we don't have to...". Needless to say, with an attitude like that, the bugs weren't fixed, and continue to exist at this very moment in software which is probably on your computer at this very moment if you're using Windows. This rant is to caution authors and potential authors to the fact that you can't rely on your software to do things right if you don't know how to do it right from the beginning. It's much better to learn from the specifications themselves than it is to learn from software which may have proprietary quirks which do not comply with the specifications, regardless of how reliable a reputation the manufacturer of that software may have.