We follow certain standards while driving a car. These standards have evolved over the time to ensure safety, convenience and fair access for all users of the road system. Most of these standards are accepted globally while some differ from country to country.
Types of standards:
Generally standards are divided into two major groups; infrastructure and social. Infrastructural standards refer to the practical issues involved in constructing the system whilst social standards refer to the use of the system. Going with the above example infrastructural standards deal with the technicalities encountered while building the road and car manufacture while the highway rules and regulations refer to the social standards.
Standards on the web:
What has all this to do with the web? The internet is a transport medium like the road but the difference here is that the internet helps in transferring the information from A to B. The standards in case of the internet are maintained by Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). In fact you refer to this every time a web address is entered in the browser; http:// at the beginning stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol – a standard designed for sending and receiving linked textual information. This is because all the software manufacturers around the globe understand this standard.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Tim Berners-Lee and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are the body responsible for retaining the social standards on the web.
The social standards for the road system are very simple and include the speed limits, parking restrictions, lane discipline etc and can be enclosed in a 100 page booklet which is easily understood by all. The W3C was founded in October 1994 and since then they have produced over 50 intense technical terminologies and guess what the work is still not done.
Individual versions of standards:
Some time back most of the major browser manufacturers where not complying with the W3C standards and where creating their own versions. This gave all the web developers hell of a time as they had to write different versions of the same content to display the matter on everybody’s computer. This experience was enough for the big players like Microsoft and Netscape to start complying with the standards. This made the web developers work simple and also gave the users a consistency while browsing the net.
Uniformity of Standards:
Extensive use of standards is highly beneficial as it is accessible to a wider range of users. W3C standards also derives some input from the Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C-WAI) which makes sure that all the web content is also accessible to users with sight problems or motor-control difficulties. This also involves offering textual alternative to all the images, making sure that the site also works with a screen-reader (a program that says words for blind users) and is easy to navigate without using the mouse.
Need for standards:
Technology has evolved very fast. Everyday new versions are being developed. In fact reading most of the older data has become difficult. The reason being is non compliance to standards. Most of these data were custom built and were not configured to any standards.
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