I am a stickler for standards. Whether they’re coding standards, sporting standards, laboratory standards or, more  relevant to the subject of this article, web standards. Standards enable uniformity and compatibility. *They offer an interface of sorts which abstracts away from the inner workings of whatever they are applied to, thus making implementation of whatever they represent considerably easier. Admittedly, I am all for anything that makes life easier provided it doesn’t breach my moral code and the laws of the land in which I reside. This is why it grinds my gears that web standards are treated with so little regard.

Earlier this week, while validating a website being launched for one of my clients with the W3C Validator Service, I decided to run a few other well known websites through the validator as well. All I really wanted to see was what standards were being used by some of the largest websites on the web. What I found was rather astonishing, if not disappointing and utterly upsetting. Have a look at the following table:

Google.com HTML 5 39 Errors, 2 Warnings
Yahoo.com HTML 4.01 Transitional 34 Errors, 8 Warnings
MSN.com XHTML 1.0 Strict 1 Error
Amazon.com HTML 4.01 Transitional 1160 Errors, 79 Warnings
Facebook.com XHTML 1.0 Strict 44 Errors, 4 Warnings
Twitter.com XHTML 1.0 Strict 96 Errors
Mashable.com XHTML 1.0 Transitional 167 Errors, 44 Warnings
TechCrunch.com XHTML 1.0 Strict 200 Errors, 26 Warnings
Youtube.com HTML 4.01 Transitional 241 Errors, 60 Warnings
Microsoft.com XHTML 1.0 Transitional 103 Errors, 25 Warnings
Bing.com XHTML 1.0 Transitional 12 Errors
SitePoint.com XHTML 1.0 Strict 5 Errors, 5Warnings
WebStandards.org XHTML 1.0 Strict 1 Error

13 of the largest, most popular and most visited websites in the world serve us webpages containing invalid markup. The Amazon.com homepage alone contains 1160 errors, more than the rest of the list combined. Even more egregious is the fact that the homepage of The Web Standards Project (WebStandards.org) contains an error and, as such, is not a valid XHTML document (#epicfail). Also of concern is that both Yahoo.com and Youtube.com, both websites in the top 10 most visited websites in the world, are using HTML 4.01 markup which on the 24th of December this year will be a 10 year old specification.

I figured that there must be standards compliant websites on the web and after a lot of searching (too much) I found only four:

Very disappointing…

This is one of the main reasons why very few web designers respect web standards. There is hardly any precedent. The influential leaders on the internet are not leading by example. One of the most hypocritical things I have ever seen in my life is how some of these companies and web designers go on about how bad Internet Explorer 6 is yet they themselves build websites choc full of invalid webpages. Internet Explorer 6 really is a bloated, overused wad of epic fail. However, with 241 errors in markup, Youtube.com (who has recently declared that they will no longer support the craptastic IE6) is also a grand, epic fail. As a matter of fact all of the 13 websites I listed above fail. Very, very disappointing…

Another group of entities responsible for the lack of standards compliance on the web is the manufacturers of the web browsers we use. The Microsoft, the Mozilla, the Opera, the Apple, the Google and all the others. They don’t adhere to web standards either. The wide range of possibilities that exist with regards to how webpages are rendered in these browsers is just ridiculous. In my opinion there should only be one standards compliant mode for rendering web pages. Can you imagine the turmoil that would ensue if the FCC didn’t enforce their standards and regulations?

Additionally, the concept of having a ‘quirks mode’ in these browsers is one that has always rubbed me the wrong way. How do you enforce a web standard when the consequence of not adhering to said standard is simply that invalid pages will be rendered in quirks mode? The purpose of quirks mode is ‘to aid in the maintenance of backward compatibility with webpages designed for older browsers’. The fundamental flaw with that definition and by extension the concept of quirks mode itself is that webpages should not be designed for browsers, they should be designed to meet predefined standards!

The path that we’re on as web designers, browser manufacturers and internet businesses is one of self destruction. We’re making things harder for ourselves. When we decide to not make our websites and our web browsers standards compliant, we have to work harder to ensure that our pages display correctly across browsers, we have to build more bloated browser applications to ensure that our browsers can handle non-standard markup and we waste time arguing over stupid things. I want a standard web. A standard web would make my life and my work a whole lot easier. Web people, don’t you want your work to be easier? Don’t you want a standard web?