A Single Rendering Engine for All Browsers
The current state of Web standards has left us far from the mark that the movement intended to satisfy. Even in a world where Firefox has finally taken a bite out of IE6 and IE7 continues to pick up speed and help the effort, we’re left with discrepancies that, if nothing else, making building and owning a website more expensive.
This isn’t breaking news. Every developer and designer finds himself, at some point or another, struggling to get something to work across the board, scratching his hair out in the frustrating knowledge that no matter how well he or she might interpret the CSS specifications, you can’t please every browser.
In the current state of the industry, a site needs to be built and tested in at least Internet Explorer 6+ and Firefox, just to please the vast majority of users. And that’s at the very least. Safari and Opera, though they have a very low percentage of the market, are typically taken into consideration by serious developers. Many of us take an even more drastic stance, including older versions of IE, Mozilla, Camino; the list can be endless.
I estimate that 1/5th of the time spent on a site’s CSS is browser testing. For a less experienced professional, that number can get up to around 75% or more. That’s a lot of time that could be better spent focused on content and usability. I can safely guestimate that the sites I personally build could be 10% cheaper if it weren’t for cross-browser testing.
However, having your sites display accurately in all browsers is a necessity, for sure. The advances in IE7 have done much to help, but there are still discrepancies between the various browsers, even those which claim to meet W3C specifications.
A Possible Solution
What if there was one company who wrote the code that all browsers used to render CSS? The W3C could even take on this task, therefore eliminating the need to “interpret” what they’re saying. Make the code available as an open source project where the masses of dedicated software programmers could easily work on keeping the code fresh and stable. Websites across the world (those that adhere to standards, anyway) would rejoice at having their fonts all line up with their bullet points, sing praises to their headers matching up with their footers, and talk up the beauty of submit buttons sitting neatly beside text input fields. Less markup, no more hacks or browser checks, and faster downloads are only some of the side effects. A cheaper and more stabile Internet would reward enough.
Happiness would reign supreme as users witnessed a uniform experience, while companies saved money on development and developers could focus more on usability and excelling at design rather than “doing what they can” to get things right.