Group Blasts IE 5.5 for Lack of Web Standards

WASHINGTON (04/10/2000) - Microsoft Corp. has angered the Web Standards Project for what the group says is the software giant's about-face on a pledge to support Web standards in its upcoming version of Internet Explorer.

The Web Standards Project, a 2-year-old coalition of developers and users that promotes the use of standards in Web-page development, issued a sharply worded statement today accusing Microsoft of abandoning its promise to abide by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards in Internet Explorer (IE) 5.5, due to ship in a few months.

The release said the Web Standards Project is "incensed by Microsoft's arrogance" over a standards issue that is crucial to Web developers because the dominant position of Microsoft's Windows operating system, into which IE has been integrated, will make it nearly impossible for developers to create documents that adhere to the W3C standards.

Web Standards Project group leader Jeffrey Zeldman said he was surprised to find out last week through a Microsoft press release that IE 5.5 would not support W3C standards that Microsoft and other computer industry leaders, including Microsoft's rival in the browser market, Netscape Communications Corp., agreed to support a few years ago. Most notably, Zeldman cited the planned lack of support for portions of cascading style sheets (CSS1), a standard established in 1996, and Document Object Model (DOM) 1 Core.

After consulting with other members of the Web Standards Project's steering committee, Zeldman said a decision was made to criticize Microsoft in a press release.

In a development in the U.S. government's antitrust case against Microsoft, the Wall Street Journal reported today that the government is considering a plan to force Microsoft to grant royalty-free licenses to Internet Explorer and open up the underlying code. Zeldman said, however, that the Web Standards Project had no opinion on potential legal remedies in the case.

"We're hoping that if we make enough noise, they may reconsider," Zeldman said.

"All they have to do is implement the standards."

Zeldman said Microsoft's decision to depart from Web standards in Explorer 5.5 struck him as "bizarre and schizophrenic" because just a few weeks ago Microsoft released its IE 5.5 version for Macintosh users, which fully implements the CSS1 standard and HTML 4.0.

"Microsoft in its Macintosh Explorer division did the right thing and said full implementation of CSS1 and HTML 4.0," Zeldman said. "We don't understand why they don't think Windows users deserve the same standard of standards compliance. If they could do it for their Macintosh group ... surely they can afford to do it for the rest of the market."

Zeldman said Microsoft's decision was "very divisive," for the future of the Web because developers who are compelled to write code for IE 5.5 will be leaving Linux, Unix, Netscape and Macintosh users out in the cold, while developers whose code complies with W3C standards will leave Windows users out in the cold.

In addition to CSS1, HTML 4.0 and DOM 1 Core, the Web Standards Project supports implementation of XML 1.0 and ECMAScript, the standardized version of JavaScript, Zeldman said. Netscape last week released a beta version of Netscape 6, which the company said fully implements the W3C standards. [See "AOL Previews Netscape 6," April 5].

No one at Microsoft would agree to be interviewed about the Web Standards Project's charges. The company's public relations firm, Waggener Edstrom, however, provided a response to questions submitted in an e-mail. The response said Microsoft provides the highest standard compliance of any fully released browser client today. The e-mail also said Microsoft has implemented a significant portion of both DOM level 1 and CSS support and will continue to offer our support for industry standards.

The Web Standards Project can be found on the Web at http://www.webstandards.org/. Microsoft, in Redmond, Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080, or at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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