A Book to Bypass

I just got offered the opportunity to review this book; and I rejected it immediately after reviewing its specs on the SitePoint/OReilly website. Why ? The title of this book on CSS looks a bit provocative but innocent enough .. but like Paul Harvey was wont to say in his news broadcasts – “Here is the Rest of the Story”.

Yes indeed, CSS is going through a resurgence of note as AJAX propels Cloud Computing and Web development to new heights. But this progress has been in spite of Microsoft which has worked actively to thwart Web Standards over the past 10 years despite their many claims to the contrary. But the two most damning facts are:
1)After working feverishly to overtake Netscapes browser, Microsoft starting in 1999 discontinued all updates to IE-Internet Explorer other than security fixes which themselves were notoriously tardy until 2006. No previously promised HTML, CSS, DOM, JavaScript and other W3C standards updates were delivered at all throughout this period.
2)Google, in one release of its Chrome browser, did 5 times better(failing only 16 of 176 tests) than IE8 (failed on 77 of 176 tests) in meeting the W3C CSS suite of CSS tests. Try it yourself with the respective browsers.

Now why are we even concerned about Microsoft when reviewing this book? Well just go the OReilly/Sitepoint website and read the promotional description of the book and it starts off with “Internet Explorer 8 changes the Web for the better” and a little later we are told that the first thing the book will do is “tell how you can take full advantage of IE8”. Excuse me – isnt this supposed to be about CSS and new ways to take advantage of CSS – but not a browser specific exercise. Especially when that browser is meeting less than 45% of W3C CSS basic tests.

But I got a clue as to what was going on when I checked the authors backgrounds. Rachel Andrews is a member of the Web Standards Project. Yikes! This is the group that has been co-opted and badly compromised by Microsoft. Instead of holding Microsoft to the CSS standards as provided by W3C and others, the Web Standards Group has come up with the ACID series of tests that are far from a rigorous testing of browser compliance with standards. Yes, the ACID tests are really red herrings that allow the browser vendors to shoot to a much lower standard than W3C and other comprehensive compatibility tests.

Even worse, the Web Standards Project, despite professing to be “The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all” has simply been almost totally silent about Redmonds continuing flaunting of compliance with W3C Web standards not just in the CSS arena but also Redmonds continuing use of proprietary HTML, DOM and JavaScript extensions; failure to support SVG , XForms, JPEG2000, and PNG; failing to use E4X and other open JavaScript projects. Instead the Web Standards Project has now narrowed its focus to the cause of Web accessibility for the disabled. True, a worthy goal – but certainly not the original charter/mandate of the group.

However, the final nail in the coffin for this book was the following statement: “Youll unearth whats put the final nail in the HTML table-based layout coffin”. I had seen this stridency before when visiting the Web Standards blog. But in a book on pragmatic CSS and Web development the last thing I want is preaching. Tables work with CSS very well (see their use in displaying pictures in this Weblog entry). And CSS driven divs and dd statements can, like LISP bracket nesting, drive a aweb developer to tears trying to maintain complex styling structures. What I really want is when is it best to use tables and when to use CSS driven divs, spans, dds, and other methods.

In sum, I am surprised that OReilly and Sitepoint would not insist on a)better practical coverage of CSS and b)not allow such a browser biased approach. If OReilly/Sitepoint are going to do this they should at least insist on a statement of standards compliance based on testing using the W3C suite of tests. Otherwise publishing a book like this implies that OReilly and Sitepoint perceive IE8 and Microsoft as being now good Web standards citizens which they clearly are not.

1 thought on “A Book to Bypass”

  1. “Good” job guys – excised all reactions and comments … this reminds one of Argentina, Soviet Russia and Australia where people and history were made to disappear ….

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