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The Days of Web Standards Report

July 20, 2007

Kazuhito Kidachi
Corporate Director and Front-End Engineer

For two days on July 15 and 16, The Days of Web Standards was held in Akihabara, Tokyo. An extended version of The Day of Web Standards held last year, this event was hosted by CSS Nite (Swwwitch, Inc.). As a gold sponsor, we supported this event, which proved to be a considerable success with the participation of more than 1,000 people over two days. Four of our employees appeared as presenters. As one of them, I gave a speech entitled “Project Design to Minimize Potential Risks —in anticipation of the Web Standards Compliance” in the XHTML+CSS track. In addition, I served as a moderator in the browser track on Day 2. In this column, I briefly report on the event, focusing on the browser track.

Let's Create Firefox 3 Together!

The development of version 3 of Mozilla Firefox (“Firefox”) has been advancing steadily. In this session, Ms. Negoro and Mr. Nakano from Mozilla Japan compared long-awaited Firefox 3 to “a visionary noodle that innovated soup” and explained the features and how to take part in the development process.

The features of Firefox 3 introduced are the new functions called Places, taking into account that the browser's bookmark and the history functions are not frequently used, and an offline function enabling site viewing in the same way as online, even when a user is not connected to the Internet (if it is supported on the service side). At the same time, the embedded rendering engine, Gecko, will get a significant upgrade. Various points for improvement were introduced, centering on support for CSS. As for participation in the development process, actual participants appeared on stage, and they mainly explained the Japanese version of Bugzilla for managing bug information, and how to use Bugzilla-jp.

I have devotedly used Firefox at the office and in my home. I am looking forward to the release of the future version. In addition to the increased degree of Web Standards compliance, some concerns, such as displaying a long URL string without splitting it into two lines, a difficult issue to address, are taken into consideration. For this reason I'm really looking forward to the release.

Opera ~Web standards everywhere: Web Standards Technology Open to All Devices

Opera Software ASA (“Opera”) is known to provide its browser for use on devices ranging from the desktop environment to mobile phones and game machines. In this session, Mr. McCathieNevile, CSO (Chief Standard Officer), elaborated on the company's stance on the development of the browser and participation in the standardization activities.

It was very interesting to see how he responded in the Q&A session, when I asked, “How is Opera capable of allocating so many staff to standardization activities?” The company is committed to diverse standardization activities in addition to W3C. As it is clear that the company will not directly benefit from the specification development process itself, I wished to confirm his ideas regarding this.

To put it simply, the answer is that these standardization activities ultimately help save on development costs. They not only bolster the corporate brand of Opera, but they also take the initiative in forming the standards, and thereby incorporate them into their products and accelerate the speed of implementation. His way of thinking made sense, and brought back memories of the Widgets specifications. Mr. van Kesteren is one of the editors of the specifications, and he works for Opera.

Internet Explorer Development and Feedback Processes, and Initiatives in Industry Standards

The presenter was Mr. Goho, who has been taking steps to incorporate feedback from the Japanese users/market on the company's products at Microsoft Development. The first half of the session was to explain the product development cycle with the topic of “Understanding How to Get Along with Internet Explorer (IE)”. The second half was a quasi-meeting to exchange ideas, in which he worked with participants to explore how to release a more reliable IE.

I was deeply impressed by Mr. Goho's passion and position during this session: he wished to make IE a better browser, and to hear as many opinions from users as possible to this end. I was even more impressed by his speech than the time when I found out that IEBlog had opened, and that the, IE engineers talked (although only in English) in their own words about the development process, and started to communicate with end users. I was very encouraged by his presence.

It was said that an original feedback program for the Japanese market would start ahead of the release of the product beta version in the future. I hope to take part. Even if an excellent program is available, it will be meaningless unless Web developers like us actively use it. I think that active use could be beneficial to all Web stakeholders, as mentioned in the keynote speech at the Days of Web Standards last year.

Panel Discussion “Where will the Browser Go?”

When I took part in the SXSW (South by Southwest Festivals + Conferences) held in March this year (see the column SXSW 2007 Report), and listened to the panel discussion of browser vendors, I wished that a similar event would be held in Japan. Finally my wish came true. This session was a most valuable opportunity, with the representatives of the browser vendors of Firefox, IE, and Opera all coming together.

The panel discussion was held with questions prepared in advance and vendors answering them. The discussion was focused on three main themes, Web Standards, collaboration of vendors, and the future of browsers and the Web. Though there were many differences among the three parties, in general they agreed on the direction for the evolution of their browsers, while conforming to Web Standards and taking into consideration the openness of the Web.

Something that I personally found very interesting was the answer that Mr. McCathieNevile from Opera to the question regarding support for microformats. Microformats are grass-roots developed standards to read a specific data format in machines, following the existing HTML specifications. He mentioned the possibility of future support, but expressed concerns about the specifications, microformats.

One of the microformats design principles is “design for humans first, machines second”. The vocabularies and mechanisms of the microformats specifications are attributed to this. If we place too much emphasis on it, however, it could be more dangerous (it may come close to the level of a natural language, which can't be processed with machines.). This was what he was concerned about. He added that it could be very effective if it were limited to the level of children's speech. I found it very fascinating when we consider the future of (X)HTML and the Web, as well as microformats.

Conclusion

I hope that you enjoyed reading this report. The slides and audio data of not only the browser track, but of almost all the sessions of the Days of Web Standards will be released in the near future. In just this short column it was difficult to fully explain the contents and appeal of the sessions if even limited to those introduced above. If you are interested, please visit the CSS Nite site regularly, where the data will be released.