>Netscape Zigzags on Style Sheets, Throwing Developers for a Loop
>By Whit Andrews
>Netscape's decision not to implement industry-supported Cascading Style
>Sheets, except insofar as they are already supported by rival Microsoft's
>Internet Explorer 3.0, has set the stage for another page-code war.
>The Mountain View-based company has mitigated its pledge to support CSS in
>submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium--which Netscape executives
>to be superior to CSS.
>functionality of Cascading Style Sheets," said Daniel Klaussen, product
>manager of Netscape Communicator, which includes the browser's 4.0
>Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., said it will maintain its commitment
>CSS, a limited version of which it supports in Internet Explorer 3.0.
>Netscape's decision is "just unfortunate," said Thomas Reardon, a program
>manager for Microsoft's Internet platform and tools division. "We continue
>work on the next generation."
>Part of that next generation is Microsoft's counterproposal to JSS, called
>the HTML Object Model.
>CSS, while not yet a standard, is "on its way to become a W3C
>recommendation," the consortium says at its Web site.
>Site developers said they are bitterly disappointed at the prospect of
>Microsoft and Netscape heading for another joust over what code to support
>their browsers, which could drive up the cost of site development--and
>possibly of hardware and software as well.
>"I think they [Netscape] ought to fess up and say, OScrew it, we're not
>following standards,'" said a major New York Web designer who has followed
>the dispute and requested anonymity. "I think they should just drop the
>The argument provokes developers' passion because of the promise that any
>version of style sheets holds for Web design, and the implicit costs of
>needing to implement multiple versions.
>Style sheets give designers the ability to control, across a Web site,
>heretofore elusive qualities such as margin sizes, text colors, typefaces
>spacing--all from a single document or set of documents.
>Both Microsoft's and Netscape's next-generation proposals allow those
>capabilities to be controlled more dynamically, essentially by marrying
>programming languages with page coding to gain the best of both worlds.
>Observers also say that this newest conflict, should it come to pass, may
>worse than the last page-code war, when it was Netscape against a goodly
>number of competitors, including then-feeble Microsoft. Last winter, pages
>might be Netscape-enhanced, but were essentially flat HTML that other
>browsers might display less pleasingly.
>This time there are just two major browsers in the market, but Microsoft's
>more powerful than before. This means that any conflict will likely take
>shape not as Netscape versus the rest but as Netscape versus Microsoft,
>designers choosing one, the other or both. And that means pages would
>look poor in one browser or be more expensive to build for both.
>"There will be some bloodshed," said one person close to the standards
>process who requested his name not be used.
>Making pages match two browsers could double the work, designers
>driving up the cost of site development and software creation.
>"If they go into dueling standards, we have to decide which one to
>or support both," said Samuel Goldstein, head of the programming
>at BoxTop Interactive.
>One circumstance that might ease the conflict would be W3C approval of
>JSS or Microsoft's counter-offer.
>Such a measure might inspire many browser and authoring tools makers
>to leapfrog CSS and go to its next generation, although Microsoft said it
>intends to fully implement CSS no matter what happens.
>And a number of tools makers had already signed on to CSS. Digital Style
>announced that its WebSuite 2.0 graphic authoring tool will support the
>standard, for instance. Company officials declined comment through a
>SoftQuad, another authoring tools maker, said it has gone ahead and built
>CSS module for use in its products, as it does with most standards.
>The notion that the Web world will have more standards than it started
>when the process is over is a cause for concern no matter what company is
>successful in promoting its plan, according to Tim Krauskopf, the chief
>technology officer at Spyglass, which supplies the core code that
>uses for Internet Explorer.
>"It looks like Netscape is intending to diverge from Microsoft by
>style sheet of its own," he said. "Netscape is increasing the costs for
>"As a content maker," he continued, "you can say, OWe now have more
>we have to design to.' Also, you have to code browsers twice, adding
>dollars to the cost of every consumer electronic device that browses the
>Certainly there are costs you can justify the benefit of, but two
>style sheets is not one of them."
>Meanwhile, the W3C is working to avoid some of those costs by seeking to
>up CSS and marry it as closely to JSS as possible before either is
>established as a standard, said H?kon Lie, one of the authors of CSS. "We
>believe it will be easy to convert from CSS to JSS, so that any investment
>CSS can easily be transferred later," he said.
>And the W3C has added a statement on its site indicating that its official
>position is that there is room for multiple standards on the Web.
>Even if the war ends in a quick truce, many said Netscape's decision to go
>alone serves as a reminder that underdog Netscape is now leading the
>pack--and willing to use its dominance to stay there no matter what the
>"As far as I am concerned, Netscape is finished for me," messaged Steve
>Knoblock, an early implementer of style sheets at his History of
>site. "They have reversed themselves on supporting standards."
>Reprinted from Web Week, Volume 2, Issue 17, November 4, 1996 ?
>Corp. All rights reserved. Keywords: design, standards Date: 19961104