Just a few days after Chris Wilson’s post to IEblog, Håkon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera and one of the originators of CSS, published a column on news.com titled “The Acid2 Challenge to Microsoft“, outlining the intent to create “a test page… that will actively use features Web designers crave, such as fixed positioning of elements”. As indicated in his article and confirmed via the Buzz, the Web Standards Project is a partner with Håkon in the development of this new “test suite”, as it’s termed on the WaSP Buzz.
I don’t know about you, but as I read the article, several red flags went up and alarm bells rang in my head.
First off, the Acid2 challenge to Microsoft? Why only Microsoft? An acid test worthy of its name would expose bugs in every browser on the market today. The original test did exactly that, and helped change the face of the Web. In fact, if you’re still using IE/Mac, the first browser to actually get the Acid test correct, you can see it in action. Type about:tasman into the address bar, and there it is, with modified text.
Second, the original Acid test
(which I haven’t linked to because it seems to longer be available on the Web) was part of a larger and more constructive effort. At the time, Acid test author Todd Fahrner was (as was I) a member of the WaSP’s CSS Action Committee. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, you might be more familiar with the CSS Samurai. One of the things the CSS AC did was to produce reports on the top ten failings of CSS support in various browsers. We didn’t just say, “Browser X should be better”. We wrote up what should be better, and why, and pointed to test cases illustrating the problems. The Acid test was justifiably famous, but it was in the end one test among many.
And those tests were tough for all browsers, not just one browser or one campany’s browsers. We weren’t partisan snipers, despite what many claimed. We worked to point the way toward better behavior on the part of all browsers by focusing on the problems specific to each browser.
I am no longer a member of the WaSP. When the first incarnation of the organization went into dormancy, the CSS AC went along with it. Although the new WaSP has asked me to join a few times, I have resisted for various reasons—personal, professional, and perceptual. I was also asked if I wanted to contribute to the Acid2 effort as an independent, and declined that as well. So in many ways, this post is the epitome of something I find distasteful: a person who has had every chance to make contributions, and instead criticizes. In my defense, I can say only that while I may have refused these invitations, it is not out of antagonism to the basic goal of the WaSP. I have every reason to want the WaSP to succeed in its goal of advancing the cause of standards on the Web.
But this Microsoft-centric campaign has me concerned, and ever so slightly appalled. The creation of a tough CSS test suite is a fantastic undertaking, something that is to be applauded and is probably long overdue. But to cast it as an effort being undertaken as a challenge to Microsoft not only starts it off on the wrong foot, it has the potential to taint not just the Acid2 effort, but the entire organization.