Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

Here' What Your Search Engine Thinks About Web Standards

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It seems you can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about web standards this or web standards that. Jeff Atwood on Coding Horror published an interesting blog post on Monday talking about the amount of care and respect Google appears to have for web standards, which got me thinking: how do the other search engines compare?

Here are the off-the-cuff results: Yahoo fails with 326 errors and no doctype. Windows Live Search fails to validate as XHTML 1.0 Strict with 31 errors (but at least they tried). Altavista fails with 123 errors and no doctype. Google fails with 255 errors and no doctype.

If I had a little more time and wasn’t up to my eyeballs in projects already, I’d combine Alexa’s API set with an HTML/XHTML validator to see how well the top n websites on the Interweb handle standards compliance.

My take: I try to code to XHTML 1.0 transitional for the same reason I won’t ship software that contains compiler errors. It’s sometimes nigh-on-impossible to get this right, though. If you look at my site’s main page, it validates as XHTML 1.0 Transitional just fine. Unfortunately, my personal blog, this blog, and my photo gallery most certainly do not. Moreover, I’d rather spend my time yakking about UI design than going back and tidying up the Movable Type template that I use here, especially when I have every intention of dumping Movable Type as soon as possible.

Sir Tim’s take:

Some things are clearer with hindsight of several years. It is necessary to evolve HTML incrementally. The attempt to get the world to switch to XML, including quotes around attribute values and slashes in empty tags and namespaces all at once didn’t work. The large HTML-generating public did not move, largely because the browsers didn’t complain. Some large communities did shift and are enjoying the fruits of well-formed systems, but not all. It is important to maintain HTML incrementally, as well as continuing a transition to well-formed world, and developing more power in that world.