Opera’s Web Standards Curriculum: Progress or Ossification?Apr 14, 2009 By Joshua Allen
The Internet has always been a sort of a class project, patched together via "loose consensus and running code", with new knowledge being created and shared tribally. At first, we shared knowledge via USENET newsgroups and loosely-maintained FAQs, and eventually Brendan Kehoe had the brilliant idea to write a text file for beginners called "Zen and the art of the Internet", which could be downloaded via FTP. Many people first got their feet wet from this document, but it wasn’t long before Gopher and NCSA Mosaic came along, changing things yet again.
The ever-changing nature of the web is both a strength and a weakness. It’s nice to know that you are never more than a couple of years out of date, and that you can catch up quickly. Did you know that it used to be a best practice to use tables for layout in HTML? You don’t need to know that, since you can safely ignore old and outmoded advice. On the other hand, it’s difficult to find a single authoritative source of education about Web Development, and a large chunk of the education out there is old and no longer relevant. You find yourself following a wide variety of community sites to keep up; not much different from the days of USENET.
In this environment,Opera asked a number of experts in the web standards community to create a full education program for "Web Standards Curriculum". The result is a comprehensive program which can be used in educational institutions to give students a foundation in the full range of skills necessary for standard-oriented web developers. They even cover topics like wireframing.
At first glance,this is a really unique and useful resource for the web. But on second thought, it raises some questions. Are "web standards" really that mature? Won’t everything change again in a couple of years, leaving this site as another outmoded and confusing site among many? And does it promote a single company’s political agenda?
I’ve read through the WSC carefully, and often share links with people who want to learn about the right way to build web pages. And there are many areas of web development practice which are mature enough to be part of a stable curriculum. I’m convinced that WSC is a really good thing for the web, and comes at the right time. Opera as a company isn’t known for being shy about blasting other browser makers, but the WSC content is remarkably apolitical, as you would expect from good educational material. And the breadth of collaboration from other companies is a good sign. So, we give the WSC an enthusiastic endorsement!
So, what do you think? What are the sites that you follow to stay informed about professional web standards practices? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to follow mixonline on twitter to be notified of future news and projects of the MIX Online team!