Back in 2001 I became a member of the Web Standards Project (WaSP). For over fifteen years, I’ve been working to try to ensure an interoperable and open web.
I’ve seen the web during the browser wars, where new features were shipped by browsers trying to gain a competitive advantage, in a process that meant web developers had to build two versions of their websites in order for them to work in Netscape and Internet Explorer. I wrote tutorials and Dreamweaver Extensions to help people move on from Netscape 4. I remember how excited we were about the relatively good support for CSS in IE6, and the pain of the stagnation of the platform when that browser was not updated. Throughout, I’ve tried to figure out and encourage best practice, to use my ability to explain things to help people make the best of the tools we have. It has always been an imperfect environment, well suited to a person like me with no formal training but an ability to solve problems and then explain the answers.
Putting together an issue of my weekly CSS Layout newsletter today, I included a blog post from the Chrome team about the features going into Chrome 69 – Scroll Snap, logical properties and more. In addition a managed approach to a spec change which impacts the Chrome implementation. If you have used percentages in row track sizing or gutters, the console will flag a warning so you know to change your code before Chrome 70 ships.
I also linked to a post on the CSS Working Group Blog about the publication of a new Working Draft of CSS Grid Layout Level 2, this level details the subgrid feature which hopefully will soon have browser implementations.
Firefox will be shipping Variable Fonts in Firefox 62, Variable Fonts are already supported in Chrome, Safari and Edge. Firefox will also be shipping CSS Shapes in Firefox 62, along with an excellent inspector to help you work with Shapes. These are just a very few of the many things happening in CSS and in browsers right now. The pace that things are shipping, and at which bugs are fixed is like nothing we have seen before. I know from sitting around a table with representatives from each browser vendor at the CSS Working Group how important interop is. No-one wants features to be implemented differently in browsers. This is what we were asking for with WaSP, and despite the new complexity of the platform, browsers rendering standard features in different ways is becoming increasingly rare. Bugs happen, sometimes in the browser and sometimes in the spec, but there is a commitment to avoid these and to create a stable platform we can all rely on. It is exciting to be part of it.
You can be part of it too, anyone can log bugs in browsers, or against specs. Anyone can try out new features and write up their findings, show their examples. We can all promote web platform features that we find interesting, to show that there is interest from developers. I know we all have limited time, we all have to earn money as well as play with interesting things. Yet due to the speed at which things are shipping now, the input you make today is going to be helpful to you far more quickly than ever before. You can help to shape and improve things that you can use in production within months in some cases. We’ve never had it so good.
I know posts like this can come across as a little like a discussion between the Four Yorkshiremen, however I still see people acting as if the web platform today is the same as the web platform ten years ago. Take it from one who was there, things are remarkably and excitingly different.