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NGLAYOUT IS IN, WEB STANDARDS PROJECT CLAIMS VICTORY.

Netscape Communications Corp appears to have bowed to industry and competitive pressure to make Navigator 5 more standards- compliant by including next-generation layout engine NGLayout. At any rate, when Mozilla.org technical wizard Brendan Eich published his latest development roadmap for the Netscape- initiated open source browser initiative on Monday, the Web Standards Project (WSP) was quick to claim the moral victory. Implementing NGLayout means replacing the venerable but functional engine Navigator uses to render page layout today - hence Netscape's hesitation and developer community doubt over whether NGLayout would be ready to be included in Navigator 5. On Monday, though, Eich told the Mozilla team that "the fervent wishes of web content authors" among other factors, had persuaded him that NGLayout was ready for prime time. Eich explained his reasoning in this way: "The features most demanded by content developers" - features Eich says include cascading style sheets (CSS) and the document object model (DOM) - "have been hard to implement in the old codebase... It's time to stop banging our heads on the old layout and FE codebase."

By Rachel Chalmers

From here on, he proposes that: "As much as possible, UI structure should be implemented using HTML or XML and the NGLayout engine. Style should be expressed using CSS where doing so makes sense..." Eich concludes by placing NGLayout completion at the top of the list of major work items. No wonder the Web Standards Project got so excited. This is precisely what the WSP has been agitating for since launching its "I Want My NGLayout" campaign on the eve of Boston's Web '98 conference in September (CI No 3,502). Extracting concessions like these is the Project's raison d'etre. The WSP was formed in a bid to force Netscape and Microsoft to implement World Wide Web Consortium standards in general, and CSS and DOM in particular. Mozilla commitment to NGLayout does n't automatically mean Netscape commitment to it. Netscape pays the salaries of key Mozilla developers, but otherwise the company is just another contributor to Mozilla, entitled but not obligated to use the code. However, a jubilant statement from WSP headquarters on Tuesday claimed that "Netscape officials told the WSP that due in no small part to pressure from web developers" Navigator 5.0 will indeed include NGLayout. The WSP can congratulate itself all it wants, but its campaign was only one of the pressures coming to bear Netscape. The other was rival Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer has come from nowhere to split the browser market 40/60 with Navigator (CI No 3,518). Earlier in October, Microsoft - notorious for paying only lip service to W3C standards - began showing off the way IE 5 handles XML, extensible stylesheet language (XSL) and XML DOM. For open source champion Netscape to permit Microsoft to take the lead in the increasingly politicized sphere of W3C standards implementation could only be described as very bad PR. Hence, perhaps, Tuesday's road map and the inclusion of NGLayout in Navigator 5? No matter. However mercenary Netscape's motives might have been, the WSP has one thing right. Better standards compliance in both market-leading browsers can only be good for the web.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 28, 1998
Words:525
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