in The Web

Acid3 and 4, why even bother?

If you are in some way involved in web development you might know the Acid tests. These tests check if and how well a web browser completes a certain set of test cases. Based on this it can be concluded if a browser is compliance to certain web standards.

Well that sounds great, but what is in it for the users of the browsers and what is in it for the developers testing their web pages for standard compliance? In my opinion: nothing. Do you as a user really care that you use a browser that passed the Acid3 test? Probably not, otherwise the browser statistics would be quite different. Currently only the webkit (Safari) and the presto (Opera) engine pass the Acid3 test with a 100/100 score. These two browsers have only a market share of almost 5%. The trident engine (Internet Explorer) scores only a questionable 18 points and the new Gecko engine (Firefox) scores 80 out of 100. However these two browsers are used by approximately 90% of the internet population.

Users do not care

Users do not care about something nerdy like an Acid3 or 4 test. Simply because it has not any added value for them to have an Acid3 compatible browser. Most of the sites will be perfectly rendered in their browser; only a few specific advanced things that are tested in Acid3 will not be shown correctly. These specific techniques aren’t used that common that it should have impact on ones browsing experience.

When buying a car, the results of the NCAP test can influence the decision to buy a car, simply because these results do add value (when you crash, will you and you passengers still live, or not). On internet there is another mindset. Bert Bos once said the following:

“I’d like browsers to fix bugs as soon as possible, but it is true that they (and not me) will get the complaints from users when pages that used to work suddenly look differently in a new browser version. Too many people see the Web a bit like television: who ever heard of incompatible content? If there is an error, it’s because the TV set is broken, or maybe the antenna. On the Web, it is much more likely that the content is invalid, but try to explain that to users who just want to buy their holiday or see their bank account…”

This still is the mindset of most browser users. If you cannot visit your favorite website with your browser and you can with another browser, than the browser is broken and not the website. This mindset is also adopted by lot developers. Which is quite reasonable because would you make a website that can only be viewed successfully by 5% of your visitors?

It is for geeks

Users and developers should become more standards aware, without proper use of standards the web is doomed to become something useless. The user’s mindset should be changed that the Acid test is his NCAP test for the browser, however currently this is not the mindset. Therefore Acid3 is and Acid4 probably will be great for browser vendors and geeks like me to compare how well their render engines function, however the normal user and less geeky developer will not care. I hope they will care in a few years…