Microsoft views the Internet as the most exciting growth opportunity for the computing industry and for our own business. We are committed to helping the industry grow as fast as possible; we appreciate the role that successful open standards can play in accelerating growth by letting every vendor participate.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the most basic and fundamental data format of the World Wide Web. Support for HTML standards ensures that content can be viewed by any browser as the creator intended. As with the ASCII character set, agreement on the most basic data format is critical to interoperability and the continued growth of the industry. Imagine the chaos of the computer industry without the ASCII standard for text1. The need for interoperability goes beyond the browser. Authoring tools create HTML, databases emit HTML, screen readers for the visually-impaired need to "speak" HTML and so on across the entire Internet.

Previous proprietary HTML extensions from Microsoft2 and other vendors have confused the market, hampered interoperability and been ill-conceived with respect to the design principles underlying HTML (and its SGML parent).

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), headed by Tim Berners-Lee, is the driving body for enhancements to HTML. The efforts of the W3C include the HTML version 3.2 specification, CSS1 Stylesheets and the Platform for Internet Content Specification (PICS) as well as ongoing work to enhance stylesheets and define a layout specification. The W3C has been instrumental to the extraordinary growth of the Internet. Every major industry player participates in W3C and has publicly endorsed the W3C's standards work. Among the expectations for W3C members:

  • Bring new ideas which impact HTML to the group's attention, as opposed to keeping them secret.
  • Implement ideas that have achieved consensus in the group.
  • Follow the architectural principles guiding the group, rather than release alternatives which ignore or contradict these principles.
To date, W3C has been an effective standards body, making significant contributions to the industry and keeping up with the incredible pace of innovation on the Internet. Because of this effectiveness, Microsoft is committed to working with the W3C to further advance the HTML standard. Microsoft will agree to:
  • Not ship extensions to HTML without first submitting them to W3C.3
  • Implement all W3C approved HTML standards.
  • Clearly identify any not-yet-approved HTML tags we support as such.
  • Publish a Document Type Definition (DTD) for its browser as mandated by SGML.
  • Follow the architecture principles of HTML and its parent, SGML, when proposing new extensions.
Microsoft agrees to hold itself to these standards.4 Will all the other Web browser vendors, including Netscape, also agree to this conduct of behavior?5

Text: ©1996 Microsoft Corporation

Hardlinks and footnotes: ©2001 The Cow

1: There's no need to imagine the chaos: it existed. Previous to the ASCII standard each computer vendor had it's own setup for characters: there were character sets that had non-contiguous alphabets (the letters were not in alphabetical order without gaps).

2: Tucked away in this press release is an amazing gem: Microsoft agreeing that it has 'confused the market' with its non-standard additions to HTML. Microsoft rarely agrees that it ever made a mistake.

3: This means almost nothing. It means that Microsoft will release detailed specs of any new tags they produce before they ship - Microsoft will have at least a six-month head start with the new extensions, almost certainly in a format which the W3C will not agree to, meaning further browser wars, such as those over MARQUEE tags.

4: Do you trust Microsoft to hold their word? If they should break them, who is the authority to complain to? Microsoft.

5: Well, they can't copy the agreement as it's copyrighted. To Microsoft. So they cannot agree to it in writing.

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