W3C signs off on Web scripting specs

New standards could make life easier for Web developers

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has completed work on a set of technical specifications that define how scripting programs interact with Web pages. The development marks an important step toward interoperability on the Web and is a sign of its growing maturity, one industry analyst said.

The W3C on Wednesday recommended its Document Object Model (DOM) Level 3 Core and DOM Load and Save specifications. A recommendation means the consortium considers a specification stable and ready for use, and Wednesday's news follows its earlier recommendation of DOM Level 1 and Level 2.

Together, the DOM specifications define the APIs that programs use to access, manipulate and manage HTML and XML documents. Their completion makes possible "more sophisticated and powerful combinations of scripting languages and XML documents and data, including the critical Web services applications space," the W3C said in a statement.

The completion of the DOM specifications is a sign that the Web has come of age, according to Jonathan Eunice, an industry analyst at Illuminata, in Nashua, New Hampshire. In the 1990s, the development of competing Web browsers from Microsoft and the former Netscape Communications led to incompatibilities in the way software programs interact with HTML and XML documents, Eunice wrote in a research note.

"Standardizing the DOM solves one of the longest-standing and ugliest chapters of practical non-interoperability the Web has seen. The Microsoft and Netscape/Mozilla camps built hugely incompatible implementations of how programs work with HTML and XML documents," the note said.

"Today's W3C standardization helps put the commonality back and reunify the Web, the way it should be," he wrote.

Some programmers will continue using browser-specific extensions they are familiar with, Eunice noted, and the Web's incompatibilities won't disappear overnight. But the completed standards mean developers now have a way to write compatible code and to fix incompatible code already in use, he said.

The W3C's work on the DOM specifications is now complete, the consortium said in its statement. The work was started in 1997 and involved more than 20 organizations, including IBM, Macromedia, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Object Management Group.

The DOM test suites have been updated to include the new specifications and developers can start using them immediately, the W3C said. More information is available at http://www.w3.org/DOM/