HTML and CSS Reference
As browser makers first began to implement CSS, the issue didn't get any better. Some
browsers had support for CSS and some didn't. Some supported just a few small pieces of the
CSS spec, so it was difficult to remember which browsers supported which. Some browsers
claimed to support CSS, but their implementations were so buggy that they were unusable.
Rather than support the CSS (and HTML) specs the way they were defined by the W3C,
browser manufacturers simply made their browser do things the way they thought it ought
to—which led to massive inconsistencies.
The Standards Movement
In the early 2000s, web designers and developers began to pressure browser manufacturers,
demanding that they change their rendering engines to display pages as the specs recommended.
This was a bit easier said than done; simply changing the browsers would have “broken” most of
the sites on the Internet, since their code was written for the inconsistent browser landscape
rather than for the HTML and CSS specs as outlined by the W3C.
But change they did, and through some clever mechanisms (including DOCTYPE switching,
which we'll discuss later in this chapter), they even managed to do so without breaking the
Well, mostly. Several browser inconsistencies still exist, and this chapter will help you
understand them. Without question, the most difficult thing we as web designers and devel-
opers do is make our projects work equally well across all browsers and platforms. Things are
looking up, but it's still a challenge.
The bottom line, though, is that we are in the best place we've ever been as far as consis-
tency across browsers goes, thanks to the web standards movement. If you develop using CSS
and modern (X)HTML markup and follow some best practices, you'll find that the vast major-
ity of your code “just works” across the board.
The Current (Desktop) Browser Landscape
While mobile devices like phones and PDAs are becoming more popular, the desktop com-
puter remains the primary place in which people use the Web. As such, understanding the
available browsers available in this context and the way they impact your web development
process is key.
Often looked upon by web designers and developers as the “gold standard” of web browsers,
The Mozilla Corporation's Firefox ( www.mozilla.org ) is an open source browser that began life
as a fork of the Mozilla Suite but has since become the primary development focus for the
company. At the time of this writing, the latest version of Firefox is 1.5, and a 2.0 beta has been
made available. Firefox is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.
Besides providing several popular end-user features (such as pop-up blocking, tabbed
browsing, and extensibility via a plug-in system), Firefox is known for its outstanding support
of web standards, including (X)HTML and CSS. Most web designers consider it to be the most
reliable and accurate available browser when it comes to rendering things according to the
specifications. It also includes some built-in tools (such as the DOM Inspector) and some freely