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Web Standards Project Announces the DOM Scripting Task Force

Released: 18 July 2005

In an effort to boost the quality of scripting on the world wide web, the Web Standards Project (WaSP) today announced the formation of the WaSP DOM Scripting Task Force.

Recent web applications such as Flickr and Google’s Gmail have renewed interest in modern scripting techniques like AJAX and DOM scripting. Web developers recognize that the responsible use of these techniques can make websites far more usable, and that they are required for creating full-fledged web applications.

However, the deployment of DOM scripting is currently held back by outdated documentation and inaccessible, browser-specific, buggy example scripts. Web developers fear that implementing such scripts will alienate disabled visitors or users of alternative browsers and operating systems. This fear has hindered the adoption of DOM Scripting as an equal partner to XHTML, CSS and other standard compliant, accessible web development techniques.

“The skillset of a front end programmer is a three-legged stool: structure (XHTML) is the first leg, presentation (CSS) the second, and behavior (DOM Scripting) the third,” said Peter-Paul Koch, a prominent scripting expert and one of the founders of the task force. “These three legs should be equal, but at the moment the behavior leg is the shortest, least-valued and least-understood of the three, even though the DOM has been a W3C specification for seven years and enjoys relatively solid browser support.”

The DOM Scripting Task Force will address these concerns by reaching out to standards-aware web developers who have not yet discovered the power of DOM Scripting and to experienced JavaScripters whose current practices do not include web standards and accessibility. In addition, the Task Force will provide accessible, cross-browser example scripts.

“It is time to add unobtrusive, accessible DOM Scripting to the bag of tools each standards-aware web developer must carry,” said task force co-founder Jeremy Keith.

The DOM Scripting Task Force will be led by scripting experts Dori Smith and Jeremy Keith. Other Task Force members include some of the most prominent scripting experts in the world, including Dean Edwards, Christian Heilmann, Peter-Paul Koch and Stuart Langridge. In addition, JavaScript and accessibility expert Derek Featherstone will liaise with the recently formed WaSP Accessibility Task Force to develop best practices for ensuring that DOM scripting-enhanced websites are accessible to disabled users.

“The accessibility of script-enhanced pages has to be re-thought from the ground up,” Featherstone said. “In the past we’ve concentrated on user agents that don’t have any scripting capabilities, but recent research shows that some screen readers, for instance, have limited JavaScript support. Current accessibility best practices don’t take this fact into account.”

Founded in 1998, The Web Standards Project (WaSP) fights for standards that reduce the cost and complexity of development while increasing the accessibility and long-term viability of any site published on the Web. We work with browser companies, authoring tool makers, and our peers to deliver the true power of standards to this medium.

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Appendix: definition list

The WaSP DOM Scripting Task Force uses the following definitions:

A scripting technique for silently loading new data from the server. Although AJAX scripts commonly use the soon to be standardized XMLHttpRequest object, they could also use a hidden iframe or frame.

An AJAX script is useless by itself. It also requires a DOM Scripting component to embed the received data in the document.

An outdated scripting technique that is mainly characterized by the changes it makes to the style properties of certain elements, and by the use of the browser-specific DOMs document.layers and document.all.
DOM Scripting
A scripting technique to access and/or change the structure of a document by means of the W3C DOM. DOM Scripting covers virtually all scripting in web browsers, from simple form validation to complicated restructuring of the page after AJAX data have been received.
The Core JavaScript language as defined in the ECMA 262 specification. ECMAScript refers exclusively to those parts of JavaScript that make it behave like a programming language, independent of the environment in which the language is used. Therefore it does not include such interfaces as the DOM or Events.
The broadest and most general term, which encompasses all subsets mentioned on this page.
Microsoft’s proprietary name for its implementation of JavaScript. Use of this term is deprecated in contexts other than Microsoft-specific technologies.
Unobtrusive scripting
A scripting technique that separates behaviour and structure and makes sure the user agent is capable of supporting the script before it is applied.
Web pages using unobtrusive scripting are usable without JavaScript, but offer a richer user experience when JavaScript is supported.

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