Imagine if Adobe, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, and Opera, all got together and wrote a book about web development. That would be some massive tome. It would cover everything from HTML to Java, CSS to mobile, social, sharing and SVG.
Wait! You’d don’t have to imagine it — it’s real! All those companies are working together on a project called Web Platform Docs. It’s a community-driven wiki that aims to document everything designers and developers need to know about the Open Web Platform.
Without the geek speak, Web Platform Docs is an in-progress collection of instructions on how to build pages for the web and for mobile. Why it’s important, is because right now, every browser and major web entity has its own nuances. Meaning a page that looks gorgeous viewed with Internet Explorer, might look wonky on Firefox.
The hope is, that developers will list their tips and tricks for getting around these issues in the wiki, so future developers can avoid those same mistakes. It’s a noble undertaking but can it work?
The keeper of the flame is The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The organizations that have signed on are referred to as stewards. They’re the overseeing overlords who dumped money into the project in order to have their name show up on the press release. They also set up the skeletal outline that currently resides on the site.
Now all they need, are people to fill in the blanks — and there are a lot of blanks.
Each page of the site lists dozens of terms and each of those drills down to the finest components. I know just enough HTML and CSS to fix a broken webpage and that’s pretty much it for me. Still, I found this site to be very useful and it’s not even close to being filled in. Here’s an example page from the HTML section:
Note, the Try It option. Click that and you see the code in action. It couldn’t be any clearer.
I think the concept of a global resource for web developers is an excellent one. But with so many heavy hitters overseeing this project, it feels like it could go very wrong, very fast. And then there’s the manpower issue. In order for this to work, hundreds of people will have to donate their time to fill out the sections. But since this is user-generated the potential for misinformation is there, so you have to have experts reviewing everything that comes in. That’s the only way it can become the trusted, one-stop shop that W3C is hoping for.
W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee calls the project ambitious. It certainly is that, but if they can get it done and keep it updated, it will be the only resource you’ll need when building on the internet. I wish them luck.