What standards are

Web standards are specifications that define how user agents (web browsers) should implement web technologies.

These standards are developed collaboratively by interested organizations and individuals, and curated by standards bodies including the W3C, WHATWG and IETF. The collaborative standards process ensures that web technologies are developed for the good of web users, and the web itself—not to advantage any one organization. Standards are implemented as consistently as possible across user agents, enabling content creators, including developers, to reach a broad audience with rich, interactive user experiences.

How standards benefit you as a developer

The benefits of standards are themselves a strong part of the argument to choose the web platform instead of developing apps.

Standards help you:

Speed up development

  • Features built into standards enable you to do more with less code
  • A smaller code base and consistent, universal definitions to test against make testing easier
  • With standards, you do not have to develop fully different versions of your web content for every device and every browser; before standards this was necessary, requiring larger teams with more time overhead
  • Avoid dealing with native code and APIs on multiple devices
  • Benefit from the expertise of a large, global, persistent community sharing tooling, documentation, tutorials, troubleshooting info, and other resources—especially on MDN

Reduce the cost of development

  • Individual content creators and small teams can be successful; before standards existed, having to create customized versions of sites for each target browser gave organizations with a lot of resources a significant advantage
  • Web standards are royalty-free

Maintain control over your content

  • When you create content for the web, you don't have to obtain approvals from corporate gatekeepers (such as app store access) to reach your users

Reach a broad audience

  • Device-agnostic for forward compatibility: content you develop now can be enjoyed on devices not yet imagined
  • Device-agnostic for backward compatibility: standards accommodate design approaches that support users of older browsers and devices
  • Standards are designed for internationalization, so you can present content properly to users around the world
  • Accessibility support is built into standards, so you can reach users with a variety of needs, including people with disabilities or specific situational requirements

Get paid for your work

  • Payment standards and related technologies are currently in development to support new paradigms for compensating content creators

Develop for new platforms and technologies

  • Lack of dependence on native code gives you the flexibility to build for the future

Create secure web content

  • Extensive discussion of the security implications of new (and old) standards and features are a key part of the specification development process
  • Old specifications are updated and new specifications are created to improve platform security
  • Tools like Mozilla's Observatory site auditor use specifications to identify security risks

How Mozilla meets your standards needs

Standards are at the core of Mozilla's work to ensure that everyone, everywhere is able to benefit from the web.

Tooling creation

Mozilla teams create of tools to help developers use standards effectively, such as:

Specification development involvement

Mozilla is deeply involved in the development of new web standards addressing both developers' routine needs and the latest cutting-edge tech, engaging in extensive internal discussion about topics such as their security implications.

In our Nightly and Developer Edition release channels, Firefox engineers help to test web standards addressing both developers' routine needs and the latest cutting-edge tech. They also participate in discussions that contribute to standards development.

To learn more about Mozilla's perspective on specific standards, take a look at our Specification Positions on GitHub.

To get a sense of which standards and working groups Mozilla participates in, consult the list on our wiki.

How standards are created

Here's a very informal summary of the lifecycle of a standard:

  • Web developers identify a pain point (or several related ones) related to their experience as content creators, or their users' experience
  • Community members engage in discussion
  • If a consensus is reached that a standard is needed, a working group/community group develops a proposal for a specification, along with experiments to demonstrate how the proposal might work
  • Browser vendors and other stakeholders experiment with the specification to identify strengths and weaknesses, and more discussions and revisions to the specification take place
  • The specification becomes a draft
  • More discussions and experimentation
  • If the specification is generally recognized to meet the needs it was intended to address, it becomes a formal recommendation

If a specification no longer meets current needs, or conflicts with them, it may be deprecated as obsolete, potentially being replaced by a more appropriate standard.

Multiple organizations work on web standards. These include:

  • W3C: Web standards related to a broad variety of needs
  • IETF: Underlying technologies like TCP/IP
  • WHATWG: Primarily HTML
  • WICG: New and emerging technologies
  • ECMA TC39: JavaScript

Although some standards bodies specialize in specific types of standards, all collaborate with the W3C.