According to CNET Asia, Google announced ActiveX support for Google Chrome in Korea yesterday. I was particularly disappointed to read this as it reinforces crappy standards support and locking people into using certain browsers and denying choice.
Of course I would say this being an Opera employee however with my Opera hat off I can honestly say that unless we start supporting countries and regions where web standards do not get the same attention as they may in Europe and the States then the web is going to be in trouble. I’ve also spoken to many web developers in China and elsewhere who are fed up with having to design for IE at the cost of other browsers and their users.
ActiveX is a proprietary standard supported by IE and used by most banking, Government and e-commence sites in many countries in Asia. I recently returned from China where I was quite disheartened by the lack of standards support in Chinese websites. Like Korea, roughly 90% of the population in China rely on IE6 and while some people may have a second or preferred other browser it can’t be their default browser for day to day usage because of this.
It seems that Google feel that if Chrome is to gain any market share in Korea they have to go down the same route and support ActiveX as well. They have already pitched themselves firmly against Microsoft by releasing Chrome for PC first over Mac and this looks like another strand to the marketing plan. The question is could Google make the same decision to support ActiveX for localised versions in other countries where IE has market share? This is an incredibly regressive step and sets off all sorts of alarm bells.
Proprietary standards hinder one web, cross browser compatibility and cross device support of web pages. This in turn restricts choice with regards to how you browse and may mean you’re denied the option to choose a browser which is faster, has better security, the features you want and better accessibility support. And that sucks.
It feels as if the battle for web standards, perhaps even the browser wars, are becoming more regional as the fight for market-share moves from country to country. This is really concerning as we could end up with an “Eastern” and “Western” web adding yet another division beyond language and culture.
My feeling is that we, and by that I mean anyone with an interest in the state of the web, need to start focusing more on web standards education and support in Asia and other regions from both a top-down and bottom-up perspective including:
- Government and legislation – until Governments start legislating and defining standards based Government guidelines for websites there will be little incentive, backing or resources to improve.
- Multinational responsibility – large international organisations who actively promote and support web standards internationally should do what they can to help support web standards in Asia. It’s clear that while some may actively promote web standards in the west there is a different set of tactics used elsewhere. While there needs to be overall support in general there also needs to be support on a basic level by providing training in-house to employees, sponsoring free or affordable courses or helping translate resources.
- Translate resources – top of the list has to be the availability of translated and free resources for people to use. On my wish list I would love to see more W3C specifications translated, the Web Accessibility Initiative guidelines and supporting documents (see guidelines on translating W3C documents), the Opera Web Standards Curriculum and the upcoming WaSP Web Standards curriculum.
- Grass root advocacy – developers understand the challenges and problems developers face better than anyone else. Advocacy through blogs, forums, BarCamps and Web Standards Cafés are always a useful way to go. This may take a different shape in China to suit cultural norms but communication and sharing have to be at the root.
If you want to know more about web standards support around the world or contribute then check out the WaSP Internationalisation Group pages.