Testing: The Third Pillar of Standards

Recently, a series of “Test the Web Forward” events have been scheduled to promote getting the community involved in building test cases for important Web standards. A few months ago, I participated in “Test the Web Forward/Paris” in Paris.  The next “Test the Web Forward/Sydney” event is scheduled for February 8th and 9th in Sydney, Australia. These events, held in various cities around the world, are open to everyone who is passionate about Web standards, and bring together developers and standards experts.

Why is testing important? When we think about “standards,” we usually think about the two initial components: (1) specifications — written descriptions about how the standards work, and (2) implementations — software that implements the specification. A suite of test cases becomes an essential link between specifications and implementations.

When it comes to standards and standardization, what people care about is compatibility — the ability to use components from multiple sources with the expectation that those components will work together. This connection is there for all kinds of software standards, whether Application Program Interfaces (APIs), rules for communicating over the network (protocols), computer languages, or smaller component pieces (protocol elements) used by any of those.

On the Web, the APIs are frequently JavaScript, the protocol is often HTTP, and the languages include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. URLs, host names and encoding labels and MIME types are protocol elements.

The “Create the Web” tour demonstrated the relationship between specification and implementation. “Test the Web Forward” brings in test cases to ensure that the promise of compatibility isn’t empty. Building the global information infrastructure requires a focus not only on new developments, but on compatibility, reliability, performance, and security. The challenge of testing is that the technology is complex, the specifications are new, and the testing needed is extensive.

I encourage everyone who is passionate about the Web and Web standards to attend the “Test the Web Forward” event in Sydney or other related events. Get involved and help make the Web a more interoperable place.

Larry Masinter
Principal Scientist

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