Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

Thursday September 24th, 1998

The guys over at the Web Standards Project have placed on their front page a petition asking for Netscape to delay their 5.0 release until NGLayout can be integrated.

I have already sent a letter to two of their officials, Chris Carrico and George Olsen, about my opinions on this issue.

However, instead of pushing my opinions on you, I'm asking you, the community of developers and users who read mozillaZine, what you think.

Knowing what you know about the state of Mozilla, its progress, and the work being done on the current layout engine and the NGLayout engine (which you can read about here or at, is the WSP's petition an informed, fair action or an uninformed, unfair one? Tell us all what you think by clicking "talkback" above.

#1 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by steve

Thursday September 24th, 1998 8:05 AM

I wouldn't count Mariner (the layout engine currently in 5) out. It's got some massive improvements over 4. Try it out. you may actually like it. Even a certain vocal Wired employee was impressed by how far Mariner has come. Of course, newlayout whips everyone's butt, hands down. unfortunately, time is not on their side.

#2 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Joel Caris

Thursday September 24th, 1998 8:52 AM

I would love to see NGLayout in 5.0. But I know that is probably not going to happen. It's ok with me if Mariner has adopted some of the standards. I don't know if it has, though.

Does anyone know how much Mariner is supporting CSS, DOM, and XML? The Web Standards Project doesn't care how much better Mariner is if it doesn't support the standards. And I don't blame them.

If anyone knows where Mariner stands on the standards, I'd love to know. Thanks.

Joel Caris

#3 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Alistair

Thursday September 24th, 1998 10:40 AM

Mozilla and Communicator are far more than HTML layout engines, personally I am looking forward to better mail clients, an improved composer, better management of bookmarks and history and a completely customisable toolbar.

Netscape have to keep their browser releases roughly in sync. with Microsofts IE. If delays in debugging NGLayout meant that Communicator 5 is released months later than IE 5 we could see IE gaining significant market share, not necessarily a good thing for standards in itself.

This petition puzzles me slightly. Netscape / Mozilla are not saying they are not supporting or extending standards, they are simply having problems implementing them. No browser on the planet renders all the CSS and XML standards 100% correctly at this point in time, with the specification continuing to evolve perhaps this will always be the case. Mariner looks to be a great layout engine in itself, many people who use the Web for research and application management value the user interface of the browser more than the fine details of DHTML. Get the interface right and we'll be happy to wait for NGlayout in Communicator 6.

#4 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by george giannukos

Thursday September 24th, 1998 11:02 AM

ummm...I say if it would take about 1.5 month longer for them to finish the nglayout then just keep NN in beta mode, till nglayout is done.

Once it's done, then start pushing N5.0 like crazy!?!

#5 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Patrick Corcoran

Thursday September 24th, 1998 11:14 AM

History has shown that releasing your browser when it is "finished" is can be more important than releasing it when it was promised.

The reason MSIE 4 is more standards compliant is partly due to the fact that they waited another four months after the release of NN 4 to build in extra compliance. Microsoft waited, got a good long glimpse of their competition, and then developed several competitive edge features which made Netscape's browser look less sophisticated.

Websurfers don't need a new browser yet... there's nothing wrong with the ones they have. And developers need compliant browsers from now on. I say wait 'til it's ready and get it "right" this time.

#6 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Dan Shafer

Thursday September 24th, 1998 11:45 AM

Last week, I presaged the WSP sentiments (full disclosure: I'm a member of the WSP Steering Committee) in my own FWIW email newsletter. My stance was even a bit stronger than that taken by WSP.

I definitely do _not_ see the WSP petition as uninformed or misguided. On the contrary, the fact is that Netscape must release a browser this time around that works well and conforms to standards or it will mark the beginning of the end of their role as a leader in this field.

Remember, too, that WSP speaks for Web developers, not users. MS and NS have been allowed for too long to work without accountability to those of us without whom there wouldn't _be_ a Web.

That's my $0.02.

#7 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Jason Kersey

Thursday September 24th, 1998 12:35 PM

I think some people are missing a large point, that has been emphasized by those at Netscape. *Mariner is not the 4.0 layout engine.* It seems to me that some don't realize this when it comes to looking at the layout differences. I guess you missed the announcements like "Mozilla Has DOM" and the like. While I'm not sure what the timeline is, it has been set from the beginning.

I want a browser that has the standards implemented, but also, I don't want to wait another six to eight months for a totally compliant browser, when there is a almost compliant browser almost ready now.

I also don't see the people at WaSP contributing any help or code to NG Layout, just telling people what to do. They have given you the opportunity to contribute and move the progect the way you want it too, by being a contributer, yet, all they have done is set up a petition.

If you don't contribute, at least become informed and check out the specs on Mariner and the like. I for one believe that it is leaps and bounds better than 4.x's layout engine.

Jason Kersey - MozBin Admin -

#8 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Chris Nelson

Thursday September 24th, 1998 12:48 PM

So, here's the crux of my letter to the WSP people.

"Should they (Netscape) put off an entire development cycle (make the rest of the coders rest on their laurels) while the NGLayout team finalizes their module?

Consider this: months ago, programming goals were probably drawn up across the board for each separate aspect of the application. These goals had to mesh with the goals of the other modules. Because of this, certain limits on the development of each separate module were probably put in place. Asking Netscape to alter their structure that was set up *months* before you ever heard (assuredly) of NGLayout means that you have to alter the team goals of more than 20 other modules. Where does Netscape get the resources to throw away months of programming time on a non-revenue-generating project? Are you offering monetary compensation for their efforts?"

Add to this that the WSP group has shown an clear lack of knowledge of the current layout's development efforts, and I believe it adds up to an uninformed, misguided act.


#9 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Daniel Arbuckle

Thursday September 24th, 1998 1:13 PM

Keep in mind that Navigator and Communicator are now basically snapshots of Mozilla. When Mozilla is a stable, powerful browser, release a version of Navigator. Work on Mozilla (both NGLayout and the rest) will obviously continue. When NGLayout is integrated, it's time for another version of Navigator (5.5 || 6.0). This does not delay the arrival of the NGLayout at all.

#10 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Aleks Zawisza

Thursday September 24th, 1998 3:06 PM

Mozilla's layout, while not as fast as NGLayout, is fast enough. The content "flows" when you resize the Window and this corrects the major flaw of NN4.

What Mozilla abosolutely needs to support is CCS, ECMA Script and all the current web standards. This is the ONLY valid point IE proponents have against Netscape right now, it's that Netscape doesn't support the WWW standards as well as IE does.

If the engine that's currently in Mozilla supports CCS and Javascripts can't crash the browser anymore, then it will be wise to wait until NGLayout is complete and use Mozilla's layout for now.

I guess my question is, is Mozilla's current layout engine fully CCS compliant, or at least more/equally compliant as IE?

#11 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Ulf Pettersson

Friday September 25th, 1998 3:01 AM

The petition is very well informed. The state of the current 'Mariner' renderer in NN4 is so poor it costs web-developers around the world thousands of dollars to redesign or make them 'Netscape-bug-compliant'.

Sometimes it seems there is not one single mayor layout feature in Mariner that does not have serious bugs in it (compared to the W3C spec that even Netscape contributed to). Table-rendering is strange, frame-width is buggy (dependant on browser-window width!), css doesn't work right...

When you are building something that thousands of developers around the world totally depend on, you can't just throw in a slew of new featues to try to sell without making sure it works right. Supporting just parts of a standard is useless - all or there is no standard!

Netscape has little choice but make it right this time or developers may just not consider it worth the extra-effort to support navigator.

#12 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Erik Arvidsson

Friday September 25th, 1998 10:23 AM

One important question is will Mariner and NGLauyout work exactly the same way. Will the DOM work exactly equal.

I can say that one thing that isn't needed is another major browser on the market that you'll have to write special pages/scripts for.

#13 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Allen Campbell

Friday September 25th, 1998 10:23 AM

Release early and release often. Delay nothing; put NGLayout in 5.5.

#14 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Chris Siegler

Friday September 25th, 1998 3:11 PM

The WSP petition shows a real lack of understanding of how a large software project works. And as a user, not a web developer, I could care less about compliance with the standard, so long as things work.

It is tons of work to rewrite major sections of code from scratch. The easy part is getting running. That is where NGLayout is at. It has only been a matter of weeks that NGLayout could even compile under Unix with any ease. The hard part is yet to come: integrating the new layout engine into Mozilla. I'm not even convinced it'll even get that far. It seems more likely that certain aspects of the new code will get integrated into Mariner and that's it.

Which is OK by me, because the additions made to Mariner have really speeded things up, and will only get better as time goes by.

#15 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Greg Miller

Friday September 25th, 1998 5:39 PM

Netscape and Microsoft have been the major culprits behind bad HTML and web sites that only certain people can view. Regardless of which engine is included, I'd hate to see it released with a layout engine that doesn't conform to HTML 4.0 and CSS 2.0

#16 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Jerry Baker

Saturday September 26th, 1998 1:43 AM

All this talk about how hard it is to wait for a new module to be finished with other programmers sitting on their bums. Well, as Netscape's market share continues to decline, I think 5.0 really represent the last hope for Netscape to recapture its former stature as leader of quality browser software and standards implementation. I think almost the whole 4.X series has been just e really big demonstration of buggy code making it into final release. If Netscape does not share the vision that many users have, that is that 5.0 will be a new chapter in Netscape development, then I think that they are destined to become a small bleep in the history of software companies.

Users do not always know that they want standards compliance, they just want it to work. They wonder why some frames pages look funny in Netscape but not in IE, and why some pages look better in IE than Netscape (CSS), and why pages created with FrontPage frequently crash Netscape (it dies with a lack of </table> tags), and on and on. This is due to some bad programming and lack of standards compliance. As long as Netscape continues to see the release date as more important than the release quality, then Netscape will remain a second-rate product.

#17 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by George

Saturday September 26th, 1998 2:53 PM

I think if Netscape5.0 ships with out DHTML and CSS support, i think alot of web developers are going to just up on Netscape.

They don't know that people are working on the NGlayout. They see N5.0 and will notice it doesn't support the standards and they will just say "screw netscape". But if they wait for the NGlayout to be finished then hopefully web developer will wait and make their sites veiwable by both browsers...

#18 Re:

by Theodore Serbinski

Saturday September 26th, 1998 5:16 PM


What to do? Wait for NGLayout to be finished, or put it out sooner to rival IE. Well...a lot of companies put out their products prematurely because of release dates. They are working on their product and then fall behind. Soon they are behind their release date, so they ship the product anyways. Therefore, the product ships incomplete and there are many problems, as in the case of Win 98 which was supposed to be out in 97, or Win 97 as it was planned.

So...Netscape should wait. IE 4.0 came out after NN4.0, but since it did, it supported more standards and in turn, was better than NN4.0 in that respect. If Netscape does the same and waits until NGLayout is done, it will have one heck of a product that will put IE5.0 and 4.0 completely out. Plus, if they say the product is being held longer than its scheduled due to programming enhancements, people will understand. They want a good, reliable browser, something that is yet to be achieved and I want Netscape to do it.

So...wait for NGLayout to be finished.

#19 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Ami Ganguli

Saturday September 26th, 1998 6:23 PM

How about releasing the Mozilla with the Mariner layout engine as Netscape 4.7 (or something like that). That way you don't delay the release of a much improved product to people who are waiting for it, but you make sure the hype around 5.0 is satisfied when it finally comes out.

#20 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Aleks Zawisza

Monday September 28th, 1998 12:08 AM

I think NGLayout must be in Navigator 5.0. It will be a highly anticipated release, and it must shock everyone with its speed and functionality and incite everyone to upgrade.

If it takes longer to complete NGLayout (which is going very fast it seems) then the Mozilla team should just take this extra time to work on the Navigator 5.0 interface and give it more eye-candy and more preferences. Really, they must surpass IE4 in bells and whistles or at least introduce a lot of new stuff not seen before, because a lot of people will switch for that extra stuff.

If it takes longer to finish NGLayout then so be it - Mozilla could use that time to really set itself apart feature-wise from the competition. I really think that a shipping date is secondary to quality, what the Mozilla team should do is just release preview releases until until NGLayout and all the features are ready.

But please, make 5.0 the lightning-fast browser that will make everyone want to upgrade and that will beat IE on all the performance charts and garn Netscape all the awards.

#21 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by george

Monday September 28th, 1998 10:52 AM

Ya, just keep improving Mozilla5 till the NHlayout is finished...

#22 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by George Giannukos

Monday September 28th, 1998 2:34 PM

If everyone hasn't heard yet, Intel and Netscape are investing in RedHat.

Microsoft is probably going to start putting its $$$ towards WinNT.

So this means, Netscape has the prefect chance to regain the browser share. IE5 doesn't really improve much, other than speed and supports CSS2.

I say hold N5.0 4 months and just keep working on Mozilla5, till the NGlayout is ready.

Then once everything is ready release Netscape5.0 with a bang!?! Have free CDs everywhere with N5.0 like AOL does. Netscape needs to get Compaq, Gateway, ect... to all pre-install Netscape5.0

Some people have said that this is Netscape last chance to regain browser share, and what better timing than while Microsoft is working on NT. N4.X was released first, but now web developers bash N4.X for its lack of support.

I say just hold it!

#23 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Peter Bertok

Monday September 28th, 1998 5:13 PM

I've found lately that a lot of computing companies release sub-standard products as early as possible, even if they are a little 'rough' around the edges. Exampels include the 3D accelerator chips released with buggy drivers.

The reaction is simple. People are not impressed. They don't buy the products, and the companies go under. I think Netscape has to avoid that at all costs, Communicator 5 has to be everything it can be. It has to be configurable, fast, reliable, bug free and compatible with standards. If it takes a few extra months, then so be it. Just release an extra beta or two to keep early adopters happy.

Anyway, why is Netscape working on Mariner anyway if it's going to be dropped? Why not move the coders working on Mariner onto the Raptor team, and get it done that much faster?

#24 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Larry Tremblay

Monday September 28th, 1998 9:26 PM

I agree with the sentiments of the WSP. And based on my conversations with dozens of Web98 attendees, many others think Navigator 5.x will be a make or break proposition for Netscape. I have been an ardent supporter of Netscape in the past because I believed they were the market leaders and innovators.

However, like so many other developers/webmasters, I do not care one iota what Netscape does or promises to do if the next release will not include at least a minimal implementation - at least equal to MSIE - for XML, DOM and CSS-1.

The very least Netscape MUST do is keep up with Microsoft. Who's napping now?

#25 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by Chris Toshok

Monday September 28th, 1998 9:46 PM

I think what most people are forgetting is that "putting NGLayout in" is not as easy as adding it to the build.

It's a *major* undertaking, and will require (basically) rewriting all the front ends.

#26 Re:Web Standards Project - NGLayout Petition

by The WaSP

Monday October 26th, 1998 8:24 PM

Today Netscape informed The Web Standards Project that it has agreed to include NGLayout in Nav 5.