Browser makers Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla, as well as software consultancies Bocoup and Igalia, have agreed to work together to make web design technology work in a more consistent way across different platforms. The group created a benchmark called Interop 2022 to assess how different vendors implement a handful of networking standards in order to eliminate differences.
The idea is that web apps should look and behave the same on different devices and operating systems. Right now, that’s not the case, much to the dismay of web developers still struggling with browser inconsistencies.
Google’s Rachel Andrew, Philip Jägenstedt and Robert Nyman said in a blog post on Thursday: “For the first time ever, all the major browser vendors and other stakeholders have come together to address issues identified by web developers. Primary browser compatibility issue.”
A similar web technology compatibility check, called Compat 2021, was planned in 2019 and officially appeared last year. It focuses on five pain points — CSS Fle Xbox, CSS Grid, position: sticky, landscape-ratio and CSS transform — but doesn’t include Apple or its WebKit team, at least not publicly.
Interop 2022 measures the performance of major browsers against a test suite of 15 web platform specifications, as well as three under-specified features currently under investigation. These features include. Cascading layers, color space and CSS color capabilities, new viewport units, scrolling, and subgrids.
The Interop 2022 specification provides a way for companies that are often competitors to find common ground because they are design-oriented and lack obvious privacy, security or functional implications.
Other efforts to extend browser functionality with new APIs and features have sometimes been met with indifference or distaste from rival browser makers, especially when the proposals involve business models.
For example, Apple has been slow to implement certain web APIs in Safari and WebKit, which will help web apps compete with native iOS apps.
Meanwhile, Google decided to come up with a new privacy-preserving way to serve ads (its privacy sandbox) after Apple, Brave, and Mozilla went on to lose weight on web cookies. And in 2019, Google blocked a proposed revision to the W3C privacy interest group charter over concerns that the change would interfere with its ability to innovate.
Over the past year or two, as regulators have put pressure on Apple and Google on competition issues, there has been more opportunity among the top browser makers to cooperate rather than compete with each other and offer features that lack widespread agreement.
Now, we’re seeing Apple’s web development evangelist, Jen Simmons, insist: “We care deeply about the health of the web, and the operational implementation of web standards.” That’s the exact opposite of what many web developers have been saying over the years.
The Interop 2022 test dashboard measures how the browser performs on various benchmarks. With the current stable browser versions, things look pretty bad. Chrome and Edge scored 61 out of 100; Firefox scored 69; Safari scored 50. However, browser versions in various experiments and previews show improved results. 71, 74 and 73, respectively.
This little technical coordination and cooperation between browser-making adversaries look like a good thing for the web and the people who use it.
“Essentially, our goal is to make the web platform more usable and reliable for developers so they can spend more time building great web experience, rather than working around browser inconsistencies.”