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Mozilla to document cross-browser web dev standards with Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and W3C

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Mozilla has announced deeper partnerships with Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and web standards body W3C to create cross-browser documentation on MDN Web Docs, a web development documentation portal created by Mozilla.

MDN Web Docs first came to fruition in 2005, and it has been known under various names in the years since, including the Mozilla Developer Network and Mozilla Developer Center. Today, MDN Web Docs serves as a community and library of sorts covering all-things related to web technologies and standards, including JavaScript, HTML, CSS, open web app development, Firefox add-on development, and more.

MDN’s stated mission is:

…to provide developers with the information they need to easily build projects on the open web. If it’s an open technology exposed to the web, we want to document it.

Fragmented

The web constitutes multiple players from across the technology spectrum and, of course, multiple browsers including Microsoft’s Edge, Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox, and the Samsung Internet Browser. To avoid fragmentation and for the end-user to have a consistent(ish) browsing experience, it helps if all the players involved adhere to a similar set of standards,

“One common thread we hear from web developers is that documentation on how to build for the cross-browser web is too fragmented,” noted Daniel Appelquist, director of developer advocacy at Samsung Internet and co-chair of W3C’s technical architecture group. “‘m excited to be part of the efforts being made with MDN Web Docs to address this issue and to bring better and more comprehensive documentation to developers worldwide.”

We have actually seen a number of similar collaborations in the past. Back in 2015 Google, Apple, Microsoft and Mozilla teamed up to create faster browsers, while later that year many of those same companies partnered to build open media formats. And back in February, Adobe revealed plans to kill Flash by 2020 with a little help from its technology friends.

Fast forward to today, and Mozilla has once more enlisted the collaboration of some of its rivals in the browser realm, with the ultimate goal being to “consolidate information about web development for multiple browsers — not just Firefox,” according to Ali Spivak, developer outreach lead at Mozilla.

To help support and formalize this goal, the companies involved are forming a new product advisory board (PAB), currently consisting of nine people:

  • Ali Spivak: PAB chair and head of developer ecosystem at Mozilla
  • Kadir Topal: product manager for MDN Web Docs at Mozilla.
  • Christopher Mills: content lead, MDN Web Docs at Mozilla
  • Patrick Kettner: program manager at Microsoft
  • Erika Doyle Navara: senior dev writer for Windows web documentation at Microsoft
  • Meggin Kearney, Google
  • Robert Nyman, Google
  • Daniel Appelquist, Samsung Internet
  • Dominique Hazael-Massieux, W3C

The board’s ultimate remit is to ensure that documentation on MDN Web Docs remains relevant, browser-agnostic, and enables developers to track the most notable aspects of the web.

Apple is a notable absentee from this latest web standards initiative, though it may not be entirely surprising given that the Cupertino company isn’t renowned for its penchant for supporting open web standards, but Spivak did add that “additional members” would be possible in the future.

Mozilla claims that around six million developers and designers visit the MDN portal every month, with articles and tutorials covering HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and web APIs proving particularly popular. Much of its success has been due to voluntary contributions from the development community, and writers from the likes of Google and Microsoft have already participated in documentation related to cross-browser technologies and support. “Microsoft writers have made more than 5,000 edits so far in 2017,” noted Spivak. “This cross-browser collaboration adds valuable content on browser compatibility and new features of the web platform.”

But Microsoft already has its own online developer content emporiums, such as the Microsoft Development Network, so why double up here? Well, according to Mozilla, moving forward some Microsoft writers will actually focus predominantly on MDN Web Docs, and they will redirect some pages, including those on web API documentation, to Mozilla’s site.

“The reach of the web across devices and platforms is what makes it unique, and Microsoft is committed to helping it continue to thrive,” explained Erika Doyle Navara, senior content developer at Microsoft. “We’re thrilled to team up with Mozilla, Google, and Samsung to create a single, great web standards documentation set on MDN for web developers everywhere.”

While the companies involved already collaborated to a degree, today’s news formalizes the relationship, and the new board will serve to absorb “all that’s going on across browsers and standards groups,” added Spivak.

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