A decade later, W3C finalizes CSS 2.1

The Web's Cascading Style Sheets now can be rendered consistently across a large number of devices

The World Wide Web Consortium has updated its widely used specifications for formatting the look and feel of Web pages, a standard known as CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

After almost a decade of work, the W3C's CSS Working Group has published CSS version 2.1 as an official specification. CSS 2.1 first became a W3C Candidate Recommendation in 2004.

"CSS is the style language for the Web. In addition to allowing you to do a lot of powerful layout and design things, CSS lets you manage your pages more easily," said Ian Jacobs, head of communications for W3C. "You can separate the content of your pages from the presentation so they can be repurposed for different devices."

Much of the most recent work on CSS 2.1 has been to ensure it is a stabile platform, Jacobs said. The standard has a large number of formatting features. They all had to be tested to ensure they work correctly together in various combinations. The CSS Test Suite, which can be used by browser makers to ensure their applications render CSS pages correctly, now has more than 9,000 tests.

As a result of this finalization, Web page and Web application developers "can have a lot more confidence in writing features once that can [then] work in a lot of different devices," Jacobs said.

Browsers already support many of the CSS 2.1 specifications, though browsers makers may have to do a bit of tweaking to fully support the final specification, said Philippe Le Hégaret, head of the W3C Interaction Domain, which oversees CSS. "The 9,000 tests are pretty through," he said.

W3C working groups are also developing CSS 3, though much of this work builds on CSS 2.1. Instead of releasing CSS 3.0 as a monolithic standard, the working group will issue individual modules that will add onto version 2.1, Le Hégaret said.

Following this pattern, the W3C has also just published CSS Color Module Level 3, which provides easier ways to specify colors and transparency for text, borders and backgrounds.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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