Ask Mozilla co-founder Mike Shaver what he thinks about Ian Hixie's Acid3 test and he'll give you an ear full. On his blog today Shaver defended the Mozilla Firefox team as they watched both Opera and Safari/WebKit apparently achieve a 100% pass rate Wednesday.
Ian’s Acid 3, unlike its predecessors, is not about establishing a baseline of useful web capabilities. It’s quite explicitly about making browser developers jump — Ian specifically sought out tests that were broken in WebKit, Opera, and Gecko, perhaps out of a twisted attempt at fairness.
A review of Hixie's criteria, however, shows that tests were required to not crash current browser versions and be justifiable using only web standards.
Shaver also takes issue with Acid3's use of only older well-established standards. "I think that such a test," he writes, "should be built on more long-term criteria than lining up the starting blocks for a developer sprint." Acid3 doesn't test the areas that are hard to work around, says Shaver. "If Hixie could stomach digging around in the SVG specification I wish he’d spent his time on things like filters or even colour profiles."
Mozilla developer Rob Sayre concurred, calling Acid3 "worthless" and WebKit's efforts to pass "shameful":
I was looking over the spreadsheet covering Mozilla’s Acid3 failures, and it struck me that very few of the fixes would substantially improve the Web or the browser. They are bugs and they will be fixed (except maybe SMIL… wtf?), but they don’t impact authors or users at all. Looks mostly like an opportunity for grandstanding about “commitment to standards.” I think testing createNodeIterator while text nodes don’t interoperate is both misguided and hypocritical. Besides, commitment to standards is strong at Mozilla, where we don’t constantly seek to rubber stamp our own implementation.
Acid3 could have had a positive effect on the web, says Shaver, but instead it has turned into a game. Microsoft and Adobe must be "chuckling about the hundreds of developer-hours" that have gone into fixing special cases no one cares about, he says. "It could have been a lot more."
It's unfortunate that Mozilla is has adopted such a sour-grapes position on Acid3. One wonders how the message would have been different had Firefox been the first to pass. I'm reminded of Microsoft's comments on Acid2. Remember back in 2006 when Microsoft's All Billings wrote:
We've written about the Acid2 test before. It is not a compliance test but is, instead, a wish list. We've been clear that we were not going to pass this test since we were first asked about this. The author of the test is well aware of this.
And yet in 2007 they were all too proud in announcing that IE8 had passed Acid2. Calling it "a milestone", Dean Hachamovitch gushed:
I’m delighted to tell you that on Wednesday, December 12, Internet Explorer correctly rendered the Acid2 page in IE8 standards mode. While supporting the features tested in Acid2 is important for many reasons, it is just one of several milestones for the interoperability, standards compliance, and backwards compatibility that we’re committed to for this release.
Presumably, we'll be treated to a similarly "delighted" announcement from Mozilla when Firefox gets around to passing Acid3.