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 since been known under various names, 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:

…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 ensure end-users have a (fairly) consistent 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. “I’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 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 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), which currently consists 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 and browser-agnostic and enables developers to track the most notable aspects of the web.

Apple is notably absent from this latest web standards initiative, though that’s not entirely surprising, given that the Cupertino company isn’t renowned for supporting open web standards. But Spivak did add that “additional members” could join 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 the portal’s 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, including the Microsoft Development Network (MSDN), so why double up here? Well, according to Mozilla, some Microsoft writers will actually start focusing predominantly on MDN Web Docs, and from today the company will begin redirecting almost 8,000 MSDN pages to corresponding topics on MDN Web Docs.

“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.”

For the past few years, Google has also been transitioning its Chrome web documentation over to MDN, and the new board serves to formalize these existing efforts.

The product advisory board is another step towards making MDN the best source of up-to-date, comprehensive documentation on the web and aligns closely with our goal to make it easier to build for the web as a whole,” added Google product manager Dru Knox.