W3Fools - a foolish attack on W3Schools.com
W3Schools.com is a tutorial site hosting material on several web technologies. It is very popular, and almost always appears close to the top for relevant web searches. Recently, however, a group of developers have decided that the innacuracies they see on the site are too much, and have created another website, W3Fools.com, in retaliation.
Disclosure: I am a moderator on the official W3Schools Forums. However, I have no vested interest or control over the content on the w3schools.com domain.
Firstly, I do agree that the content on W3Schools.com is not as good as it could be. The sheer amount of content on the site probably takes significant effort to constantly update, and parts of it do often fall behind. I believe, however, that the way the W3Fools site attempts to “fix” the problem is detestable, as it is a malicious, entirely negative attack aimed not at helping fix the problem at all, but rather aggravating it. They make bold claims, in many cases completely unsourced, and rely on people to take their claims at face value, and to respond sensationally instead of rationally.
Basically, W3Fools simply enumerates a long list of problems the authors see on the W3Schools site. Why they would do this is a bit obscure, because the best place to send corrections to is to the people that can actually implement them (i.e. the W3Schools authors) – not post them on a website created specifically for the purpose. And when the criticisms aren’t even removed, simply struck through in plain sight, when they are fixed – how is this supposed to help, exactly? It’s as if the W3Fools authors are goading the W3Schools people on – “hey look what we found, now fix them if you dare – and even if you do, we’ll still laugh at you”.
The whole error-nitpicking approach is quite problematic too, however. All sites contain errors (even the “more reputable sources” they list), and with a bit of time (and they’ve obviously spent a lot of time) I’m sure I could compile a list just as impressive on basically any site. Furthermore, however, the way they’ve gone about “exposing” the errors in W3Schools leaves no place for the vast amount of content on the site that is correct, and thus paints a very misleading and one-sided image of the site. It’s very easy to rant against the flaws in a creation, less so to praise the achievement. Indeed, look through their list of errors, and witness how far they have gone in their quest to pick every little flaw, however real or otherwise, and flaunt it, as if there were no question.
The main problem with the W3Fools site, however, is the very negative, malicious approach the authors have taken to the whole problem. They have taken the W3Schools site and, as aforementioned, crafted a very one-sided view about it – creating something that does not encourage people to think evenly about the problem, but to cry, “oh, how I was fooled” (as if W3Fools somehow presents the absolute truth). The site is basically a call to arms against W3Schools, encouraging the web as a whole to hide them from searches, discourage others from using them, and generally ignore the site. This probably comes from their mentality of “we are not confident that W3Schools can be reliable as an accurate reference in the future”, however it clearly does not leave much hope for W3Schools in the future. In the end, it seems evident that the W3Fools authors wish not but for the cessation of existance of the W3Schools website.
The W3Fools people clearly have a chip on their shoulder in relation to W3Schools, and have gone to extreme lengths to make their views known. Their website is the ultimate expression of this – a site that is ultimately created for the sole purpose of bringing down W3Schools. And therein lies the problem behind all this – not only will W3Schools obviously not go away, but it is wrong to wish for such a thing. Yes, it’s not perfectly accurate. Yes, the certifications are a bit (well, very) dodgy. Yes, its name begins with the same two characters as the W3C’s. But does this mean it should be simply zapped out of existence? No.
There will always be other resources out there. Some of them may, indeed, be more accurate, or even have names less similar to “W3C”. W3Schools, however, contains much that is valuable and still has a right to exist, even if it is not perfect. The web is like that – information is frequently inaccurate (cough* Wikipedia), and it is up to the user to verify things. This is, however, not a problem specific to W3Schools and ultimately it is such websites such as W3Fools, full of malice but of little substance, that are detrimental to the state of the world wide web.