Essential International Standards and Registries for Web Developers

- Programming, Quality Assurance, Security

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The following is a collection of free international standards, registries and references that I collected throughout the years while developing websites and web services. These references, while very precise and technical by their nature, are extremely useful in order to ensure that a specific implementation is actually correct, and to mitigate unexpected interoperability between systems on the Internet.

As it's not always clear how a technology is used based on its name or acronym, I included the primary use case for each reference along with its name and/or acronym.

Also, many of these standards are built over each other, and as such I tried to list them in that order as much as possible while maintaining clarity.

Note that many of these standards use a metalanguage defined by the following:

Real world stuff

The following provides IDs and critical information about worldwide social, political and cultural concepts often referenced.

Plain text

The following explains how text is handled by a computer.

Note that the most popular character encoding is UTF-8, a superset of ASCII.

IP adresses

The following explains how computers can identify and talk to each other on the Internet.

Domain names

The following explains how to find information about a particular domain on the Internet, including the IP adresses of its services.

Note that host names are domain names on which a website can be hosted.

Note that the original version of IDNA is not fully backwards-compatible with the current version. While the current version is used in all major browsers nowadays, some other clients may still be in transition. For more information, refer to UTS #46.


The following explains how an encrypted connection can be established between two machines over a network.

Note that SSL is an obsolete technology that was superseded by TLS.

Also note that there is another standard that enables secure storing of TLS public keys on the DNS called DANE, which technically makes certificates obsolete and also enables mandatory secure connections to servers, but it currently suffers from operational issues preventing widespread support and deployment.


The following explains how emails work.

Note that Pluralsight subscribers can watch my course Configuring and Managing SPF, DKIM, and DMARC, which cover some of these topics.


The following explains how to use XML, a data format that forms the base of all web pages.

Note that newer versions of XML and XPath exist, but are seldom used.


The following explains how to use JSON, a common data format commonly used by websites.


The following explains how to interpret URLs.


The following explains how web clients interact with websites.

Static web

The following explains how to write a web page.

Note that RSS is an obsolete technology that was superseded by Atom.


The following describes non-standard HTML meta tags found on the Internet. Note that standard ones are documented in the HTML specifications.

Client-side programming

The following explains how to write and automatically interact with dynamic web pages. Note that some API implementations are already described in the HTML definition listed in the previous section.

External APIs

The following describe common ways web servers implement publicly-facing APIs.

Note that I am not including SOAP, WSDL or any other technology used on top of them due to their many competing versions and extensions, and as they are rarely used outside of complex financial transactions. Many API providers that do use them generally offer REST APIs anyway.

Data access management

The following explains how websites should manage access to secure data, including cases where authentication is done by a third-party.


The following explains how to write web pages to be accessible for people with disabilities.


The following defines a humanly-readable plain text format that can be easily converted to hypertext with tools.

Other common data formats

The following defines a few other common data formats that can be found on the web.

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