In the comments of this question about HTML and JavaScript, I read sentences like

Also, let me suggest the site developers.whatwg.org for your use as reference, instead of W3Schools. (link)


I don't refer to W3Schools. Never did. And never will. (link)

What kind of problem do people have with W3Schools, what's wrong about the site so I shouldn't use it as reference?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This might help explain that. w3fools.com Woah! Wait. That site has drastically changed... \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jan 17 '15 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hm, not really. They say "Developers often use W3Schools only because it is at the top of search results." If so, that is nothing to blame the site for; developers should rather learn how to use search engines then. I don't see why being the first result disqualifies a website as a reference. They also say other sites were "more reputable sources". If the statements of W3Fools is correct, W3Schools were the pioneers of web-based documentations for developers, so that's why they are popular throughout Google. I don't see the problem about this. \$\endgroup\$ – LWChris Jan 17 '15 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please see my answer. As I said, that site has drastically changed. It used to list out all of the inaccuracies to be found on w3schools. \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jan 17 '15 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Okay, I couldn't now know that. "The site has drastically changed" doesn't tell me in what matter. But actually, I still refuse to accept this as justification. How many errors are there in the Wikipedia, SO and other SE sites, which all are result #1 quite often, too? I know that in many cases the #1 result is bad, see lyrics or names. If you search for lyrics or names, you get results of sites having no other content than "Sorry, we don't have anything about searchterm". But W3Schools has actually useful content... \$\endgroup\$ – LWChris Jan 17 '15 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Read my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jan 17 '15 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is turning more and more to a "anti-wiki-style-sites" discussion and Code Review or Code Review Meta is not the place for this discussion. \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Forsberg Jan 17 '15 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I missed out on the difference of answer and comment. I though you referred to w3fools when you said "see my answer". Your answer actually helps a lot, thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – LWChris Jan 17 '15 at 14:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't quite see why this is off-topic now, but I don't mind. The help center says "Meta invites the community to discuss, debate and propose changes to the way the community itself behaves". I wanted to discuss why it is said to be a bad habit to use W3Schools as reference. And for me, a discussion of a question includes the discussion of the answers to it, too. \$\endgroup\$ – LWChris Jan 17 '15 at 14:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with that sentiment and will probably end up posting a meta about why this meta was closed. MetaMetaMeta..... \$\endgroup\$ – RubberDuck Jan 17 '15 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is additionally a duplicate of a meta StackOverflow question: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/280478/why-not-w3schools-com \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Forsberg Jan 17 '15 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Let's be clear on this, though. Discussing whether or not W3Schools is a 'good site' is not something that should happen here on Code Review or the meta site. I will happily close (and delete) questions that go in that direction. \$\endgroup\$ – rolfl Jan 17 '15 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SimonAndréForsberg Thanks. It is on M-SO, so unfortunately the search for w3schools here at M-CR didn't bring it up. \$\endgroup\$ – LWChris Jan 17 '15 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additionally, your question is: "What's wrong with W3Schools?" when in reality, the question should have been: "What's wrong with linking to W3Schools?". The difference is significant. \$\endgroup\$ – rolfl Jan 17 '15 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have rolled back the edits that change the question from "what's wrong with w3schools?" to be "what's wrong with linking to w3schools?" Changing the nature of this question is not appropriate. If you want an answer to the issues with linking to another site, and which site should be linked to, then ask in a different question. \$\endgroup\$ – rolfl Jan 17 '15 at 14:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RubberDuck Appreciated, thanks. I wish I could've participated in that convo to clarify. I admit that the original phrazing was OT if you take everything literally. But you actually were the only one who looked right through my actual intend by reading the question where people complain about referencing, and not only the title. \$\endgroup\$ – LWChris Jan 17 '15 at 15:25

So, here's the story from A to Z. So just sit back in your chair right there and let me tell you a story about... ahhhh forget it. I'm not that witty, but here's the deal.

Once upon a time w3schools was not a good source of information. Their site was riddled with bad information and poor programming practice, but their site was (and still is) consistently ranked very high in many search results.

Enter a group of developers who were concerned about all of the bad information on that site (and there was a lot of bad info on that site). These people created a site called w3fools. They dedicated themselves to pointing out all of the inaccuracies on w3schools. The word spread. Soon we all knew not to trust w3schools anymore.

Then something else happened. w3schools listened. They realized they were being perceived as a joke by serious developers and were being hurt by this reputation. They implemented a report error form on every page and started correcting any bad information they had. Since then, w3fools has claimed victory and completely changed their tone about w3schools. Unfortunately, the damage had been done. Developers are very leery of any information coming from w3schools and prefer the official documentation.

At this point in history it is probably safe to link to and learn from w3schools, but the official documentation should always be the canonical reference.


w3schools.org is not an "official" authoritative resource in any way. It is completely a third-party project. It has also been reported to contain incorrect information. The name makes it sound like it is directly associated with the W3 organization, but it is not.

Mozilla Developer Network is an "official" source.

I am not 100% sure about https://developers.whatwg.org/ but I assume it is also an official source.

As @rolfl stated in chat:

When supporting a statement by providing a link, the link should be as authoritative as possible. W3Schools is not a reference site, it is a beginner's tutorial site. Links to W3Schools are not a reference source. This is completely independent of whether W3Schools is a good learning site or not.

  • \$\begingroup\$ W3Schools is not official, and they don't claim so. Yes, the name contains W3, and thereby is just really on point about what the site is about. What do you mean by official. How can MDN, maintained by anyone including rookies and trolls be official, whatwg, maintained by 2 people, be official too, and W3Schools, maintained by a content team be denied that "official" (whatever that means) flag? If there's anything like "official resources", its solely the W3 technical documents, which are however not useful for beginners. \$\endgroup\$ – LWChris Jan 17 '15 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LWChris The WHATWG and W3C are standards bodies that have published specifications for web technologies. If I want an absolutely official source, I link to the spec on the W3 website. MDN is a wiki affiliated with Mozilla (an important browser vendor) that contains high quality reference material on web technologies. It's technically Firefox-specific but does a very good job of referencing the corresponding W3 and WHATWG specs and lists which (competing) browsers support what features. Unlike the prescriptive W3 specs, MDN describes what browsers actually do. I find that rather useful. \$\endgroup\$ – amon Jan 17 '15 at 15:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ MDN is not official, by the way; it's peer editable. WHATWG and W3C websites are official. They're the only ones. \$\endgroup\$ – TylerH May 19 '16 at 14:40

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