Last week, Opera released the results of a survey conducted using its MAMA (Metadata Analysis and Mining Application) search engine.

The engine, which currently indexes 3.5m web pages, is designed to track “how web pages are structured.”

One of the key results from the survey was the fact that only 4.13% of the URLs MAMA indexed were validated using the W3C markup validator and only approximately 50% of websites displaying the W3C validation badges actually passed W3C validation.

Most interestingly, Opera found that most of the programs and content management systems often used to develop/publish websites generally fail to produce code that will validate.

According to Opera, web pages created with Microsoft FrontPage validated a paltry 0.55% of the time. Even more highly-regarded programs such as Adobe Dreamweaver didn’t fare very well – only 3.44% of its pages passed W3C validation.

The same dynamic was true for popular content management systems – WordPress pages validated only 9% of the time while Joomla pages validated only 6.45% of the time.

The authors of the MAMA study come to the conclusion:

“The most obvious thing to take away from the entirety of the MAMA research is that people are BAD at this ‘HTML thing’. Improper tag nesting is rampant, and misspelled or misplaced element and attribute names happen all the time. It is very easy to make silly, casual mistakes—we all make them. Validation of Web pages would expose all these types of simple (and avoidable) errors in moments.”

Of course, the authors point out that part of the difficulty in producing W3C compliant markup is that standards are evolving so rapidly and it’s hard to keep up.

It’s easy for most of us to throw in the towel on standards compliance, especially when one notes that MAMA found that most of the Alexa 500 (some of the most popular websites in the world) failed to pass W3C validation.

This might lead us to ask, “Why does it really matter?

But as internet content is increasingly consumed on other devices, such as mobile phones, valid markup becomes increasingly important to ensure a satisfactory user experience and accessibility across all of these devices.

The MAMA markup validation report makes for an interesting read and it highlights the challenges that online businesses, web developers and internet users face as the technologies we employ on (and in the creation of) web pages make standards compliance an even more challenging task.

For those who run websites and for those who develop them, be sure to check out my past list of web-based HTML and CSS validation tools that can help make it easier to join the ranks of the compliant.