Brainstorms and Raves

Notes on Web Design, Development, Standards, Typography, Music, and More

Fri

10

OCT

2003

Friday Feast #62: New Books, CSS, Browsers, Standards

Lots going on this week about web design, CSS, standards, browsers, and new books I’m especially excited to see coming out. Here are some highlights:

New and Upcoming Books

Pre-ordering now available through amazon.com on these highly recommended upcoming books:

CSS, IE, and Continued Frustrations

A new article was published yesterday at news.com, Developers gripe about IE standards inaction. This latest article by Paul Festa includes interviews with Microsoft’s lead product manager Greg Sullivan, Web Standards Project’s co-founder Jeffrey Zeldman, CSS guru Eric Meyer, and usability expert Jakob Nielsen. This article is worth reading word-for-word, as there’s lots packed into it.

One of my big concerns continues to be Microsoft’s lack of willingness to address the standards-related browser bugs. I was especially bothered by Sullivan’s response to developers' complaints about Internet Explorer’s problematic CSS bugs, a direct result of Microsoft not following W3C Recommendations:

“While it is true that our implementation is not fully, 100 percent W3C-compliant, our development investments are driven by our customer requirements and not necessarily by standards,” said Greg Sullivan, a lead product manager with the Windows client group.

When it was pointed out that the most vocal critics of IE’s CSS support are Web developers and authoring tool makers, rather than standards bodies, Sullivan said those critics were comparatively few.

“We balance feedback from all our customers and make our development decisions based on meeting the requirements of all of our customers, not just a few of them,” Sullivan said.

First, Sullivan is choosing to ignore Adobe’s and Macromedia’s hopes for improved CSS support in the IE browser that Festa writes about in his article. Those are pretty big companies to ignore. Over the summer Adobe chose to go with using Opera browsing technology in its GoLive Web authoring tool. A year ago Macromedia announced they were embedding Opera browsing technology into their Mac platform products.

Second, Sullivan’s claims of their customers not requiring standards is ridiculous. Most people driving a car don’t want to know every detail of why their cars go down the road. They just want to get in the car and go. Customers want to open their browsers and go, just like that car. If the car doesn’t work properly, suddenly regulations are questioned. If webpages don’t work properly, however, visitors often blame the website rather than the browser’s flaws. Instead of complaining to Microsoft about their bugs, they complain to the Web developers to fix the website problems, having no idea that Microsoft’s CSS bugs may actually be the culprit.

Whenever I mention my Web standards advocacy, most people don’t even know the name World Wide Web Consortium, 'W3C,' or the Web Standards Project (WaSP). That doesn’t mean people don’t need or care about standards, however.

When I explain the W3C, these same people also figure that Microsoft and other browser makers follow standards, not just some of them but all of the standards. Why wouldn’t they?! After all, standards are used for millions of products and services that we use every single day, including those screws holding your chair together. Even the chair you’re sitting in follows standards, and so does the light bulb lighting up your room. I doubt many of us know the names of the standards bodies for any of these products and services.

Standards are everywhere, but it’s not something most of us even think about, and even fewer of us write letters to the companies.

Unlike most Microsoft customers, Web developers know and understand the terrific browser features and the quirks. It’s our job to work with browsers. Sullivan’s dismissal of Web developers' complaints and choosing to ignore Adobe’s and Macromedia’s hopes that they’ll improve their CSS support only adds more fuel to Microsoft’s already badly tarnished reputation. It’s no wonder Adobe chose to go with Opera’s browser technology for GoLive despite Microsoft’s current 90% browser market share.

I have friends who work for Microsoft, and I know that Sullivan’s comments are not necessarily representative of all their employees. However, Sullivan is a lead product manager with the Windows client groups, and therein lies my concern.

Addendum 10pm: More Comments

Others have been writing about Festa’s article, too:

Speaking of Microsoft...

The Latest with the Eolas Patent Lawsuit

Some especially good posts and comments this week can be found here:

Why Do Standards Matter So Much to Me?

I feel strongly about the Web being accessible to all users. The W3C’s goal is to help promote that by working hard at creating publicly agreed upon Recommendations. Those Recommendations don’t mean browser makers can’t be innovative. Chairs and light bulbs come in all kinds of styles, sizes, colors, and shapes even though they’re based on standards. W3C Recommendations can provide a solid base and guide to help ensure that everyone can access the Web regardless of browser or alternative device.

From the W3C’s Device Independence section:

The vision we share with others is to allow the Web to be accessible by anyone, anywhere, anytime, anyhow. The focus of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative is on making the Web accessible to anyone, including those with disabilities. The focus of the W3C Internationalization Activity is on making the Web accessible anywhere, including support for many writing systems and languages. The focus of the W3C Device Independence Activity is on making the Web accessible anytime and anyhow, in particular by supporting many access mechanisms (including mobile and personal devices, that can provide access anytime) and many modes of use (including visual and auditory ones, that can provide access anyhow).

The Web as a community needs to remain that, a community that’s openly available to anyone.

In Summation

Eric Meyer sums it up so well in his Checks and Balances post Friday:

. . .  With Explorer’s development at an apparent end, it’s becoming a heavier and heavier millstone around the necks of designers. Let’s assume that there are no advances in Microsoft’s Web standards support between now and Longhorn. That’s close to three more years of the millstone getting heavier. By then, we’ll all have serious back problems.

(Yes, I can count: Microsoft’s Longhorn launch date of 2005 says to me it’ll actually launch in 2006. I’m just drawing a historical inference here.)

Of course, the whole Eolas situation probably doesn’t have the Microsoft folks in a benevolent frame of mind regarding standards. If they just abandoned the public Web and moved everything into a closed, proprietary sandbox of some kind, they might be able to avoid these sorts of problems altogether. That’s exactly what I expect them to do in Longhorn, and the expectation worries me. If the whole world moves into the sandbox—and let’s face it, in an e-commerce sense, IE/Win is the whole world—what reason would there be to pay any more attention to the Web?

We might say hey, fine, let’s get Microsoft and its partners the hell off the Web so we can go back to developing it the right way; let’s take back the neighborhood. That would make about as much sense as rooting for Flash to be the technology used on every Web site in existence. When one company owns the medium, everyone else loses. Thus far, the Web has been a community asset, with no one company calling the shots. How can we make sure that situation continues past the next few years?

I ask the same very important question: How can we make sure the Web continues as a community asset in the years ahead with no one company calling the shots?

11:07 am, pdt10 October, 2003 Comments, Trackbacks (2) ·

Categories: Books, Browsers, CSS, Development, Friday Feast, Reviews, Standards

Comments

Comments, Trackbacks: 2 so far. Add yours!

  1. Brainstorms and Raves has an excellent discussion (with links) about Microsoft and issues around their somewhat non-compliant Explorer browser. As Shirley points out, most products comply with standards (e.g., IEEE, ISO) that serve a dual purpose: bett...

    13 Oct, 2003Trackback from Weblog

    trackback #1 permalink ·

  2. In a post on Brainstorms & Raves, there's a link to an interview with a Microsoft representative giving excuses on why they don't follow web standards when it comes to their highly buggy browser, Internet Explorer. IE, used by AOL,...

    08 Dec, 2003Trackback from Good Blimey!

    trackback #2 permalink ·

This discussion has been closed. Thanks to all who participated.

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