A spectre is haunting the Web - the spectre of standards.
February 22, 2001 4:09 AM   Subscribe

A spectre is haunting the Web - the spectre of standards. Jeffery Zeldman takes a bold step and stops supporting "bad browsers". Will the Web follow?
posted by geir (47 comments total)
I wonder if he was reading Scott Andrew's rant: "The Browser War: Nobody's fault but yours".
posted by geir at 4:12 AM on February 22, 2001

With good browsers freely available everywhere, who's being left out? Zeldman and Company are just reminding people to upgrade and enjoy.
posted by pracowity at 4:50 AM on February 22, 2001

Many people are being left out as good browsers aren't available everywhere. Anyone running anything but Windows or Mac has a problem getting compliant v5 software. You can use Mozilla, but only if you've got a fast machine, and really, Opera is the only thing that will be fast on an old machine.

Many people are unskilled in installing software (and if anyone says to say they shouldn't be using the web i'll scream :). Some people pay for phonecalls by the minute and may not be willing to upgrade. Disabled users with special software requirements have some problems dealing with this new markup as they're a small market... they don't move at the same development pace... they are disadvantaged slightly by this (For less-mobile users there are browsers that allow you to move through table cells, but they haven't adapted to moving through DIVs yet, so they have to move through each line.).

From a UI standpoint it's not just bad browsers that suffer - it's all old browsers when you use DIVs instead of TABLEs for layout. You can't provide the UI that users have become accustomed to: menu on the left, content on the right. Netscape 4 now looks like Netscape 1.

My old school has 300 terminals of Netscape 4 and 2 new staff who have inheritted this unmanagable monstrosity - it's not their fault and until the budget comes through they cannot afford the time to upgrade. Similarly, a guy on ALA's forum has a situation of 300 or so terminals in a hospital.

The obvious point is that there are many reasons why people can't upgrade their browsers. New standards would be OK, but there's no alternative. So I really hate WaSP and ALA about now.

V5 browsers came out in 1999~2000 - so that's 1, maybe 2 years to upgrade. I think that's far too shorter time.

"The lack of attention to standards by browser developers is not the users' problem. Like it or not, it's the developers and the designers who have the responsibility for ensuring it doesn't affect the users' experience "

(my writeup on k5.)

Flame on!
posted by holloway at 5:46 AM on February 22, 2001

The reality is that the web, like nearly every other market, isn't about universal support for all "customers". Now that IE is predominate -- 80% and still rising -- you'll see people who only support IE because the incremental cost of supporting the niche browsers isn't worth the meager rise in readership it would gain. It's all about investment and payoff, just like product design.

Concentration of support will happen, but not for ideological reasons. It's going to happen because of simple market forces.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:58 AM on February 22, 2001

Zeldman just doesn't get it. Simple market forces require reaching the largest possible audience, and that means support of old and non-standard browsers. There are too many reasons people hesitate to upgrade. Shutting your doors to people will only make them angry. It won't change behavior. Zeldman is just selfish.

posted by fleener at 6:19 AM on February 22, 2001

Fleener, market forces do not dictate reaching the largest possible audience.

Market forces dictate calculating investment against return. If the return is lower than the investment then the investment won't be made. "How much would it cost for me to support Opera? How much increase in readership will it gain me, and how much will I make on it?" If the return is lower, Opera won't be supported.

Mindless pursuit of coverage has killed more than one company. That's not how rational companies are run. And that goes double for private sites; why spend five times as much time creating your site for a 20% increase in readership? It simply doesn't make sense.

Market forces dictate supporting large players and ignoring the small ones.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:40 AM on February 22, 2001

Did any of you even look at the ALA articles with CSS turned off? They look beautiful, better than most websites!

If it's not coding to web standards that leaves those 300 hospital terminals behind, it'll be IE proprietary crap.
posted by sudama at 6:41 AM on February 22, 2001

Can you read these pages on NS4.whatever? I can. It doesn't look as good, but I can still read it just as well, navigate to all the same places, and use the page. As far as I'm concerned, that means it still supports NS4, it's just not optimized for that piece of junk.
posted by harmful at 6:51 AM on February 22, 2001

> Anyone running anything but Windows or Mac
> has a problem getting compliant v5 software.

Zeldman's fault!

> Many people are unskilled in installing software

I smell an evil Zeldman plot!

> Some people pay for phonecalls by the minute

Oh, the humanity! Bring me the head of Zeldman!

> Disabled users with special software requirements

Oh, that Zeldman! Zeldman will suffer for this!

> My old school has 300 terminals of Netscape 4

Zeldman must die.


It would be bizarre to think that Zeldman did something wrong (mean or bad or unfair or whatever it is you're getting at) by choosing to code for new browsers. He makes web pages. As far as I know, no one lives or dies by those web pages except perhaps Zeldman.

If you discover that Zeldman is making it impossible for, say, diabetics to get their daily insulin, I'll be right there at the front of the angry mob waving torches outside his home. But if he chooses to write harmless web pages in Sanskrit and display them in a Commodore 64-only format, that's up to him.

Now, I'll get back to listening to my 8-track collection.

posted by pracowity at 6:57 AM on February 22, 2001

As others have said, it's important to remember that the WSP is not necessarily condoning shutting out "bad" browsers. They're simply stating that bending over backwards for them will delay the inevitable growth of the web.

If you want to (or need to) use an older browser, fine. You'll just get a degraded layout. This is not going to kill anyone.
posted by jragon at 7:24 AM on February 22, 2001

If you want to (or need to) use an older browser, fine. You'll just get a degraded layout. This is not going to kill anyone.

Exactly. Really, this is much like the earlier days of the web, pre-IE, when everyone used to have "Netscape NOW!" buttons on their sites to let viewers know that the site looked/worked better with the Netscape browser.

As for this idea being bad for the disabled viewers - just the opposite. Read Zeldman's articles. Correct CSS support actually makes it easier for sites to be handicapped accessible. If the special devices they use for the web can't handle it, well, the standards have been around for years now, so maybe they need to get with it and support the standards just like the browser makers have had to.
posted by dnash at 7:40 AM on February 22, 2001

Really. Using CSS wisely simplifies coding, HUGELY simplifies maintence and upgrading, and degrades well but still looks purty on newer browsers. I have to disagree with Jeffrey, though, on getting rid of table-based layouts. Using positioning is just is too much of a pain as yet, and tables (used well) work great. but even there, using CSS allows the tables to be much simpler, since a lot of the tweaky little effects people use tables for can be done with CSS, leaving tables to do mostly the gross layout work.

Those of you that think Zeldman is wrong take a look at Metafilter, which has more or less been following the WSP party line for a while. Ignoring the sideblog, there is one small table at the top, and everything else is done with CSS and DIV. Does it suck on your older browsers? I doubt it. The sideblog adds a tiny bit of CSS-P trickiness (float: right), which is questionable on some browsers but some server-side magic prevents it from being served to browsers than can't use it.

Careful, low-impact use of CSS is not harmful and can enhance a site a lot in subtle ways. The code is simpler and easier to maintain, fine-tuning the design can be done without doing big nasty global search-and-replace operations, and it just *looks* better.

Take one small example: leading. Anyone who has even dabbled in typography knows that changing the line spacing can do great things for readability and the look of a site. You absolutely cannot do anything about this with HTML (unless you go back to the horrible David Siegel trick of breaking the lines with BR and inserting transparent gif "struts" everywhere--surely that cure is worse than the disease); CSS allows you to set line-height once and change the look of text everywhere on the site. And there is *no* cost. People on older browsers just don't see it. It doesn't break anything, it doesn't worsen anything, and it works even on some "bad browsers" like HTML 4. For the cost of a couple dozen bytes of ASCII you get a major design refinement. What's the downside?
posted by rodii at 7:53 AM on February 22, 2001

Um, that last "HTML 4" should be "Netscape 4", sorry.
posted by rodii at 7:55 AM on February 22, 2001

Wheeeeee! Another thread about esoteric (to me) programming/design stuff that I don't get, yet filled with enough venom to keep me glued! Boy, everyone sure is kicking the shit out of this Zeldman guy for the past couple days--that Jakob guy better watch his place in line.

So anyway . . . is all this stuff why I occasionally get little red Xs in IE5? Or is it why Netscape continually bombed out when trying to run my webradio station? Leading me to forever curse the name of Netscape and switch to IE5? And what in the hell is Opera? Me dumb web guy.

Actually, forget it. I'll just keep tuning in to see the yelling. Can a guy get a beer at this show?
posted by Skot at 8:41 AM on February 22, 2001

Who's yelling?
posted by rodii at 8:51 AM on February 22, 2001

Using positioning is just is too much of a pain as yet

nonono! Using CSS positioning fucking RAWKS. Alright, it can be tricky to grok it fully (I'm still pretty sure I'm missing an important bit of it) but even with my limited knowledge of it, I was able to build a layout I'd have killed myself over using tables.

I recently redid my site with no tables on it, and it's astounding how simple it is to move elements around, change the order they're presented, where they show up, everything.

And best of all, because it's all handled in the style-sheet, I don't have to dick around with the Blogger Edit Your Template thing everytime I want to tweak a location. True, that's an exceedingly self-serving advantage, but it's great.

I'm working on making a bunch of different styles and seeing how easy it is to just switch between them depending on which stylesheet I'm loading.

One of those stylesheets applies to everything that isn't IE5+, NN6+, Opera 5+ or Konqueror (or rather will, once I figured out Konqueror's USER_AGENT identification string) and presents the page in pure plain text. <A> tags and <BR> tags, and that's it, and it actually doesn't look especially shitty, just plain.

Two style sheets based on simple if..then ASP statement, and I don't have to worry about people being able to read my page or not. It's beautiful, and it's what standards let us do.
posted by cCranium at 9:12 AM on February 22, 2001

(hrm. I guess "nonono!" could be construed as yelling. :-)
posted by cCranium at 9:12 AM on February 22, 2001

I really sympathize with people like JZ and co. I'm not a professional web designer, but I know enough to create CSS enhanced web pages that break in NN4.x. I don't know enough to fix it. It's too many variables to keep track of.

Last summer, I created these web scripts for an academic deaprtment, with an intended audience that used all manner of browsers. This was pre NN6, and it was hard enough then. Now with IE5 and NN6 to learn about, I really want to stop thinking about NN4.x

I can also see the other side. Knowing a flexible set of workarounds seems to be just as creative and professional as hemming to the W3C (Frankly, whose 'standards' seem to favor the CERN physicist publishing conference papers than anybody else.). The argument could be made that the "standards" broswers also allow for more variation in code, and hence auto-correct or guess at the intended page on-the-fly. (IE5 is especially guilty of this.) By cross-browser testing, one ensures that one writes code the closes all its <p> tags.

However, I can't embrace the work-around/flexibility approach when I know for a fact that NN4.x likes the <FONT> tag. It seems to be built for it. In what alternate universe is 10px bigger than 12px (as it seems to be in NN4.67 for Linux)? That doesn't just violate "standards", it violates comprehension. Glad I don't have to worry about feeding myself on the basis of this knowledge!

Of course, my current homepage crashes NN4.x, so it's possible that I know nothing.
posted by rschram at 9:17 AM on February 22, 2001

I like David Chess's position on this - he demonstrates the uh, "advantages" of using CSS, in a wonderfully wry way.

Methinks this era of Designer Uber Alles will be loudly mocked when history has moved on.

Who says you have to do anything special to design for more than 80% of browsers? If you think you absolutely *must* create complicated browser-dependent code to show different versions of your site to different browsers, then you might think so.

But what ever happened to the idea of a simple yet elegant design that works well in most browsers without having to do any special work? This is what I do. Why? Because I'm fricking LAZY!!!!

Y'all who want to leave users in the dust are just beyond me - I don't comprehend what you think you're gaining. Really.
posted by beth at 9:19 AM on February 22, 2001

Who's yelling?

Aw, I was just overstating for apparent non-humorous effect. But props to cC for actually semi-yelling. :)

(For genuine yelling and tearing of hair, I tune into the aforementioned Jakob threads.)
posted by Skot at 9:31 AM on February 22, 2001

Yeah, I read Chess's example. Wake me up when somebody demonstrates the superiority of <font> tags over CSS.
posted by harmful at 9:33 AM on February 22, 2001

If Zeldman broke NN4.7, he blew it.

IE's competition, realistically, isn't Moz, it's NN; and NN6 is Not Ready For Prime Time yet.

I hope the phuque that Netscape gets their shit together soon...
posted by baylink at 9:45 AM on February 22, 2001

Straw man. Who is advocating leaving users in the dust? Is Metafilter leaving anyone in the dust?

I'll say it again: CSS, if used with some restraint, makes coding easier, not harder, makes upkeep easier, not harder, and doesn't leave anyone "in the dust." It's not a panacea, it's not the coming of a new age, it's not everying to everyone, it doesn't invalidate everything everyone's ever done. What Jeffrey's suggesting amounts to a *return* to the days of simple, clean, universal, gracefully-degrading code--exactly the opposite of the multiple browser-dependent versions that we have to deal with now.
posted by rodii at 9:49 AM on February 22, 2001

Until the 'leaving users with old browsers in the dust' people can come up with hard numbers to support their assertions instead of arthritic suppositions, I say "thppt".

The point of the upgrade program is not, for the love of pete, to punish users or developers. The point is to allow the people who build the web to be able to use the freaking standards that have been developed by the W3C and which are now, at long last, supported by newer browsers - and by allowing designers & developers to use these standards correctly and completely, we allow them to build better sites and better experiences for (say it with me now) users. Additionally, both time and money will be saved.

How is any of this a bad thing?

So, let's take it another step further: if people are all kerfluffled over having to wait eons to download fat browser software on skinny pipe, what to do? How about setting up a CD-burning resource: designers/developers/geeks will rip the browser(s) of your choice to CD and send it to you.

This whole thing can be so easy, so long as people breathe and think and cooperate.
posted by gsh at 10:51 AM on February 22, 2001

I really sympathize with people like JZ and co. I'm not a professional web designer, but I know enough to create CSS enhanced web pages that break in NN4.x. I don't know enough to fix it. It's too many variables to keep track of.

I just ran into that problem this week. I enhanced the style sheet use on my site and suddenly started hearing from Navigator 4 users whose browsers crashed when they loaded my site. Its style sheet support is unsalvageably broken.

Here's the workaround I'm using in the header of each page:

<!--#if expr="($HTTP_USER_AGENT = /Mozilla\/4/) && ($HTTP_USER_AGENT != /compatible/)" -->
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/style/prefect_netscape4.css">
<!--#else -->
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="/style/prefect.css">
<!--#endif -->

This is a server-side include. I'm going to document it fully on my site at some point.

posted by rcade at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2001

Another workaround: separate all the styles that Netscape 4 has trouble with and place them in a second stylesheet. Then you can join the two together, by putting this in your main stylesheet:

@import url("advanced.css");

Netscape 4 will ignore this, and more compliant browsers will follow it to the second stylesheet.
posted by Aaaugh! at 12:29 PM on February 22, 2001


I've been waiting for this day.

I suspect that part of the small percentage of NN4.x hits recorded on sites these days are actually developers checking their own designs for compatibility with that obsolete beast. If we developers all cut THAT out, the stats would drop further, and we'd all be even more comfortable forgoing awkward workarounds for Netscrap.
posted by Tubes at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2001

My readership seems to be 28% Netscape 4.x users. Tubes, I think you're looking at a self-selecting audience.

I want to support standards, and WaSP is correct that it's a great day now that we have standards-compliant browsers, but I'm not sure how we should be encouraging upgrades. I mean, it's always been easy enough to do that, there are a zillion copies of IE5.x sitting out there on AOL CDs, and there are plenty of clueless "go away if you don't have this browser" sites as it is. What more incentive could there be?
posted by dhartung at 12:56 PM on February 22, 2001

There is nothing wrong at all with standards, or with suggesting that people upgrade. The problem is with, obviously, Microsoft and there "special" way in which they do CSS. Damn them!
posted by johnnydark at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2001

Re: the Zeldman's fault, Zeldman's fault, Zeldman's fault post.

Netscape 4 overlaps the DIVs on ALA rendering the content unreadable (Apparently it's only some versions of N4 that do this). He's not killing people though, obviously.

Asking users to upgrade is nice, but rendering content unusable to old users and not providing a recognisable UI isn't. Not providing an option is like having the entire site in Flash.

There are a few here talking about the costs involved in supporting Netscape 4 and older browsers. It took me one day to write a template system (could have used a prewritten one), less than 3 hours to make a template for Netscape 4 and old browsers. Would it take anyone here longer to support old browsers?

(Netscape 4 is about 10% of my commercial sites, btw)

The people leaving users behind them are on a righteous quest.
posted by holloway at 1:37 PM on February 22, 2001

you know why i think this is all a good thing?

i used to have to check the sites i was working on in netscape and ie and tweak constantly until the two were displaying something similar. it was not fun.

now i design using the new standards, or as close to as my knowledge allows. i only use my primary browser to check things while i'm working, but once i'm finished, i give the pages a quick check with ie 5, mozilla, and opera, and you know what? they all look exactly the same. no more fucking round for hours trying to figure out what one browser doesn't like.

i like my job a whole lot better since this change.
posted by titboy at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2001

"Yeah, phht, who wants that three-panel layout anyway? CSS is so wonderful in some abstract theoretical sense that we're all willing to forego doing things that TABLE tags have let us do for the last four or five years. Right? Aren't we? Well, maybe next month."

posted by holloway at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2001

Hmm. Holloway, I've read your comments, I've read the k5 thread you started, and I've visited your personal site... where the source reveals that you're using @import to link to external style sheets, and have a 'display:none' message wrapped around a line encouraging users to upgrade to a standards compliant browser.

So, um, why do you 'really hate WaSP and ALA' again? They're simply advocating doing exactly what you're doing.

True, this is on your personal site, not on your professional work. Just like I've done on mine. No designer is being forced to implement this on professional sites if it could cost them their job - nobody is being forced to do anything. But if a lot of us do it on our personal sites - our non-essential, non-mission-critical sites - then we're sending out a message to anyone who visits us that this is something they should think about. Just like you're doing on yours.

I switched off style sheets to look at your page, and didn't feel the world had ended. Sure, I was 'slightly disadvantaged' relative to style-sheets-enabled viewers, but on the scale of disadvantage that actually means anything important, this was pretty low.

If we do it carefully, as you've done on your site, the end result need not be a horrible mess... A lot of us here believe that the 'personal web' is important, and a Force for Good and all of that, so let's put our money where our mouths are.
posted by rory at 1:44 PM on February 22, 2001

I think that television producers shouldn't shoot programs in color because some people might have black-and-white TVs.

I think record companies should stop making CDs because some people might have record players.

I think publishing companies should stop printing books with words because some people can't read.

I think people should stop speaking English because some people don't understand it.

I think I'll stop thinking, because it's obvious there are still a lot of people who aren't.
posted by solistrato at 3:40 PM on February 22, 2001

Solistrato: I consider it like a campaign for HTML4 in 1995.

Rory: Point taken, but I'm not against new standards or asking people to upgrade if they can - unlike ALA I only ask people off-hand, it's not at all necessary. ALA breaks N4 (as I said previously DIVs overlap and it's illegible) whereas my site uses DIVs in a way that works in any browser. Pages with one column like mine and Metafilter don't really show off the layout differences between 'HTML TABLEs' and 'CSS DIVs'. You'll notice that when I have two columns in my site I use tables so the UI degrades gracefully.

My gripe with ALA is that they implement standards in a broken way for standards sake at the expense of users. I don't.

My distinction is that I toe the line in changing my website to these standards, unlike the "to hell with bad browsers" attitude - which really should be retitled "to hell with users" as many users are stuck for a few years yet. To hell with them though, eh?
posted by holloway at 7:49 PM on February 22, 2001

Analogy time. Films are made in a variety of display formats, the most popular being 16:9 or thereabouts. So, to display them on non-widescreen televisions, you either use letterbox format, or pan-and-scan. One annoys a section of the populace that dislikes the "waste" of TV screen space; the other pisses off film-makers and film buffs.

So, since we don't really have the browser equivalent of a widescreen TV right now, do we letterbox our sites and expose the failures of the browser, or do we pan-and-scan and sacrifice the full picture?
posted by holgate at 11:42 PM on February 22, 2001


In implementing the ALA redesign, we SWITCHED OFF css in broken browsers and tested the unstyled divs in a wide variety of old browsers on Mac OS, Linux, and various flavors of Windows. We did not see *any* problem such as you're describing, but apparently we did not test Netscape 4.7 on your particular platform, whatever that may be.

If you're saying that Netscape 4.7 on your platform cannot parse two UNSTYLED DIVs without error, then Netscape 4.7 on your platform is broken beyond repair. This is what Netscape 4.7 is being asked to cope with on A List Apart:

<div>some content</div>

<div>some other content</div>

No sizes. No positioning. No styles. No nothing. A Braille reader can parse that code. If Netscape 4.7 on your platform cannot, then Netscape 4.7 on your platform is the "brokenest" browser ever foisted on the public.

Netscape, Opera, and Microsoft all make browsers that can handle two unstyled divs without going to hell. Lynx and iCab can also handle that task.

For that matter, Netscape 4.5 and 4.6 and 4.08 can handle two unstyled divs without going to hell. You could always "downgrade" to an older version of Netscape 4. It will suck, it will treat HTML, CSS, and JavaScript like baffling mysteries, but it will not have the particular problem described in your letter.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to test every version of Netscape 4 ever released on every platform unless you have the resources of a company like Razorfish. ALA, a non-commercial, non-profit site, does not have such resources. Neither do most web agencies. Neither do most independent web publishers, from Joe at Geocities to Surfstation.lu and Metafilter. That is precisely why it is impossible to create "backward compatible" sites that work on every broken browser. That is precisely why standards are important.

Don't complain about the road if you're driving on Firestone tires. Complain to Firestone. Better yet, get new, safe tires from Netscape, Opera, or Microsoft. The new tires are free. The old ones are unsafe at any speed. Please drive through.
posted by Zeldman at 9:58 AM on February 23, 2001

Oh there's no mistake Jeffrey, I'm well aware of the facts. I think we just interpret the facts differently (no bad thing).

In the move to DIVs instead of TABLEs less than v.4 browsers lose layout if there is more than one column. In a CSS compatible browser you'll have difficulty doing more than two columns (as you say on ALA). I read this as saying that CSS isn't ready for most layouts. So really, for most layouts, it's a wait for the wide-spread deployment of v.6 browsers!

Is this not a fact?

Sorry, but I'll print it again, I really love this quote: "CSS is so wonderful in some abstract theoretical sense that we're all willing to forego doing things that TABLE tags have let us do for the last four or five years. Right? Aren't we? Well, maybe next month."

Willing to "forego", eh Zeldman?

When using multiple DIVs instead of TABLEs v.4 browsers may render CSS brokenly (as with my example of N4).

Fact? N4 is b0rk3n to some degree (one of the stupidest CSS implementations I've ever seen) ... but it can render much better than what it's being fed by ALA. So perhaps ALA's broken from the user's perspective? Opera 5 and Mozilla/N6 still have several rendering bugs - does that mean they're broken or maybe that we should just do the best with what we have?

Many users can't upgrade. I consider the time period between v.5s being released (1999-2000 - now being 2001) to be too shorter time. You do not. As with the advice you've given me - the user should upgrade. The "To Hell With Bad Browsers" article, for these users (and these users only), is "To Hell with Users". I won't bother repeating the million situations where users can't upgrade - and that's their fault, eh?

It's a well known argument flaw to say that as something's "IMPOSSIBLE" you shouldn't try and get close to that goal. I hope you weren't serious there.

For years you've been designing sites that worked in Netscape 4 because you used a clever mixture of HTML 3.2 and ocassasional CSS with some browser specific tags. I disagree that the development costs for supporting old browsers are great though Jeffrey, it takes me three hours at the most to write a page that uses this coding style and it works in many more places than DIVs do (that is if DIVs could do it). You had a site that worked in more browsers than it does now. It is an idealogical thing - is it at all practical though? (that's a question I'd love an answer for).

WaSP/ALA are a `looking into the future' ideological campaign - rather than what works today. This is a way to both repay browser manufacturers and clear the path for the future - and users should just upgrade right?

You have a blame users who won't upgrade attitude (as you say "Don't complain about the road if you're driving on Firestone tires"). I guess you think that's healthy - I don't (conversely, you might think I'm foolishly mixing an unhealthy and unmanagable cocktail of HTML 3.2 and CSS!)
posted by holloway at 2:13 PM on February 23, 2001

I consider the time period between v.5s being released (1999-2000 - now being 2001) to be too shorter time. You do not.

interesting, because i thought zeldman was the one who ran the site, not you. that would imply that it doesn't particularly matter what you think about the intermediary period between release and possible download. interesting how one person's own choice of code pisses you off so much, holloway. who reads a list apart? do people who are somehow incapable of downloading a v5 browser generally read it? i seriously doubt it. besides which, if you want to take this into a philosophical domain, do that, but the specific attacks against jeffrey make you lose credibility, as it's not a domain in which you should have any say.

christ, no one made this big of a deal when i made an IE-only page in 1999. i'm kind of jealous.
posted by pikachulolita at 7:19 PM on February 23, 2001

Pikach~1: ALA is a website instructing others how to do things for the web, not just a website who's coding style hampers some users. In this way it's teachings will spread other sites (no bad thing if you agree with them, I don't, so I speak up). He's entirely welcome to do whatever he wants on his site - I'll talk about that's arse though.

Examples of my personal attacks? I think attacking his reasoning is entirely justified. ALA and WaSP are hand-in-hand with their opinion because they're both Zeldman sites. Goodness knows Zeldman booms into the conversation with capital knowhow. I was astounded by Zeldman's goofy PR guy posturing post on the ALA forums - "mister sackett is clearly too angry to listen. mister sackett has made his mind up. mister sackett does not wish to discuss these issues." Really quite odd considering he hadn't tried to discuss anything yet. Oh, anyway, examples of personal attacks? I have only attacked his reasoning, haven't I?

(oh I make it too easy)

Zeldman's like Jacob Nielsen on crack: Move to this standard guys! Sure, DIVs won't pay off anytime soon and you'll screw the UI but we got standards and, um, it makes our jobs easier. Or as someone on slashdot said: 'We've upped ours standards, so up yours'.


I'm writing an extension of my K5 story on this and the types of users that will be affected by pages during the transition if it were to happen now (with numbers backing my argument, finally). If anyone wants a copy when I am finished leave your email below or contact me directly.
posted by holloway at 8:42 PM on February 23, 2001

I think Holloway's reasoning is flawed, and I agree that his comments are personal: "Zeldman's like Jacob [sic] Nielsen on crack." To rebut his arguments here would turn a Metafilter forum into a personal battle between Holloway and me. That would be bad for Metafilter, bad for the Browser Upgrade campaign, bad for everyone.

I don't expect everyone to embrace the campaign. Holloway clearly does not embrace it, and he's as entitled to his beliefs and his passion as anyone else, including those who support the campaign. And that's enough bandwidth from me.
posted by Zeldman at 11:33 PM on February 23, 2001

Uh.. Jeffrey... a pity I have to spell this out for you but it was a joke. The following sentence after saying '[I didn't get personal]' (and then pushing it further saying "I make it too easy"), I go ahead and call you Nielsen on crack. You are not Nielsen on crack. Sorry if I offended you. Golly.

My reasoning is flawed? Yeah... and your shoes are untied Jeff.
posted by holloway at 11:51 PM on February 23, 2001

I have a CDMA FAQ page (CDMA being a kind of cell phone that I used to help design, something I know a lot about) and about a year ago I got curious about the extent to which it was being read, and put one of the free counters on it. Since then it's had about 18,000 hits. (Which was most gratifying.)

This is not the kind of page likely to select visitors by browser type, for obvious reasons. Of my visitors, 38% were using Netscape 4.x.

By the way, no-one will have trouble with my pages because I use as little formatting as possible.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:41 AM on February 24, 2001

it all seems to work out okay in the end. waferbaby.com, for example, redirects me to the browser upgrade info page. daniel obviously doesn't care for readers who are unable or who aren't prepared to upgrade their browsers; on the other hand, i'm not willing to spend any more of my time trying to see content that the author doesn't care about me seeing.
posted by kv at 8:26 AM on March 11, 2001

As someone who has been involved in the creation of a CSS Layout site to the standards of a company like Razorfish (full testing etc) our experience of CSS Layout is that it isn't ready for commercial web design and adds no advantages to a well designed table layout. I challenge anyone to give me an advantage that CSS Layout can offer above a well designed database-backed table-layout page.

Just to pre-empt a couple :

It's easy to make changes - well once you've built a complex page (for instance a multi-column stretching page design) then the style sheet has so many tweaks and special cases that even simple changes can wreck the layout and a third party would have great difficulty understanding how the layout works by viewing the code. However, with a template based site designed with tables, a simple change of template blocks (XSLT,php-templates, ect) combined with CSS styling becomes very simple to read and very quick to edit.

It's backward compatible or accessible - Yes, lynx and braille readers will be able to access the site but unfortunately because the CSS implementations are so broken, older browsers that half heartedly attempt to implement CSS Layout can create an unreadable mess (this can be fixed but think about a content managed site where CSS Layout is being used to format content elements, a new combination of div's/CSS's can be introduced after design that will break on older browsers.. This can't be sufficiently tested for in advance). Tables however degrade gracefully if implemented correctly.

It's the way of the future - I'm sure it might be but at the moment it doesn't work correctly and by the looks of it CSS 3.0 won't be implemented till v7 browsers and we'll have the same compatibility problems then. Are we always going to have to have a browser upgrade campaign??

And here are a few disadvantages :-

The design limitations that are created when using CSS drastically limits the possible layouts that can be used.

Using a browser upgrade approach where content does not appear on older browsers shuts out the majority of visually impaired users.. court case anyone?

The use of hacks and shortcuts INCREASES with the use of CSS Layout therefore creating increased development times and the possibility of forward incompatibility (eg the new hacks that are being created for IE6).

Development time of moderately complex sites increases due to added cross-browser complications caused by CSS Layout.

For want of trying to press the submit button I'll stop here and add any further thoughts in further posts.

ps Just to add a positive note. If we want very simple layouts like a list apart or Zeldman's reworkings of his pages then CSS can do the job but still offers little advantage. Also if we want a totally non-stretching site things become easier to a point and a moderately complex layout can be acheived without too many problems. But the point is WHY. People have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages before they make a decision. I would really like to say that CSS Layout's time has come but at the moment cannot.
posted by tim.parkin at 5:29 AM on May 3, 2001

court case? they can't do that, can they? Silly. How do they expect to enforce anything like that on the web? Geocities' userbase would go bankrupt.
posted by Hackworth at 12:02 AM on July 11, 2001

Why on earth do those WASP guys recommend Opera when it can't handle basic DOM javascript? I've just redesigned my site to standards compliance (with a non-styled, table-layout version for Netscape 4 users, along with a WASP banner and a suggestion that they upgrade), and the thing just collapses in Opera because I'm using Javascript to position divs. ARGH!
posted by spiroglyph at 7:42 AM on August 22, 2001

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