Of Web Browsers and Humanity

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Douglas Crockford posted an interesting topic for discussion on his site (look for the Discussion Topic section at the bottom of the page):

If a web browser is defective, causing errors in the display or performance of the page, should the page developer struggle to hide the browser's defects, or should the defects be revealed in hope of creating market pressure to force the browser maker to make good? By which approach is humanity better served?

What I’d Like To Say

When I was a kid, I loved Mad Libs. And I bet you could come up with a Mad Lib that represents a style of question every web developer asks on a regular basis. I think it would look like this:

I’m trying to ______ a ______ and it’s fine in ______ and _______, but in ______ it doesn’t _______ing work.

It’s always the same question - you just have to fill in the blanks with 1 CSS property, 1 DOM element, 3 browser versions, and one profanity. Isn’t it insane? Can’t we start a revolution and all make a New Year’s resolution?

This year I will not write hacky workaround code for defective browsers

But …

It’s a business decision. I think this is what gets under the collective skin of the web development community more than anything else. We can’t make a resolution to stop! We already told the bosses they’ll spend an extra $10,000 to support IE6, but they are more than happy with the return on the investment. So, we sulk back to our offices and grudgingly add some more conditional CSS comments to the site’s style sheet.

If there is going to be market pressure, it won’t come from developers per se, but from big Internet properties with fanatical followers, like Facebook, Amazon, eBay, and Twitter. They have the power to force users to move, and when users start moving the makers react.

And yes, I think it is in the best interest of humanity.

gravatar Eduardo Wednesday, January 13, 2010
"..creating market pressure to force the browser maker to make good.."

The problem is that, for the user, the website is broken, not their browser (since it works in all other pages)

gravatar Scott Allen Wednesday, January 13, 2010
@Eduardo - Right, that is a big problem for lots of sites. I still think some of the bigger sites can push people, like YouTube: www.techcrunch.com/...
gravatar Chris Taylor Wednesday, January 13, 2010
And when it comes to companies who use IE6, a large proportion of those users have no control over their browser. I'm on that boat at work, despite my strongest opposition.

IE6 is here to stay until all the corporate applications which rely on it are defunct.
Justin Kobel Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Youtube is already starting to inform IE6 users their browser is in the waning phases of support.

Now if Facebook were to stop supporting IE6, I think 90% of office workers would erupt and demand their IT staff deploy IE7/8/FF/etc.
gravatar scott Wednesday, January 13, 2010
@Justin: That's right - if people can't play Farmville and Mafia Wars there will be social unrest!
gravatar David Thursday, January 14, 2010
Perhaps the best way to deal with this problem is to use code like is offered by the sites http://www.ie6nomore.com or http://ie6update.com that offer clean ways to suggest to users that they need to update their browsers.
gravatar Simon Segal Thursday, January 14, 2010
As a residual effect, I would love to know what percentage of developers who have chosen to specialize in desktop development technologies, sought to do so in the name of saving their own humanity / sanity?
gravatar bignose Sunday, January 17, 2010
> We already told the bosses they’ll spend an extra $10,000 to support IE6, but they are more than happy with the return on the investment.

So why not set the cost to a level that accurately reflects how much pain in the arse it is to support? Hint: if it still hurts the developer implementing the request, the cost to the person making the request isn't high enough.
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