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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.