Buzz Archive: December 2002

Happy New Year!

Philosopher Bertrand Russell said that "War does not determine who is right - only who is left."

For web designers and developers, it's been browser wars that have made our lives very difficult. In some ways, those difficulties have sent less committed web creators running into the night.

Those of us that remain must find our way to steadier ground.

2003 will be a year of a new kind of web professional.

We here at WaSP are all looking forward to a New Year.

We wish all of our friends around the world a year of great discovery, prosperity, and most importantly . . .


Counting Down One More Time On W3C Patent Policy

Tomorrow is the deadline for the Call For Comments phase of the latest World Wide Web Consortium Patent Policy Working Draft.

Needless to say, this version - based on royalty-free licensing - is perceived as more agreeable than its predecessor, which was based on a reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing model.

Dear Web Developers: Browser Sniffing is Stupid

...especially if you do it poorly, basing decisions on user agent strings and assumed capabilities, rather than on actual capabilities. Two alert readers sent in sad examples of this in action just this week. First, the recently redesigned HotBot, which does make a tremendous effort to support standards and provide accessibility, refuses to recognize Mozilla 1.2 as a browser that, in HotBot's own words, "supports web standards". When you try to use their skins feature using Mozilla 1.2, you get a message to the effect that you're missing out and should download a browser that provides the right support. We trust that HotBot's engineers will reconsider excluding browsers based on a version number, or at least fix their code so that it allows for "and up". And then, we won't get so cheesed at them for sending Mozilla users over to the Browser Upgrade Campaign page.

In yet another example of browser sniffing gone terribly wrong, BabelFish (no, not that BabelFish) has decided that it only wants to work in Internet Explorer 5.0 and up. Their definition of "and up", though, seems to exclude both Mozilla and Opera. And, as usual, there's nothing that those browsers cannot render once you paste in the super-secret, IE-only URL. As you might expect, the page doesn't actually validate to any version of HTML, but that's fine. They only have "2 million unique visitors each month from over 55 countries" (over 55? you mean 56?). Thanks to diligent Web standards champions Andreas Bovens and Jan!

The Lifecycle of Accessibility

evolt has just published a fine article by Italian Web developer Antonio Volpon, discussing the lifecycle of Web accessibility, a refreshing change from the simplistic advice to just add alt attributes to your images. Volpon talks about the phases all Web sites go through, and in the tradition of Mark Pilgrim's excellent Dive Into Accessibility, shows how scenarios can be a lot more useful than dry, lifeless guidelines when making real world decisions about accessibility. Definitely worth a read.

Is there a draft in here?

The third XHTML 2.0 Working Draft was published yesterday. It is largely a corrective release, fixing some problems that were introduced in the second Working Draft, which was made public last week.

As the W3C points out, XHTML 2.0 is a relative of the Web's familiar publishing languages, HTML 4 and XHTML 1.0 and 1.1, and is not intended to be backward compatible with them. That is, XHTML 2.0 is not the "latest and greatest" upgrade to earlier markup languages, making them obsolete; rather, it is meant to be seen as a new member in the family of markup languages available for Web builders to choose from.

Opening Day

Opera Software's "Open the Web" project asks Opera users to contact the owners of sites that fail in their browser or deny them entrance. "Let them know you would like to see the site work with all browsers, including Opera."

If you're developing a site and are considering refusing access to certain browsers, or if you have a site that's already doing it, it's probably time to go back to the drawing board.

Getting the Last Word

Web standards gets the last word in an article written by Grant Butler for Globe Technology News. While best for those readers with a general rather than deep awareness of web standards, the article, All Browser Code Not Created Equal, is noteworthy because it explains in easy terms some of the major concerns faced by web authors struggling with browser incompatibilities.

WaSP Asks the W3C

In an effort to assist developers and designers in understanding detailed issues when working with web standards, WaSP and the W3C kick off a new project today. The project, "WaSP Asks the W3C" involves WaSP Steering Committee members culling questions from supporters and asking members of the W3C's Quality Assurance Group for insight and details. WaSP hopes you'll find the project worthwhile. The first article is on properly specifying character encoding.

W3C Does CSS

With its newly redesigned home page, the W3C tossed any remaining table layouts out the window and committed completely to CSS for page layout. The new home page is in general written for newer, standards-compliant user agents in XHTML 1.0 strict. Check out the W3C's updated look.

Take Two

Mozilla 1.2.1 was released yesterday. This version addresses a bug introduced in the 1.2 release that, among other things, was causing problems for sites using document.write() calls to generate page content.

Another Hall-of-Shame Entry

Check out Aventis - but only if you're running IE6 or Netscape 7. Their challenge, they say is life; on the evidence the challenges include basic standards citizenship.

On a sidenote, once you do get into this site, the baroque menu structure is a good argument for some of the things that are probably going into XHTML2; there must be a better way.