I am the chair of the HTML working group, an international
group of people from companies like Microsoft, Netscape,
various telecom companies, etc, who under the auspices of the
World Wide Web Consortium are responsible for designing new
versions of HTML.
It should come as no surprise then that I surf the Web
with the newest of the new browsers, such as Mozilla, Opera,
Galeon, Konqueror, etc. Not only with new browsers, but also
with new computers, laptops, PDAs, telephones, and so on. It
is consequently quite amusing when I am greeted by a Web site
that tells me that my browser is terribly out of date, and
that I should uprade to Netscape 4 or Internet Explorer 5…
Well, it was amusing the first time, but I find it rather sad
really, offensive even. It is extraordinary how many Web
sites are unable to deal with more than just one or two
standard browsers on a standard computer.
There are three sorts of faulty sites. The first, and
least problematic, are those that announce something like
"Best viewed at 800x600, with 16 bit color, and browser
such-and-so." And if I haven’t got 800x600 pixels
Do I have to buy a new computer? These sites are the fault
of graphic designers who are used to designing for paper,
with its fixed sizes and formats, but haven’t yet learnt
"fluid design" where the content fills the window,
regardless of its size of format.
The second sort of faulty site is where something just
doesn’t work. You click on a button, and nothing happens.
These are the fault of programmers who think that there are
only two browsers in the world and look at the name of the
browser, and decide that if it isn’t the one, it must be the
other. In fact they ought to be looking at the properties of
the browser rather than the name in order to decide how to
The third, and worst, type of faulty site is where you get
confronted with the message "you are using the wrong
browser; you can’t come in." That it is more important
to them that I not see their stupid site, rather than see it
with a browser they don’t know, seems incredible to me. It
has certainly lost certain sites money, since I have just
gone to the competitor and bought there.
My reaction when I see such sites is that the producers
are incompetent. It is trivial to make a site that works on
all browsers. It is more work to make one that doesn’t work
on all browsers, but I assume they do it for a flashier
effect. Why they don’t go the extra mile to make it work
again on all browsers is beyond me.
There are people who think that the browser wars are over.
In fact we are just in a lull. There are many new sorts of
computers about to be released, and I count at least 20 new
browsers on the way, many of them embedded in devices.
If Web site builders don’t start learning how to deal with
diversity, they will soon be missing lots of people.