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The Internet

Are 99.9% of Websites Obsolete? 546

citizenkeller writes "Zeldman is at it again: " Though their owners and managers may not know it yet, 99.9% of all websites are obsolete. These sites may look and work all right in mainstream, desktop browsers whose names end in the numbers 4 or 5. But outside these fault-tolerant environments, the symptoms of disease and decay have already started to appear.""
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Are 99.9% of Websites Obsolete?

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  • by bunratty ( 545641 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:25AM (#4237698)
    It worked in all the current browsers a year ago. but with IE 6 and the new netscape coming out - you would *THINK* there would be backwards compatability.
    You have backwards and forwards compatibility mixed up.

    Backwards compatibility means it works in older browsers. As Zeldman mentions, it always has some cutoff point, such as Netscape 3 or IE 2.

    Forwards compatibility means that it works in newer browsers. There is not necessarily any cutoff point, as long as you have constructed the website correctly. Structural problems and other typos in the HTML, proprietary and deprecated tags, and versioning can all limit the forward compatibility of the page.

    Read the article and you'll see that Zeldman is arguing that web designers should be developing with forwards compatiblity in mind. Unsurprisingly, yours is one of the 99.9% of all sites that have not.

  • by imperator_mundi ( 527413 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @11:29AM (#4237729)
    It seems so altough w3 [w3.org] offer a validator [w3.org] for free.

    Maybe learning html in a weekend [intuitive.com] or in faster [geocities.com] don't help keeping the quality of code at high level ; )
  • by elocutio ( 567729 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:08PM (#4238016)
    Rants against Netscape 4 tread well beyond the scope of CSS, but it's commonly known that any webpage that implements a fair amount of CSS1 will not be supported correctly on NN4. Better yet, if the webpage implements ANYTHING from CSS2, it's very likely that Netscape 4 won't support it. And there's much, MUCH more:

    NN4 doesn't support <DIV>. It supports <LAYER> instead.

    NN4 doesn't like inline styles.

    NN4 doesn't fully support the height attribute (e.g., table cells).

    NN4 doesn't allow onclick events on every object, such as <img> and <div> (or, layer, if we want to be technically correct).

    NN4 uses its own Document Object Model, which results in very poor DOM Level 1 support, and virtually no support for Level 2.

    NN4 supports the onunload event, but it does so quite unconventionally. This results in strange behavior when resizing a window: content unloads and refreshes, which is very undesirable for persistent objects, such as applets.

    I guess that's a good stopping place. The list goes on, but I hope you see my point. In fact, the word "unconventional" suits NN4 quite well.

    Web developers who are serious about dynamic or heavily stylized content will quickly realize that full NN4 support requires either an insane dedication to little hacks and gimmicks or a text-only version of their website. The way to present cross-platform, stylized content today is to use Shockwa^H^H^H^H^H^H^H a plugin.

    The fact that 5th and 6th (and now 7th) generation browsers are 95-99% standards compliant means that bleeding-edge content will target newer browsers, and Netscape 4 will be left to rot. Five years is an insane lifespan for a browser, and if you remember correctly, Netscape 4 was just getting off the ground five years ago. Internet life moves at the speed of normal time ^2, so your five years is really like 25.

    Maybe I live in a parallel universe, but in my reality, NN4 is already dead. Or, at least it has a really bad case of leprosy.
  • by Soft ( 266615 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:09PM (#4238029)
    Let's do it the standards way.

    I want to do a nice little page, and do it in XHTML because it's The Way Of The Future (or I want to display a little math, which only XHTML+MathML allows without resorting to ugly inline images). The tag soup itself isn't a problem, I just close all my tags and make sure the doctype declaration says XHTML instead of HTML, as prescribed by the standard [w3.org].

    However, is this enough? The document is now XML, and therefore should have a <?xml declaration, if only to specify its encoding. Except that said XHTML standard says it is optional if the encoding is UTF-8 or UTF-16, or has been otherwise determined (think HTTP headers), which contradicts the XML standard, sec. 4.3.3 [w3.org], the last two paragraphs, one which says that no declaration and no other information means mandatory UTF-8, and the next one "It is also a fatal error if an XML entity contains no encoding declaration and its content is not legal UTF-8 or UTF-16."

    So I need a declaration no matter what. But according to this page about the different layout modes in current browsers [www.hut.fi], MSIE will react to an XML declaration by switching to "quirks" mode, which is precisely what I wants to avoid by sticking to the standards... And I wouldn't want to lock out 85% of WWW users, wouldn't I?

    But wait, this is only if the page was served with a text/html content-type. The right answer would then be to use the standard content-type for XML/XHTML... which should be [w3.org] application/xhtml+xml! Yes, "application"! Now if I use that content-type, all browsers I have at my disposal except Mozilla (MSIE5, Konqueror, Links, Lynx...) either consider the page an application and offer to save it to disk, or display it as-is! Same with the second-best, text/xml.

    Okay, am I the only one experiencing this? Any point in not using good-ol' HTML4 and avoid doing (yet another kind of) horrible bugware?

  • Re:99.9%??? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Isofarro ( 193427 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:16PM (#4238073) Homepage
    We design our web pages not to be constantly cutting-edge, but to be compatible and useful.

    Compatible with what? Testing in available browsers today only gives you compatibility for yesterday.

    Compatible with standards such as the XHTML Recommendation and CSS Level 1 & 2 Recommendations offers you compatibility tommorrow too.

    Surely anything that helps your website to be accessible tommorrow is to your advantage?
  • Re:Gasp! (Score:2, Informative)

    by deepchasm ( 522082 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:19PM (#4238108)
    Of course hardly anyone uses pre-4.x versions of IE/Netscape/Opera. But you are ignoring other victims of kludgy web design - like blind people who rely on browsers with built in speech synthesis.

    An easy experiment you can do is to try and access a website with lynx, it will simulate what a blind person listening might here. Straight away you notice that in multi-column table based layouts, all those tiny links down the side of the page (next to the article you actually want to read) have to be scrolled through before you get to the article.

    I don't understand the mentality of people who fudge around adding hack after hack for compatibility with 4.x browsers.

    If you write a page using XHTML, a user with any browser that understands HTML will be able to read it. You can write it in the order "title,article,links/adds" - then the blind browser will get to the content they came for instantly. With the intelligent use of the DIV tag, all this can be positioned using CSS so you can still have the layout you want for people who can see it.

    Best of all, unlike a sea of hacks and workarounds, this is built to standards so it won't need tweaking every few months.

    It's easy to say to a 4.x user "upgrade" - after all, the system requirements for IE haven't changed that much from 4 to 5 to 6. But a blind person can't "get some eyes that work". So don't discriminate against them.
  • by Student_Tech ( 66719 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:19PM (#4238115) Journal
    Why not VMware? A web developer where my dad works uses this with some copies of Netscape 3-6, and IE 3-6 on his box so he can test and see what the pages look like all on one box.
  • by Isofarro ( 193427 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @12:36PM (#4238271) Homepage
    Who ever uses an older browser ussually isn't a power user to start with and isn't looking for the latest fluff anyway.

    Who ever said a Compaq IPaq running Pocket Internet Explorer, or a Sharp Zaurus running Opera at a max screensize of 320x200 is "an older browser"?

    When HTML and CSS are used correctly, optimally and compliantly the resulting websites are far more accessible in more user-agents that the mere crop of bloated OS based browsers.
  • by JamesOfTheDesert ( 188356 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @01:37PM (#4238721) Journal
    They're called standards for a reason.
    Well, no, they're not called standards, and for a reason. From the w3c home page:

    The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential.

    No mention of standards.

    Take a look at the HTML specification page [w3.org]:

    W3C produces what are known as "Recommendations". These are specifications, developed by W3C working groups, and then reviewed by Members of the Consortium. A W3C Recommendation indicates that consensus has been reached among the Consortium Members that a specification is appropriate for widespread use.

    Again, no mention of standards.

    The W3C is a vendor consortium, primarily a group of big players who are trying to reduce their cost of busness by hammering out some common formats. The W3C is not a standards body, and they do not produce standards. While there are smart, possibly altuistic people on W3C working groups, by and large the W3C as a whole is intersted in promoting the welfare of its member companies, not that of the general developer community. Typically, though, these interests overlap, but that doesn;t change the purpose of the W3C.
  • by Isofarro ( 193427 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @01:48PM (#4238808) Homepage
    The W3C standard says that ALL attributes are required to have quotes. Umm... which standard says this, exactly?

    HTML4.01 recommended using quotes as a best practice. XHTML (being a reimplementation of HTML using XML rules) by inheritance from XML requires attributes to be quoted.
  • by r2ravens ( 22773 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @02:05PM (#4238963)
    Who on earth is running a browser earlier than 4.x?

    Me. Lynx anyone? Not anyone around here who uses a shell is there? Also, old Macs - SE, SE30, etc - can dialup, and there are ethernet adapters for them. They make good, cheap, space-saving machines for simple access. Use Nifty Telnet for shell access, older versions of Fetch and Netscape 2.0.

    But the important messge here is that:

    The web is about content, not format.

    Remember this. The whole point to html is that it's a *markup* language, not a *forced formatting* language. The browser takes the content and displays it in the manner of the user's choosing.
    This seems to have been lost in the corporatization and control of the 'net.

    Remember the good old days? When the web was about content and not about spam and marketing? That's where I live. I don't want to see blinking and flashing and animated ads and popups. If I can't see your content on lynx or with a 4.x or pre 4.x browser, you have lost my eyeballs and any potential to recieve my money. No popups on lynx.

    The same goes for html formatted mail (there is a special place in hell reserved for people who send html formatted mail.) If I can't read it in pine, I don't even care what it says. Send me text if you want me to read it. (No web bugs and stuff that way too.)

    In short, the goal is to get your content to other people, stop being such control freaks about how it is displayed. Write to the lowest common denominator, be creative with what is available there and you save much time, aggravation and money. -- And I'll be able to see your content.


    The web is about content, not format.

    Join the Any Browser Campaign [anybrowser.org]and make your pages 'content enhanced'.
  • the easy way (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ellen Ripley ( 221395 ) <ellen@britomartis.net> on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @02:26PM (#4239121) Journal
    The websites I design contain links to the W3C HTML and CSS validators. The links might look something like this

    XHTML 1.0 [w3.org] CSS [w3.org]

    and I put them in the site template, so they appear on every page. These are referer links, which mean that they check the page you are linking from. When I finish making changes to a page, I click those links in sequence, and if my page doesn't pass, I fix the XHTML or CSS that's causing the problem.

    Depending on the type of page, I might make them bold and obvious, with the checkmark graphics that W3C offers, or I might hook them to a bullet or a period so they're obscure and don't become a design element.

    I use absolute positioning to do layout that people often do with tables, and my sites look fine in anything from IE to lynx to Mozilla.

  • Re:Figures (Score:2, Informative)

    by cwry ( 323706 ) on Wednesday September 11, 2002 @09:15PM (#4241962)
    A couple of points.

    Although http://www.thebigchoice.com/ validates as good html 4.01, the CSS file it uses doesn't validate as correct CSS:

    http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/validator?uri =h ttp://www.thebigchoice.com/

    You might want to make sure both your HTML and CSS are correct. cyan and darkblue are not valid standard colors. Try aqua and navy respectively or use full rgb values.

    Also, the site seems to be hardcoded to use X pixels horizontally. This could annoy users of devices that can only display way less than X pixels horizontally.

    Also, it could actually annoy future users with very high resolution displays because the whole website will take up a tiny fraction of the screen. I see there are already 3840x2200 22" monitors [slashdot.org]. This would make your website appear about 5 inches wide on that screen at full resolution.

"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel