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Re: Alternatives to the W3C

  • From: Elliotte Rusty Harold <elharo@m...>
  • To: "Dave Winer" <dave@u...>
  • Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000 10:16:05 -0500

stylus studio mac
Dave Winer wrote:

>We've had this discussion at length on my site, and reached a conclusion.
>There are two types of developers in the world:
>1. Web developers, who must look at the content exactly as their users look
>at it. For these people, today, that's MSIE 5.x on Windows, not any content
>handler, that specific one.

These developers are deluding themselves. MSIE 5.x is less than 50% 
of the current installed base. Even within that subset, users have 
different fonts, different default window sizes, different monitors, 
etc., etc., etc. Competent  developers who understand the Web know 
how to design without limiting themselves to the 1% or less of the 
market that has web browsers set up exactly like their development 

Or perhaps these developers are simply arrogant and don't care about 
their users. I've certainly met enough unreconstructed artists who 
couldn't make a living at art, printed some new business cards, and 
now call themselves web designers. But they don't really care whether 
or not anyone can use their site as long as they maintain the purity 
of their artistic vision.  In fact a lot of these egotists get a kick 
out of doing something that the masses can't see. They think that 
means they're cool or cutting edge. (I think it means they're 
idiots.) Sites that really want to communicate with readers like 
amazon.com or the W3C site don't rely on fancy tricks that aren't 
accessible to the masses.

I saw an interesting quote on your site today, Dave. Here it is:

Jeremy Bowers has the neatest Manila trick I've seen. You can expand 
and collapse items on his home page, day by day. Apparently Jeremy's 
site crashes Mac browsers. Some Mac users think we should only use 
features that work on Macs. Someday the Mac will catch up and we'll 
want to know how to do this stuff. Enough waiting. Buy Macs as web 
browsing machines with your eyes open. You won't be able to use all 
the sites on the web, until Apple catches up.

You actually seem to think it's acceptable to publish a web site that 
crashes users' browsers! This is the height of hubris. You want every 
one to change their computers and browsers so they're exactly like 
yours. And if they don't, then they deserve it if they crash. How 
obnoxious can you get?

Now, I would say that it's first the responsibility of the browser 
not to crash no matter what; and of the operating system to make sure 
that a misbehaving application doesn't bring down other apps or the 
OS. Nonetheless, if I know that my site is exercising a bug in a 
browser, I will work around it, one way or another.

Leaving that aside, I'll give you a practical example. You, Dave 
Winer, Userland, have lost business because your site doesn't work in 
all browsers. Personally, I think you're an interesting (if 
occasionally frustrating) guy, and I like reading what you have to 
say. But probably 50% of the time I try to follow a link from 
scripting.com deeper into your site or an Edit-This-Page site, 
something goes wrong. Eventually I learned to stop following links 
that go to your own site. It probably won't surprise you that most of 
the time I'm reading from Netscape on a Mac. No big deal, you can 
write me off by telling me to buy a PC, or for that matter, to use 
the PC I already own. I won't do that. It interferes with my work 
flow. You're not that important to me.

Now what impact has this had on you and Userland? Directly, not much; 
but indirectly the effect has been huge. It so happens I've written 
what is right now the bestselling introductory text on XML, which 
thousands of people a month are using to learn what XML is and what 
it can do. Do you know how many times Frontier, XML-RPC and all the 
other interesting things you've been doing with XML are mentioned in 
that book? Zero, nil, nada, not once. Why? Because although I 
considered writing a chapter about XML-RPC or whatever you were 
calling it a few months ago, I knew that I couldn't reliably get 
through to all the crucial information on your site. So I wrote about 
something else instead. No big deal for me or my readers. There are 
lots of exciting things going on with XML that I can write about 
instead. But it's a big deal for you. (Well maybe not a big deal, but 
I suspect it's ultimately worth a few sales to you).

I also run one of the five most popular XML news sites on the web. I 
do occasionally mention XML-RPC or other ideas you've had, but not 
nearly as much as I would if your site were actually reliable. In 
fact the most common thing you'll find about you and your products on 
my site is a quote from you, because I can do that in pure HTML on my 
site without worrying about whether your site will be accessible to 
my readers. (My site, by the way, should be accessible to everyone 
from Netscape 1.1 up. If it's not, I consider it a bug.)

Who else are you losing Dave? Maybe not many people, but maybe more 
than you think and maybe some key ones. Back around 1995 I clearly 
remember demoing a site to a potential client and watching with 
horror as he pulled up his browser, some  custom version of Spry 
Mosaic which couldn't handle the tables we used on our demo site. 
Maybe everyone else in his company was using Netscape (which had 
about 90% of the market at the time) but we lost the sale 
nonetheless. After that I quickly learned to test all my sites in 
Mosaic. I may not do that any more but I damn sure test them in 
Netscape 3 on a Mac and a lot of other browsers. I want readers to 
enjoy my site. I want them to come back to my site. I don't want 
their browsers to crash. And if that means I have to do a little 
extra work, or forego a few cool browser tricks, then so be it.

| Elliotte Rusty Harold | elharo@m... | Writer/Programmer |
|                  The XML Bible (IDG Books, 1999)                   |
|              http://metalab.unc.edu/xml/books/bible/               |
|   http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0764532367/cafeaulaitA/   |
|  Read Cafe au Lait for Java News:  http://metalab.unc.edu/javafaq/ |
|  Read Cafe con Leche for XML News: http://metalab.unc.edu/xml/     |

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