What Happened to Browser Standards?!
by Collie Collier
December 2003 Firestarter
As you probably don't know, by profession I am a web site
designer. I take pride in my work, as I assume most competent
craftspeople do. However, recently I've had the most
incredible frustration in my job -- on this very web site! -- due to
the lack of browser compatibility or standards.
Standards are such a simple, helpful, wonderful concept.
Some informed body within a field of endeavor defines what the
basics are that everyone will fulfill. They then make these
standards public, and everyone uses them in order to create
Good examples are using a certain weight of stretched canvas
for painters looking for good canvases on which to paint, using
a certain quality of steel in the I-bars used for skyscrapers,
or mandating the President of the United States must be a citizen
of this country.
The sad thing is we do have standards for browsers, but due to
pressure from big industry corporations, the standards are either a
truly bare bones minimum, or ignored completely.
Microsoft should be ashamed of itself... but needless to say,
much like the bully in the schoolyard, they're far more likely
congratulating themselves on how well they're forcing their own
browser-specific desires on the rest of the industry. Jerks.
So why am I so frustrated? Take a look at this web site in a
variety of browsers -- and please note, I'm only listing a few!
Let's address Microsoft first, while we're still frothing quietly
about bullies. Well... rather, I wish we could.
Microsoft has simply abandoned Internet Explorer for
the Mac (thank goodness for Safari!). Microsoft has also been
informed of several truly egregious security breaches in IE
(6.0 is its most recent version) for Windows -- and has calmly
declined to address them.
This means unless you're willing to compromise your machine's
security, or your web site is straight HTML and not much
more... it simply can't be seen in IE.
Yes, I know HTML is a suggestion, not a command. Yes, I know
complex scripts can get tangled up in browsers other than those for
which they were designed.
Still, you should be able to hyperlink within a file! Simple
unless you're willing to open your machine to virus attacks by
the unscrupulous, IE is just... stupid.
At least in Mozilla (the latest released version as of this
chooses not to show form execution boxes. Don't ask me why --
I've not yet been able to figure it out. Also, once you've
managed to select a drop-down menu item, you can't use your back
button any more.
I must fix this somehow. I truly loathe web pages which
try to prevent me moving through their site as I wish, almost as
much as I hate web sites which try to force a certain screen size on
I don't think those folks understand how truly bad that makes
them look. I always immediately kill any site who tries that
crap on me. I guess I can at least claim I'm not trying to do
this deliberately on my web site, but that's cold comfort to
Finally there's the legacy browser which "makes fools of us all":
Netscape 4.* Argh... don't get me started! Anything
even remotely cleverly coded, or standards-compliant, seems to be
thrown out by it -- CSS is a lost cause.
Some types of links, such as the amazon.com associate links,
are rendered as straight HTML, for heavens' sake. Forget CGI
Let us hope the rest of E. T. Bell's quote comes true, and
"our only comfort is that greater shall come after." I wish them
the best of luck, now AOL's dumped them.
Standards compliancy... this is why I use Opera (7.23, in
this case) -- it is the most standards compliant browser. Let me
rephrase: it's the most aggressively standards compliant
browser out there! I really like that.
It's reasonably priced, and for that you get a browser
that's blisteringly fast, secure, can block pop-ups, and is
user-friendly. There are versions for Windows, Linux, Mac,
and even a category called "Other." Ah, customer service --
what a concept.
It'd be so nice if we could all just pick a good,
consistent, comprehensive set of standards... and stick
to them! Wouldn't it be lovely if we could simply tell
Microsoft we didn't give in to bullies, and they should
get with the program?
*sigh* Well... I can keep on dreaming. Hopefully by
the new year we'll have everything ironed out, and my Firestarter
column will be less of a rant and more thought-provoking.
16.04.04: Kelly's Comments
Oh... just read your Dec 03 bit on browser standards. Amen,
sister! I spent ALL DAY today beating my head on the desk trying to
work out some problems. Grrrrr. Seeing as the web stuff is most of
what I like about my job, it's no wonder I'm insane. ;)
I really need to get Opera installed here on my new computer. IE
gets SO pissy when you won't allow it to have cookies and scripts
and pop-ups. Spoiled brat. ;)