No JavaScript? No Service - WebReference Update - 020418 | WebReference

No JavaScript? No Service - WebReference Update - 020418

((((((((((((((((( WEBREFERENCE UPDATE NEWSLETTER ))))))))))))))))) April 18, 2002

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This week we take a look at JavaScript and mutual fund Web sites. Like the 2002 Olympic Web site, some financial sites rely on JavaScript for navigation. Accessibility anyone? In other news XML is the hot topic this week, with Amazon, Macromedia, and Google all announcing XML-based initiatives. Finally, AOL has switched to Netscape in Compuserve's latest browser. Will AOL 8 be next? *- link to us today *- newsletter home

New this week on and the Web:

1. FEATURE: No JavaScript? No Service 2. OTHER VOICES: * XML Excitement * Start Writing Web Services Today * Tech visionaries push the Semantic Web 3. NET NEWS: * Netscape, not IE, put on new CompuServe * Two-Thirds Hit the Net

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 1. FEATURE: No JavaScript? No Service

Remember the Olympic Web site accessibility fiasco? Shirley Kaiser and I wrote some stories questioning the wisdom of using frames and JavaScript for such a popular site. Well, it seems the dependence on JavaScript is not limited to the athletic web world. Mutual fund Web sites have become dependent on JavaScript. Case in point: Vanguard and Janus.

While watching the market's gyrations recently, I decided to call up Vanguard to "dip a toe" and add some more index to my IRA. Naturally I fired up a browser on the machine that I was on, and went to http:/ Unfortunately, some of the links on the Vanguard site depend on JavaScript to spawn new windows. At the office where I was consulting is what I call the "worst case scenario" machine. It's an old 68K-based Mac with IE2 on it. Without JavaScript, I found I couldn't find Vanguard's phone number. Contact information is one of the most important pieces of information a Web site can provide. I ended up going to to get Vanguard's number.

There's a similar story over at Turn off JavaScript, or use an older browser, and you'll get this message:

"JavaScript may be turned off or improperly installed on your browser. This may give you a blank screen when viewing our site (even if the page is done loading)."

It seems that Janus' use of DHTML drop-down menus precludes the use of JavaScript-challenged browsers. There are other examples in the financial world, but these two sites illustrate my point.

Relying solely on JavaScript will ultimately alienate your users. It is a relatively simple matter to make your menus or other gizmos gracefully degrade. Janus could provide straight hyperlinks under their top-level menus and Vanguard could lose the popup windows or tweak their links to degrade gracefully. Degrading gracefully is the sign of a thoughtful designer who wants to reach the largest possible audience and follows the credo "be nice to your users."

At WebReference, we follow this credo. Our DHTML news flipper gracefully degrades for folks without JavaScript. Using the Perl/DHTML version of News Harvester provides static news links, which are overlaid with dynamic DHTML stories. No matter what browser you have you can still see the news. Unless you design for a LAN and know that what every user has, designing solely for one technology or plug-in can be problematic (unless it is HTML of course). JavaScript should be used to enhance the user's experience, not create it. If you know of any other JavaScript- dependent sites, let me know. - News Harvester - Olympic Accessibility Various, April 2002

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. OTHER VOICES: XML Excitement, Start Writing Web Services Today, Tech visionaries push the Semantic Web

* XML Excitement

Macromedia, Google, and Amazon have all announced XML-based initiatives recently. XML is opening up the Web, Amazon's patents notwithstanding. Macromedia announced an open XML feed for developers to announce their latest gizmos. They also announced a contest for best XML feed, that ends May 15. Amazon has announced an XML interface for their associates site, and of course you've read about Google's Web API last time.

Our own XML expert Michael Classen has started a tutorial on using Google's Web API, and many others are working on various interfaces. Scott Andrew reports he's got two demos that use Mozilla's SOAP client functions to call the Google API via JavaScript. Josh Cooper has created a Moveable Type hack that allows you to return Google results into your weblog by adding a tag to your template. PHP, Python, TCL, Ruby, the list keeps growing. For the latest implementations, see Dave Winer's Google API list. Hat tips:, - SoapWare - Moveable Type - Mozilla 0.9.9 API - Google API Story - Google API Tutorial - Amazon Associates - Macromedia Contest Various, April 15-18, 2002

* Start Writing Web Services Today

Kyle Gabhart shows how to build a simple Web service with Java., April 2002

* Tech visionaries push the Semantic Web

By giving the Web meaning, we'll increase the capacity for automation. 2002/04/16/BU155164.DTL, April 16, 2002

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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 3. NET NEWS: Netscape, not IE, put on new CompuServe, Two-Thirds Hit the Net

* Netscape, not IE, put on new CompuServe

America Online on Tuesday fired the first shot in what may signal the rekindling of a Web browser war against Microsoft. Will AOL 8 do the same?, April 16, 2002

* Two-Thirds Hit the Net

Modest growth in the online population results in 137 million connected U.S. adults - with women taking the majority.,,5911_1011491,00.html, April 18, 2002

That's it for this Thursday, see you next time.

Andrew King Newsletter Editor, aking at internet dot com ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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