Making a Standard | 2
Making a Standard
All this thought and yet, I hadn't written a line of code. To say that as long as viewers were using the most recent version of whatever browser the my Web page would display fine was skewed logic. That would assume that everyone's using the latest and greatest. It should come as no surprise to find that there are hundreds of thousands of people who simply don't bother upgrading. Since Microsoft is in the habit of bundling their browser along with every release of Windows, a good percentage of Web users will end up using Internet Explorer simply because it's the easiest option.
To make matters worse, the version of Explorer that ships with Windows 98 is version 5. A version, which, while being moderately well behaved, still has a habit of going belly up when presented with what nowadays should be standardized code. And that's not the least of it; I've been to more than one government office that still uses Explorer 3. By creating a compliant site, I'd effectively (some would suggest ironically) alienate a substantial part of my audience. The question was would it be worth it?
Without constantly hacking work-arounds for troublesome code, I'd be able to focus on the art and elegance that has been sorely lacking in Web-based programming since its inception. Idealistic, and high grounded, certainly, but what about the short term? How many users will be turned down at the door, so to speak? Now, my for site, iononline.net, the problem is less pronounced. We don't actively promote our site on the Web.
Rather, we use it as a second-reference point for people who already know about us. Most of our hits will come around from a listener seeing the Web address written on one of our CDs, and if that's the case, then we're not going to lose money by not logging their hits. In addition, we can be moderately assured that if someone wants to find out about our band badly enough, the act of downloading a new browser won't be all that painful.
It's certainly something for larger sites to mull over, though. For some sites, each visitor is a potential dollar in the bank. And most of these visitors will be ethereal in nature, flitting through the site on a whim, and not likely to be as forgiving of elitist code (no matter how elegant it is). Writing pages that knowingly bar some users from accessing these sites is insane and to do so for seemingly little benefit is even more so. Wouldn't it be better to wait until a large enough majority of users upgrade, and perhaps then to think about rewriting the code?
But then, how long might that be? A month? A year?
The Revolution Will Be Standardized
The truth of the matter is that for however long developers are going out of their way to accommodate the lowest possible denominator, why should anyone feel the urge to upgrade? It seems that for as long as we are willing to write endless passages of ungainly, accommodating code, people will continue to use what they've always used. Worse yet, while we're willing to support browser specific "features," we're practically inviting the companies responsible for building our Web browsers to do whatever they please, safe in the knowledge that we'll find a way to work it in. And it probably serves us right.
I'm coding the new iononline.net site to be 100% standards compliant. I simply refuse to write my code more than once. It's been tested, and works on both Navigator 6 and Explorer 5.5. Assuming everything goes to plan, it'll keep working well into the future. And while the possibility certainly exists that I might lose my audience, it is not so great as the risk that I might forever be pandering to a disorganized, and self-defeating industry. Besides, there's no greater motivator than finding you no longer have the technology to view your favorite site.
Perhaps if we, as those responsible for piecing together the Web, refuse to write code for anything but the W3C standard, it'll be the Netscapes and Microsofts who'll eventually start writing their programs to accommodate us.
Nick del Pozo is a songwriter and performer for his band, Ion, and spends most of his time running Symbiont, an independent record label. In his spare time, he maintains the Ion Web site, as well as occasionally taking freelance jobs (both in Web, and the more traditional print media). Nick is currently located in Australia, where he spends too much time travelling between Canberra and Sydney. He can be reached at http://www.iononline.net and mailto:email@example.com.
Revised: January 26, 2001