Those who have followed the WaSP for several years will remember the Browser Upgrade Campaign, a spirited attempt to get rid of old, weak, and infirm browsers that lacked support for Web standards through encouraging people to upgrade to new, strong, and healthy browsers with strong bones and a shiny coat and decent support for Web standards.
However well intended in theory, in practice, the tools we provided were often used (and abused) to deliver a resounding “screw you” to people who, like all of us, were just trying to use the browser they had to get a job done. No more evident is this sort of sad event than in our abuse mailbox, where we have received a small, but steady, stream of incomprehensible messages from the customers of banks, cellphone companies, and the like, who are just trying to pay their bills or get help with a new ringtone.
For example, this message just came through today:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Bob Morley) Date: Fri, 7 May 2004 06:48:45 -0400 To: email@example.com Subject: PROBLEM GETING INFO ON WIRELESS ACCOUNT WHATS 109 SEE CINGULAR.COM MEAN MY PHONE SAID 109 SEE CINGULAR.COM BUT IT WAS UNREADABLE
Sadly, we tried to contact Cingular by the usual role accounts the last time this sort of thing came through, and the messages bounced.
You see, it’s not just Web standards that need to be supported, it’s basic Internet conventions, too. Like having and monitoring postmaster, abuse, and webmaster accounts in any domain that supports email or Web service. Or, barring that, providing some contact information on said Web site.
And, in case it’s not clear yet, it should be possible, in this age of Web-browsing cell phones, for a paying customer to visit your Web site in any browser they choose, and for them to get useful content, not a slap in the face for using the very products they’re presumably paying you to use.
For shame, Cingular, and everyone else who has failed to observe basic Internet conventions and Web standards, for shame for telling paying customers they can’t use your Web site with the browser you gave them.
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