Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

Browser Upgrade Campaign

Beyond the Browser Upgrade Campaign

Early 2001 was a difficult time for web developers. Although
browsers that supported common web standards were in good supply there
were a great number of browsers in active use that didn’t fall into
this category.

It is now the Spring of 2003 and the web has a much different
complexion. Many, many computers now have browsers with acceptable
support for web standards. Those computers that do not by now, may
never. With this in mind we at the Web Standards project feel its time
to retire the Browser Upgrade Campaign (BUC).

What was the BUC?

The BUC was created in order to give site builders a means for
educating their visitors as to the existence of web standards and
encourage those visitors to upgrade to browsers that supported
standards such as HTML, CSS and a standard DOM.

What were its goals?

The campaign’s primary goal was to help educate individual web users
as to the availability of browsers that did a competent job at
supporting common web standards and encourage them to upgrade.

Beyond that, the methods used provided a few options for web builders
who wanted to start using existing web standards, but who also feared
the impact that it might have on the significant portion of their
audience due to poor standards support in the popular browsers.

How did it work?

This initiative promoted two methods of calling out older browsers.

In cases where lack of standards support would merely result in an
awkward or loss of flashy appearance, site authors were encouraged to
embed a short message in each page explaining that things would look
and work better in a browser that supported standards.

In more extreme cases where this lack of support would result in the
inability to operate the site, builders were encouraged to forward
visitors to a page (hosted on that discussed why
they were not able to access the particular site.

So it’s over, huh?

The complexion the web of has changed — for the better. The
percentage of standards supporting browsers in use has increased
tremendously. The percentage of non-standards supporting browsers is
low and doing nothing but decreasing. Those older browsers still in
use are largely found in institutions where the choice of which
browser to use is out of the control of the person using the computer.
There are very few reasons to continue with the same course of action.

Did the BUC meet its goals?

It should be clear by the tone of this page so far that the campaign
was a success. The techniques promoted for the campaign were deployed
on thousands of web sites reaching hundreds of thousands of surfers.

Additionally, while not all site developers have made the transition
to standards based web sites, those who want to can do so with much
less fear then they may have had when this campaign was launched.

Where did it fall short?

The method of redirecting a visitor immediately—while its intentions
were good and its use was applicable in some situations—was too
easy to employ. As such it became an easy out for site builders who
didn’t want to bother with testing their sites in browsers like
Netscape 4, even if they were not concerned with the use of standards
based markup.

In a much more extreme case of misuse and abuse it appears that some
spammers latched onto the redirect method promoted by the BUC
documentation. They then abused it to redirect people both from inside
their mail clients and from advertised sites, suggesting that the Web
Standards Project was responsible for, or condoned, the unsolicited
messages. None of the sites we’ve seen that abuse this technique have
anything to do with the WaSP, and we condemn such abuse in the strongest
possible terms.

Learn more about how The WaSP Hates Spam and

What now?

Now that the playing field is more level, it is time for site builders
to make more of an effort to educate themselves on ways to take
advantage of the gains that have been made. In the coming months the
Web Standards Project plans on helping site builders learn more about
using standards intelligently and in a more inclusive manner.

The Web Standards Project is a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all.

All of the entries posted in WaSP Buzz express the opinions of their individual authors. They do not necessarily reflect the plans or positions of the Web Standards Project as a group.

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