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It’s Spring

By WaSP Member | June 10th, 2002 | Filed in Opinion

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The garden has masses of flowers, the tank tops have come out of storage, and the other day, I was walking a friend through some excellent, beautifully-done, just-created pages over the phone, and we weren’t seeing the same things. “Oh, she said, in an embarrassed tone. It’s just stupid old Netscape 4. That’s the official browser here at (well-known Ivy League university). No problem, I’ll just pop up (well-known modern browser).” And then everything was fine. The good news, you see, is that she realized right away it was the stupid browser’s fault; not the Web’s fault, not the Web site’s fault, not her fault.

From the WaSP’s point of view, it’s looking like a pretty decent spring. Among other things, we’re back! We’ve loaded up with energy, with new people, a mellow new site design to package up our still-passionate opinions, and you know what? The Web is getting way more standards-friendly.

The most popular browser in the world is pretty good at following the rules, the permutations of the Gecko engine (here are some: N M C) are all praiseworthy, and on top of that virtuous standards oatmeal is some pretty tasty rendering brown sugar; anti-aliased fonts are here to stay!

On top of that, we’re making some progress on the upstream/producer end of the problem.

But things aren’t perfect

See, four whole paragraphs without a snarl or a flame. It may be spring, but making the Web work better is worth a good temper tantrum any day. To start with, too many institutions (Ivy League Universities for heaven’s sake!) are still putting obsolete, klunky, painful, standards-oblivious, browser technology in front of their people. This is the worst kind of penny-wise pound-foolish institutional stupidity. (OK, on the bright side, our webserver logs are telling us the obsolete-browser head count is trending rapidly down toward 5%, but that’s still way too high.)

Modern browsers are not an optional extra!

More flameage is due to the huge proportion of websites that march blithely on with no concessions to accessibility; and a particularly thorough roasting is due those agencies of the U.S. Government, author of the excellent Americans With Disabilities act, who are totally missing the boat on this.

Accessibility is not an optional extra!

While we’ve made some progress on the authoring side, the vast majority of people who sell authoring products, and the community leaders among the people who do authoring, just don’t take standards seriously. “Oh yeah, that bureaucratic standards stuff… what I care about is (choose one: meeting my customers’ needs/graphical excellence/meeting my deadline).” Er, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, the future is coming your way, and it’s full of browsers that aren’t Internet Explorer and aren’t running on PCs and won’t cheerfully guess what it is your pitiful quick-&-dirty HTML is trying to say and don’t have the horsepower to figure out your eight levels of table nesting and stretched 1-bit GIFs. When that future arrives, your customers needs won’t be met/your graphics will look like iguana turds/your deadlines will be bad jokes. Get with the standards program, for your own sakes.

Standards-based authoring is not an optional extra!

But hey…

Spring is here, we think we’re gonna win, a big hello! to everyone and thanks for reading this far. We’re here to do some of the shouting and whining and jumping up and down, but it’s not standards organizations or loudmouths like us who are going to change the world, it’s the people who write and edit and publish and read and need this to work better.

That would be you.

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