posted 12-07-2001 09:40 PM PT (US)
[I had a conversation yesterday which reminded me of this rant, originally posted elsewhere.]
As a web site designer, I'm faced with the decision of whether or not to support Netscape.
Netscape, unfortunately, doesn't follow standards, which results in web site designers having to write special code so that pages will display properly in Netscape browsers. This is a royal pain in the butt, and as a designer I ask myself, "Why do you let people who make bad choices (like using Netscape) make you do extra work to support them?"
But, let's back up a bit. What do I mean when I say, "Netscape doesn't follow standards"? Usually, when we see a comment like that, it's levied at Microsoft and Microsoft's browser. Those comments, levied at Microsoft, are the result of muddled thinking. Microsoft, as the industry leaders, set the de facto standards (at least where browsers are concerned); "standards" set by any other organization are not standard at all - but rather wishful thinking.
So, Netscape goes its own way, fails to follow what the rest of the world (Microsoft and thier users) are doing - and ignorant web users with misplaced loyalties use the Netscape browser (and often they'll give idiotic reasons for doing so such as, "I use it because it's not made by Microsoft"). Then these Netscape users browse the Internet and can't figure out why pages don't work as their designers intended.
Well, I've been sitting here, today, trying to decide what to do about this issue:
A) Make my pages off limits to Netscape users by redirecting them to an IE download page at Microsoft when they try to access my site,
B) allow them into my site and have things not work right - which, because they are ignorant about why, will result in them thinking I'm a poor web site designer with screwed up pages, or
C) spend hours rewriting special code to make the pages work properly regardless of which browser is used.
I have decided against "C" - in spite of the fact that, in most cases, I know how to make the pages show properly to Netscape users. Why? Well, if people were to write special code to make Netscape display pages properly, that would just compound the problem. More people would tend to use Netscape, because they'd find that Netscape works - and the more people who use Netscape, the more important it would be to support Netscape with extra special coding.
I have just checked the statistics for browser usage:
Internet Explorer 5.x: 51%
Internet Explorer 4.x: 26%
Unknown or older.....: 06%
Internet Explorer 5.x: 77%
Internet Explorer 4.x: 09%
Unknown or older.....: 05%
In one year, the percentage of net surfers using Netscape has been cut nearly in half. Now, more than ever, it's important that web designers ignore Netscape and the "needs" of Netscape users; they are no longer a force to be recognized. With continued lack of support for these people, we can eliminate the extra work that they've been levying upon us for years.
And, I'd like to give a special thanks to AOL for this. From their help files:
What Web browsers can I use with AOL?
America Online is capable of running third-party applications, such as the Netscape browser, over the AOL connection. We have a special version of Netscape designed to be 100% compatible with America Online at Keyword: Netscape. Microsoft Internet Explorer is included with the America Online software.
AOL, in spite of purchasing Netscape in 1998, continues to use Internet Explorer as their default browser. AOL, of course, IS a force to be recognized, and they're doing an awesome job, here, making life easier for web designers everywhere. Thumbs up, AOL.
(Incidentally, the common lament that "AOL SUCKS" is simply not true; AOL users suck. AOL is very very good at getting older people and other "newbies" to [finally!] get their butts on the Internet. These computer illiterate people are very hard to help - and if you're someone unfamilliar with AOL software, then forget it - you're just going to end up frustrated. The tendency is to blame AOL for this frustration, but the truth is, those newbies would be having just as difficult of a time regardless of which ISP they use.)
[My choice, incidentally, was "B" - however, I put up a line that says that their browser is at fault for things not working correctly, with a link to download IE.]