Posts Tagged ‘great browser war’

Vindaloo Fart

Thursday, February 9th, 2012
CSSquirrel #92: Vindaloo Fart

Featuring Remy Sharp, Tantek Celik and Bruce Lawson, today’s comic would make the perfect premise for a sitcom. I think “Three Developers and a Squirrel” would have a very nice ring to it. The comic also looks at the stinky mess we’re going to put ourselves into if we fail to recognize the problems of the past so that we can avoid repeating them.

In a move that threatens to undo over a decade of hard work to drag web development out of the horrors of the “Great Browser War” and educate developers to make forward-compatible, standards-compliant websites, the CSS Working Group recently discussed the idea of all browsers adopting -webkit CSS properties. Yep, you heard that right. IE, Opera, Firefox… all using -webkit properties.

This step appears to be intended to guarantee that their browsers will properly render websites being made by short-sighted developers who only bother using -webkit properties for advanced and experimental features in their websites even when the other browsers have their own test implementations such as -o, -moz and -ie.

Short version: They’re considering giving up and handing the browsers of the world over to a bunch of standards-blind morons for short term compatibility gains in exchange for long term problems that will make the current version of Webkit be the IE6 of tomorrow.

I’m not a member of the old guard. In the nineties I was in high school and pretending to be in college while making personal websites that were just short of visually hideous but definitely counted as nauseating. I didn’t know better. But thanks to the efforts of too many dedicated and educating web developers to name I was exposed to the concept of “web standards” and went about the process of learning how to do things properly.

I also landed a sweet job at Mindfly and became a member of the professional web world. All thanks to web standards.

As someone who’s been working on websites professionally for the past five years I’ve had my share of struggles with IE6 compatibility. I hate that browser more than I hate most other things on the planet. Intellectually I know it was the bee’s knees in its era. I don’t care. Its era was a long time ago and being forced to keep sites compatible with it due to the lack of standards in its era is a direct cause of hundreds of hours of suffering on my part. I’m grateful that it is now all but extinct, letting me concentrate on dealing with modern or near-modern browsers with a lot less cussing, sweating and crying.

As it stands now, Webkit is a pretty decent browser engine. Chrome is snappy. I like it. I’m using it right this second. But it’s also only as good as it is today. If we stop bothering to properly style our websites with a forwards-compatible approach, using all available browser extensions for experimental properties as well as the non-extension version of the properties for when they becomes available, then we’re daft. We will be putting ourselves at risk of making today’s Webkit the rotting zombie in the room that we’ll be screaming at in terror ten years from now. We, or developers after us, will be wasting countless hours and drinking more heavily in response to dealing with thousands of poorly-made websites that require compatibility with the -webkit properties we shortsightedly hung everything upon.

We need to stop this.

Need more information? Need inspiration on how to help? Lucky for you I’ve got a list:

  • Read Daniel Glazman’s Call For Action. He’s co-chair of the CSS Working Group, and he knows that this is a very bad thing that needs to be stopped. He even suggests how to do it.
  • Also read Remy Sharp’s article on the topic and his suggestions on how to help.
  • Take direct action and help Chris Heilmann Pre-fix the Web, rooting out Github projects that have gone down the dark side and get them forked back into the light.
  • Get Bruce Lawson’s perspective on the vendor prefix issue, taking advantage of the wisdom he’s gained in trying to educate against this exact sort of problem. Also see the first reference of the dreaded vindaloo fart.
  • And please read Eric Meyer’s pessimistic, but perhaps realistic, assessment of the issue in Unfixed.

Whatever you do, don’t be apathetic. Don’t think to yourself that -webkit only sites are professional or even remotely acceptable. Because they’re not. It takes very little effort to guarantee forward-looking, cross-browser websites with the vast majority of most modern CSS properties. Doing anything less for the sake of ease is lazy, unprofessional, and going to cost someone a lot of money and effort in the future.

If you do decide to only use -webkit prefixes, watch out, because Bruce Lawson will vindaloo fart on you.