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Reader Comments on Aardvark Daily 9 July 2002

Note: the comments below are the unabridged submissions of readers and do
not necessarily reflect the opinions of the publisher.


From: Annon
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: IE, Netscape, Opera

I am the lead developer for a highly successful online
store in the United States, with annual revenues in the low
NZ$Millions (as eCommerce goes, a pretty serious site).

I have been building websites of one kind or another for
about seven years now, and I come from a very much 'pure
code' background, where the idea of building browser-
specific sites has always been anaethema.  Coming from a
Mac OS background, I know all about platform (and now
browser) discrimination.

However, my client has told me NOT to bother testing my
code against Netscape (or other) browsers.  Why?  Because
it really does take a lot more time to develop cross-
browser web applications, and they're not prepared to pay
for that time.

Short-sighted?  Perhaps.  But this is the very real
commercial challenge that developers face, particularly in
the post dot-com-bubble era.

I highlight the fact my customer has significant earnings,
because they thus have reasonable development budgets.  If
a customer the size of mine doesn't want to pay to test
against other browsers, then who will!?

I'm sure there are exceptions to this, but my point is:
it's not my decision, as a developer, to build web
applications that are not cross-browser-capable, and I
would guess that nine times out of ten, that's the case

The people who pay for the development -- the marketers who
would rather spend their development dollars on
advertising, the bean-counters who ride them about budgets,
the CFO's and CEO's who want to crow about how cost-
efficient their business is -- are dictating the IE-only

And let's face it; if you were them, with their budgets and
their objectives and their timeframes, wouldn't you?  Would
the NetScape and Opera users REALLY seem that important to
you, if you were them?

It is simply not cost-effective to develop for more than
just IE when you're building anything of considerable size
or complexity.

Anyone that has tried to build web applications that rely
heavily on JavaScript is bound to concur, let alone trying
to satisfy requirements that are easily done with DHTML, or
ActiveX, or IFRAMEs etc but a nightmare to port across to
non-IE browsers.

People reading this might be tempted to scoff and
say 'Rubbish, if you build your code according to W3 spec
then it'll work on both browsers first time.'  I say to
them:  it NEVER works first time (on one browser, let alone
multiple!) and the dollars soaked up by testing multiple
browsers can (and do) kill projects in the pilot phase.

Back when we were building a US dot-com a month in '00, our
customers had venture capital coming out their ears, and
sure, we tested against both IE and Navigator (at least).

How things change.

In January, my registry file died and I had to re-install
all my applications.  I must admit, I didn't re-install any
Netscape products.

I wonder if, one day, I'll need to?

From: Andy
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: The IE Monopoly

As a website designer who has also struggled with the
question of whether to 'design for all' or just
concentrate on the industry-standard browser, I have to
say that I try to ensure pages I produce are at least
readble by others but don't bother to produce 2 or 3 page
versions that work completely as intended for all types.
It's simply not economic to do so.

The comment that maybe we are cutting out 10% of visitors
I find doesn't really stack up in reality - I've checked
site stats from several of the sites I've done and found
in all cases the ratio is 95-97% IE versions 5-6 and 3-5%
all others. It used to be more like 7-9% Netscape even
last year, but not anymore - sad in a way, but true.

From: Allister
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Browser Agnosticism

(OK, so that might not be a real word)

The problem with browser extensions and the like is that
damn near everybody has forgotten (or entirely missed) the
point of HTML.  HTML was designed to mark up the *semantics*
of a document, not the *presentation*.  The use of <b>old
and <i>talic tags has long been considered bad HTML.  Any
decent book on HTML will point this out (at least 5 years
ago this was true).  It will also point out that not all
browsers are visual.  You're not just saying 'if they don't
have the sense to use IE, to hell with them.' you're also
saying 'if they can't see, to hell with them'!!

The real problems in the industry were two.  First, CSS did
not appear on the scene quickly enough (in terms of actual
browser support) to be caught up in the web explosion.
Second, 'snazzy' became 'best'.  This last was possibly the
fault of so-called "web designers".  HTML is designed to
convey information, CSS to make it look nice.  The IMG tag,
believe it or not, was designed to provide accompanying
illustrations, not to actually make up the page.

Perhaps the saddest fact is that Netscape, until very
recently, had a shocking implementation of CSS (Netscape
4.x) whereas IE was released in several versions, each of
which improved on support for CSS.  IE 5.5 is actually very
good at rendering CSS 1.  Now Netscape 6.2 and Opera 6 are
also very good.  But it may be too late.

I have two websites, on which I do not support Netscape 4.x.
 This is not for reasons of snobbery, but simply because it
is too costly for me to support.  Netscape 4.x would hold me
back from doing things the way I want to - properly!

From: Mike Dawson
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Xtra network infected by worm?

For the second time in about a month I am being sent emails
infected with what I believe to be the Klez.E or a
derivative virus, through the Xtra network. This, most
recent, round of infected emails has been occurring for 12

I have spent many hours researching, tracing the original
source of the infection, forwarding header information, and
corresponding with various departments at Xtra, to no
avail. Even their auto-responder is in on the act, spewing
forth great gobs of rhetoric about how computer viruses

Xtra have admitted that they have infected clients, (I have
kept copies of all relevant correspondence), and have,
supposedly, dealt with the problem. This is incorrect as
the problem remains.

Further investigation reveals that this problem is
affecting users that are not in this particular "loop", and
it's worth noting that when I contacted Xtra by telephone,
their technician asked if the virus was Klez.E. This would
seem to indicate that the problem is widespread.

Xtra's handling of this situation has been ineffective and,
in my experience with them, totally unprofessional. Indeed,
all the correspondence I've had to enter into is adding to
the problem.

I have notified Xtra of my intention to take this matter
further, including informing various media organisations in
an effort to have the problem resolved.

From: Ian Connelly
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Netscape/Mozilla vs IE

After moving from netscape to IE a couple of years ago, I
have moved back  to Netscape with the release of 7.0 preview
release 1, and it is wonderful.  The tabbed browsing is the
best feature that has been added to this browser, once ou
have set it up so tabs open in the background, I can read
aardvark and click the links and the contents load in the
background, the icon on the tab changes once loaded.  It has
made browsing a much more pleasant experience through dial-up.

There are two sites that I currently revert to using that
horrible MS product - MS Windows update - to get OS patches,
and JDEdwards.com as their customer site only supports IE.
But I will still use Netscape for all my general browsing.

I have also recently converted to using OpenOffice.org and
it has opened every word document/excel spreadsheet I have
pointed it at wihtout an issue.  Open source is truely
moving through that stage where only the geeks used it into
mainstream applications with sufficient quality and
stability not to have to know all the ins and out of you
machine.  (Unlike the first time I compiled emacs/gcc on AIX
which took three days)

From: me.
For : Right Of Reply (for publication)
Subj: IE HTML Websites

I agree. The World Domination attempts by MS are going to
Long live alternatives.
And if I was unable to buy something from a webpage that is
not viewable by my browser (netscape) then I'll happily go
to a rival that is!

From: Don Mackie
For : Right Of Reply (for publication)
Subj: The Gooey

For what it's worth - The Gooey doesn't work with the
latest version of IE for the MacOS.

From: David Slack
For : The Editor (for publication)
Subj: Telstra Clear

Same here in Devonport. I switched to Paradise a couple of
months ago, and just in the last week I've been noticed
some difficulty getting fresh content on some pages.
(Including, to my exasperation, one I'm developing on my
site which sits on a server in Kentucky.)

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