“Looks Best in Browser X”

Folks on Techmeme are talking about browser-specific sites. The trigger here is a Microsoft showcase page, but it applies just a well to “HTML5 VIDEO” sites which use H.264 codecs, stiffing the most popular “HTML5”-branded browser.

Worse, the increasing complexity and patent costs of the WhatWG’s “HTML5” spec raises a barrier-to-entry for new software… a One-Laptop-Per-Child or $35 Tablet project can no longer afford to create grassroots HTML readers themselves, and will have to go with one of the big, established, and deep-pocketed browser vendors.

Browser-specific features truly Fork the Web.

It’s smarter to add advanced functionality through a common extension to any browser. Even if Adobe cannot quickly create Players for every possible environment, this would still let more people enjoy more functionality more quickly, while still retaining the basic markup which every browser should be able to read.

As a bedrock technology, HTML should be accessible to all. This requires resisting the pressure to make wordly webpages which discriminate against existing and satisfactory browsers.

4 Responses to “Looks Best in Browser X”

  1. Uri says:

    “a One-Laptop-Per-Child or $35 Tablet project can no longer afford to create grassroots HTML readers themselves…”

    Maybe true but least they can try. Relying on Flash instead puts them in a much worse position: all they can do is hope that Adobe decides it has enough to gain from putting its own resources into porting Flash to their platform, and then they are dependent on Adobe for the quality of the port. The ability to port the open-source WebKit to their platform gives them a lot more freedom than depending on Flash.

    “… discriminate against existing and satisfactory browsers.”

    Complete non-sequitur. You say that browsers should stay put supporting only “basic markup” and all advancement should happen in Flash, even while admitting that some platforms won’t have Flash at all. That’s certainly the ideal situation for Adobe but it is bad for everyone else and so absurd I don’t think there’s a need to explain why. Fortunately, it’s also as far from actual market behaviour as can be.
    And “discriminating”? Please. Just as much as Adobe is discriminating against users of Flash 7.

    • John Dowdell says:

      You tried to raise a few objections, but most are handled by re-reading the original…. 😉

      You started off by assuming all other HTML clients will just have to cope. I don’t agree with that assumption. HTML is used by more than just the glitzier edges of The World Wide Web… many Help systems, internal documentation systems and more use custom HTML renderers. Many older devices cannot upgrade their renderers. Many countries beyond the US use a great range of different HTML browsers. Dramatically increasing the requirements for new HTML clients has a significant impact.

      Flash content is usually a complement to the page. If you can’t see it, you can’t see it, as has been reiterated lately with the Apple devices. This complementary experience is distinct from the core structure of a page. As browser complexity increases, the chance that progressive enhancement will be invested in, by all the various content-providers of the world, will diminish still further (as is very visible in the recent showcase pages).

      As I said in the original “Even if Adobe cannot quickly create Players for every possible environment, this would still let more people enjoy more functionality more quickly, while still retaining the basic markup which every browser should be able to read.” Supporting cross-browser plugin engines is as valid and useful today as when Netscape 2.0 introduced it.

      WebKit is an interesting case, considering that the WebKit project’s governance brings in only certain non-corporate staff. I don’t know how it’ll play out, but it’s not really a good focus for an objection to what I wrote.

      “Complete non-sequitur.” Not. We’re talking about the realworld costs of increasing complexity.

      “…so absurd I don’t think there’s a need to explain why.” Usually I don’t even publish comments with text as useless as that. Argumentum verbosium.

      “Adobe is discriminating against users of Flash 7.” Compare:
      http://www.adobe.com/products/player_census/flashplayer/version_penetration.html
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Firefox_usage_share
      http://www.netmarketshare.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=2

      jd/adobe

      • Uri says:

        [jd edit: I removed all the paragraphs of text, and believe this remaining line shows why… better to ask someone what they think on a topic, than to rely on such faulty foundations.]

        You’re saying that browsers should implement only basic markup and leave all advancement in Web technologies to a single company, Adobe.

  2. Austin says:

    I think the point here is that anyone who has done ajax and development with js 1.0 knows how horrible of a language it is. And dealing with browser specific issues is a pain. I think that the adobe flash player is the bomb dot com. Look at how apple creaks to the pressure of wooing to adobe’s needs because all of the android phones are now coming out with a BA flash player – it might not be the best yet, but it’s AWESOME for the economy – look at what adobe is doing for us with all these new development opportunities. Nothing but love baby for adobe who makes stellar kick ass tools – photoshop, dreamweaver, after effects, catalyst. Adobe is smart, that’s all I got to say. Good post jon, I laughed my ass off after seeing the comparison. JS1.0 SUCCCCKSS !