Recently I flamed Internet Explorer, perhaps stepping a little over the edge. Thus touching a nerve and reaping a flurry of incoming links. Herewith more on browsers, CSS voodoo (including practical hints on organizing your stylesheets), WinForms, the death of IE, and the question of whether the browser still matters. And an apology. And a small request for QA help. Update: I was talking this over with Lauren, and she said: “I guess that means no more releases of IE for Mac.” Hadn’t thought of that.

(No, your eyes aren’t fooling you, you’re looking at a serif font which can be resized even by IE victims users. More on that below.)

Apologies? · So, should I apologize for (a) using the headline “I Blame Microsoft,” (b) saying Internet Explorer is stupidly, offensively out of date, and (c) saying it was an amateurish pile of dung? Hmm... No, no, and yes. The latest IE6 is, I believe, a direct descendant of, and still built around, the legendary “Trident” renderer/DOM tool built by Adam Bosworth’s band of merry men for IE4. It was an impressive piece of software and, when it arrived, a quantum leap forward in browsercraft. It’s just that the world and browsercraft have moved on, and IE hasn’t.

The Feedback · If you ask Technorati for links to my little rant, and read a few of them, you’ll encounter too much well-informed and interesting discourse on the subject to summarize here. A few high points though:

Bryan Bell\'s no-IE graphic

Bryan Bell gets a plug for his amusing signage reproduced right. By and large, the commentary was pretty enthusiastic, I hadn’t realized what a large community of IE-haters there is out there. And there are way more problems with IE than I wrote or knew about. The take-away is, if you’re reading this in Internet Explorer, you should seriously think about getting another browser, which will run faster and look better and do more.

What Már Örlygsson is saying sounds terribly serious if I could understand it, but do visit that page and take a long slow look at his photo.

Several commentators, for example Shawn Medero at 79decibels, confirmed my observations about the declining market share of IE at least among the geek tribe.

Via Scoble · Robert Scoble (whose budding career at Microsoft is becoming high-tension performance art) (and who is one of the Good People in my opinion) pushed back, saying that I was blaming them for all the Web’s problems, etc.

He got lots of commentary, some of it damn interesting, and now it gets weird; the Scobleizer comments seem to have a very short half-life, vanishing inexplicably.

There were a couple of good threads that I wanted to react to but now can’t find. One argued (reasonably) that those of us who want to control things like font sizes are fighting against the spirit of the Web, and that indeed is something that every Web typography weenie has to be carrying in the back of their head. But I think it’s OK to want to have control over the default initial typography in your work, as long you let the user override and exercise ultimate control.

The Browser Still Matters · Finally, there was a thread that said that the notion of running everything through the browser was broken anyhow, and what we really needed was something like WinForms, that would give the developer fine layout controls and richer UI apparatus like they used to have back in the days of Visual Basic.

This is another example of people Not Getting It. Why do you think the users turned away from VB to the browser? Because they by and large didn’t like what the VB programmers of the world did with those fine layout controls and rich UI apparatus. I can remember like yesterday a Content Management conference about 1997, a woman from a big computer company talking about how great it was when they switched their CM system over from custom clients to the browser: “It’s so great! The browser is so limited, so they had to throw away three-quarters of the buttons and sliders and pulldowns and options, and just do it with hyperlinks and simple forms... it was so much easier to use!”

For heavy authoring and graphics and so on, you need a native application. But a huge majority of business data processing is you interacting with a database off on a server somewhere, and as far as I can see, a Web Browser is still the best way to do that. WinForms? Pshaw!

IE Dead · Zeldman spotted it, but Steve Minutillo has the best write-up. This is astounding news; coupled with the MS/AOL deal, the browser scene today is on a different planet from where it was a month ago, and I for one have no idea whatsoever what the future holds.

Palatino! · Welcome to a shaken-down new stylesheet that renders the body of ongoing articles (but not the front page) in this nice serif font that is found on almost every computer in the universe. I combined lessons from Simon Willison, Owen Briggs, and a lot of tinkering to get here. For the moment, I’ve just switched it in for this page. If anyone sees any bad behavior or weirdness please do let me know.

Sorting CSS · A stylesheet tends to get disorderly and fragmented as it grows (mine do anyhow), to the point where it can be hard finding the style that’s affecting this paragraph X of class Y in context Z.

So what I eventually did was organize all the rules alphabetically by the selector, but right to left in the parts of the selector. That is to say,

#rightcontent a {

goes before

p {

goes before

table .pink

goes before

#bottom table {

I find it a lot easier to find things this way

Increasingly, trying to do design with CSS feels like programming in Assembler (while table-based layouts feel like RPG, if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry, only a handful of greying geeks, now smiling wryly, do); what we need is the equivalent of a high-level programming language for page design.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

May 30, 2003
· Technology (77 fragments)
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