Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Netscape Browser Obsolete - Officially!

Thank God! The end of an era as AOL officially retires Netscape Browser!

Why do I say "thank god!"? Well, as a software developer that has to write HTML-based web sites, I welcome the fact that there will be one less "mainstream" browser to test my websites with. Honestly, I have considered NetScape hardly worth verifying web layout / rendering with for at least a year or two now, but this gives me an official reason to not concern myself at all with it.

I can not even imagine the countless millions of man-hours wasted creating "cross-browser compatible" web sites. Billions and billions of dollars are wasted every year with this ridiculous complete waste of time - making a web page or web site "look the same" and "behave the same" in multiple browsers. Talk about a futile effort and one with zero net benefit to humanity! What a waste of time!

Everyone takes the web for granted, and viewing of web sites in their browsers for granted, but with the current mess of incompatibilities and inconsistencies that exist between the way HTML and CSS code is rendered, web development is still a complete nightmare. I'm sure you have hit web sites that "don't look right" in your browser. Or, you have seen sites that look fine in one web browser (perhaps Internet Explorer, or FireFox, or Safari, or Opera) that don't look right in another. Or, better yet, the site looks fine at the "default" or "normal" text-size, but if you dare to increase the zoom-factor, you suddenly face a web-site with tons of overlapping and garbled text and images!! Heck, just change the FireFox minimum-text-size options and start browsing the web and see what you run into - the web becomes a total disaster!

HTML is an absolutely lame way to present a user interface with any consistency, simply because the rendering engines in various browsers are as varied in their implementation (or should I say: interpretation) of underlying "standards" (CSS / HTML) as they are in the ways developers attempt to code to these varied behaviours. To this date (and for years to come I presume), I can't believe that people put up with this mess!

Why the hell can't all the major browser vendors at least use a single standard rendering engine for CSS / HTML!? For god sakes, you vendors can still do whatever you want to customize the browsing experience in addition, while still using a single, standard, rendering engine. I am of the personal belief that one engine needs to be chosen (maybe the Gecko engine used by FireFox) and an independent development group funded by anyone that wants to create derivative works (read: customized browsers) should be responsible for ensuring complete adherence to the published HTML / CSS W3C standards (including XHTML) and producing this sole HTML / CSS renderer.

Such action, though logical and quite possible, will never happen because of the egos that drive the splits between these various browser implementations. Microsoft will never give up their need to be completely in control of everything, and it is probably unlikely that the projects for FireFox, Safari, Opera, etc would ever all "play nice" together completely regardless.

So, we all pay for it. And yes, YOU pay for it too in ever product your purchase online too (web-site development costs are much higher thanks to browser incompatibilities, and you pay for it in your products!), in fact, even if you buy products at "brick and mortar" locations, you are still covering the cost of online retail sites - so there is no escaping the consequences of the browser-inconsistency-induced software development costs!

At least, for now, there is soon to be one less "major" browser to worry about. Thank God! And, I can only hope a few other "marginal" players drop soon, or at least follow my logic above and use a common rendering engine! Competition is good, but not at the cost of mega-billions in hidden (software development) costs spent trying to make something as simple as a web-site appear consistent in all of these browsers. We all pay for it. Don't forget that fact. Demand change, and welcome the day the browser (certainly the rendering engine) is seen, accepted, and adopted as the commodity item that it is!


DED said...

Billions and billions of dollars are wasted every year with this ridiculous complete waste of time - making a web page or web site "look the same" and "behave the same" in multiple browsers.

I said similar things back in the 90's when Netscape was king and IE was a piece of shit.

I worked for a web advertising company back then and I argued that there was too much effort being wasted on browser, OS, and screen size combinations that amounted to less than 1% of the public. IE3 on a Mac in 1998?! Get real!

Why the hell can't all the major browser vendors at least use a single standard rendering engine for CSS / HTML!?

You answered your own question in the next paragraph so I don't need to. :)

When I started my own company, I only worried about what browser/platform my clients used. I soon discovered that they were all IE on Windows. I tend to keep the bells and whistles in check so the specific versions didn't matter. At this point, there's so little variation out there (compared to how it used to be) that I don't worry too much.

And if someone needs to mess with their text size and it "breaks" the website, that's their problem. I never had a client complain about that.

While I develop for Firefox, I check it with IE. And if there's an inconsistency I can't fix, I go with IE (as much as it pains me) as it's still the dominant browser.

Mike Eberhart said...

The funny thing is that I nearly ALWAYS start with FireFox and then try to implement in IE, since I find FireFox the easiest to make things work with.

I'm looking forward to Internet Explorer 8, which Microsoft CLAIMS will be "standards compliant" and perhaps make some of this much easier (I can't help thinking how somehow it'll only get worse - it that is possible!).

Lars Olson said...

Yes thank goodness Netscape is done with. I say thank goodness instead of thank god, because I don't understand what or who god is, but I understand what goodness is.

Now we have google chrome and safari to develop for, in addition to firefox and IE. I don't quite understand why chrome and firefox are two separate projects and yet another browser to test in.