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Suck.com: Skin Cancer

Apr 12, 2000, 22:44 (23 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Greg Knauss)

"In a more aesthically advanced republic, most people wouldn't be allowed to decorate their own homes, much less design their own user interfaces. But who are we to judge if someone's got a thing for nubile teens? Unless, of course, the desire to serve that fetish starts to interfere with our ability to use the damned software. In a move that will leave future generations either snorting in disgust or doubled-over with laughter, Netscape 6 actually requires the skins, completely ignoring the look-and-feel of the operating system it's running on. For Netscape 6 users, skins have become more than amusing little graphical diversions: They've become the death of the standard interface. We have seen the future, and it is damned hard to use."

"The open-source Mozilla Project - of which Netscape 6 is a variant - goes so far as to include XUL, an entire user-interface language, in its bag of tricks. If simple visual skins are the moral equivalent of a tan and a dye job, XUL-based "chrome" is major reconstructive surgery. In what is admittedly an impressive technical feat, the look, position, and even the functionality of the program's controls are all subject to random whim. Mozilla skins will even be instantly downloadable via the Web. And you thought popup ads were annoying...."

"But on another level, Mozilla is an unmitigated usability disaster. Running on Windows, Netscape 6 looks nothing like Windows. Running on MacOS, Netscape 6 looks nothing like MacOS. Running on Linux ... well, no two Linux programs look the same anyway. In the end, Netscape 6 looks - and works - like Netscape 6 and only Netscape 6. By adding in all the flexibility of XUL, the Mozilla programmers have removed our ability to make the application use the native controls of the operating system. Thus, you have software incapable of looking like what the vast majority of users expect it to look like or working the way the vast majority of users expect it to work."

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