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Suck.com: Skin Cancer

“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.”

Complete
Story