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Caspian.twu.net: Pride and Prejudice: The Platform War Comes to the Web

Jul 22, 2000, 16:38 (14 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Caspian)

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"A large part of what I do in my spare time involves running a non-profit Web (and e-mail, among other services) hosting provider called The Web Union. Aside from the lack of a profit motive, TWU is a relatively unremarkable hosting provider as far as user base goes. This means, of course, that I host a few Mac OS users, a sprinkling of Unix users, and vast legions of Windows users. Hundreds of them. Most of them use IE to get to the site, and that's alright with me. I certainly make every effort to ensure that the TWU pages, as well as my own personal site, look just as nice in IE as in Netscape (or Lynx). In fact, things were going just fine in this arena until recent events prompted me to take action."

"A few months after my users started peppering their sites with pro-IE buttons, though, I began to notice a far more disturbing trend. A small but growing number of my users' sites were completely unviewable in my browser. By this, I don't mean "ugly"-- I mean broken. Some of them would display as blank pages in my browser, but would work fine when I would start up IE for Windows in an emulator ... Others displayed (poorly), but could not be navigated. ...but only when viewed outside of IE. In short, a growing number of my users' sites were unviewable to me. Not only could I not see, for purposes of personal curiousity, what sorts of uses my server (which I pay for out of my own pocket) was being put to, but I couldn't even patrol the site for violations of TWU's few and simple rules!"

"Slowly, surely, without anyone noticing, the Web is bieng transformed right under the world's collective noses. It is being transformed from its initial state-- where pretty much any site would work pretty much okay in pretty much any browser, running on pretty much any OS-- to a new state, perhaps best named "Microsoft World Wide Web 1.0 for Windows." The concept that Web sites can (and should!) be made to work properly in multiple browsing environments (browsers, OSes, even font loads!) is slowly being degraded to the point where many users don't even know that it exists; when it is introduced to them, their reaction is, as often as not, apathy. What's most disturbing about the new trends in Web design is that the devolution of the Web from a platform-neutral medium to a platform-specific medium hasn't been prompted by corporate bribery, meaningful technological incentives or intrusive government regulations. It's been prompted by the collective apathy of tens of thousands of Web developers, and the collective ignorance of millions of Web users."

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