There is a storm coming on the web...

... and Joel Spolsky of Fog Creek Software and the author of the blog Joel on Software has summed it up in a brilliant post on his blog. It's a little long but if you are a web developer or are even mildly interested in what is happening with web standards you really should read Martian Headsets. Be patient and read through his analogy because in the second half of the article he gets to the root of the problem.

This issue is important to Mac users because like it or not many sites continue to use IE as the standard for building their web sites. If you want to create a web site - or more importantly web application - that includes more advanced features like menu systems, JavaScript driven controls, etc. then the coming release of IE 8 could have a dramatic impact on how you construct your site. Joel gives a great background to the whole issue.

As I am currently in the process of building a web based application for public use it has a huge impact on me. Should I compromise the application's UI because I can't get the flexible data presentation grid that works everywhere? 

DIV based windows within a web application can dramatically improve the quality of the user experience, but if they look like crap or don't even appear they are going to kill the user experience anyway. JavaScript event handlers are critical to improving the reaction time for the application but will suck it if they don't work as intended.

I could build a Flash based interface but there are a large number of browsers in corporate environments that block Flash and it doesn't appear Flash will be an option on the iPhone any time soon. That's a market that I would like my application to be able to run in.

I know I'm going to support IE7, Firefox and Safari - which in itself is a huge amount of work, but is IE8 going to throw a wrench in that plan? The appeal to building web based applications over client based applications is that users don't have to download anything and you can build them to work on virtually any OS that has a good web browser. The definition of a "good web browser" is already suspect - with IE8 it may be nearly impossible.


Hungry Bill said...

This is really informative. Thanks for the link and 'splainer.

Si-man said...

Great article and thanks. For me this is part of the reason i think its time to move away from HTML/CSS/Web browsers/domain names/Google etc and to look at building client side personal internet information managers - i.e. personalized environment for connecting, managing and accessing information on the internet.

This could be a client based tool that would would offer a consistent display/manage rich content/use binary transfer protocols to allow interactivity and QOS management, it could be based on using webservice style data servers (binary not http) as well as location and personal identification/authentication management services etc.

Time to retool and change the way we work, we are currently building on a swamp of standards and for me its holding the development of the internet up.