12 Jul 2009 8 am eastern

Web standards secret sauce

When Apple chose KHTML rather than Mozilla Gecko as the basis for its Safari browser, some of us in the web standards community scratched our heads. Sure, KHTML, the rendering engine in Konqueror, was open-source and standards-compliant. But, at the time, Gecko’s standards support was more advanced, and Gecko-based Mozilla, Camino, and even Netscape 6 felt more like browsers than Konqueror. Gecko browsers had the features, the comparative maturity, and the support of the standards community. Apple’s adoption of KHTML, and creation of a forked version called Webkit, seemed puzzling and wrong.

Yet, thanks largely to the success of the iPhone, Webkit (Apple’s open source version of KHTML) in the form of Safari, has been a surprising force for good on the web, raising people’s expectations about what a web browser can and should do, and what a web page should look like. Had Apple chosen Gecko, they might not have been able to so powerfully influence mainstream consumer opinion, because the fully formed, distinctly mature Gecko brand and experience could easily have overshadowed and constrained Apple’s contribution. (Not to mention, tolerating external constraint is not a game Apple plays.)

Just how has mobile Safari, a relative latecomer to the world of standards-based browsing, been able to make a difference, and what difference has it made?

The platform paradox

Firefox and Opera were wonderful before any Webkit-based browser reached maturity, but Firefox and Opera were and are non-mainstream tastes. Most people use Windows without thinking much about it, and most Windows users open the browser that comes with their operating system, again without too much thought. This doesn’t make them dumb and us smart. We are interaction designers; they are not.

Thus, the paradox: even though Firefox and Opera offered powerfully compelling visions of what could be accomplished with web standards back when IE6 offered a comparatively poor experience, Firefox and Opera, not unlike Linux and Mac OS, were platforms for the converted. If you knew enough to want Firefox and Opera, those browsers delivered features and experience that confirmed the wisdom of your choice. If you didn’t know to want them, you didn’t realize you were missing anything, because folks reading this page sweated like Egyptian pyramid builders to make sure you had a good experience despite your browser’s flaws.

The power to convert

Firefox and Opera are great browsers that have greatly advanced the cause of web standards, but because they are choices in a space where most people don’t make choices, their power to convert is necessarily somewhat truncated. The millions mostly don’t care what happens on their desktop. It’s mostly not in their control. They either don’t have a choice or don’t realize they have one, and their expectations have been systematically lowered by two decades of unexciting user experience.

By contrast, the iPhone functions in a hot realm where consumers do make choices, and where choices are badges. Of course many people are forced economically to choose the cheap or free phone that comes with their mobile service. But many others are in a position to select a device. And the iPhone is to today’s urban professional gym rat what cigarettes and martinis were to their 1950s predecessors. You and I may claim to choose a mobile device based on its features, but the upwardly mobile (pardon the pun), totally hot person standing next to us in the elevator may choose their phone the same way they choose their handbag. And now that the iPhone sells for $99, more people can afford to make a fashion decision about their phone—and they’ll do it.

Mobile 2.0

Although there were great phones before the iPhone, and although the iPhone has its detractors, it is fair to say that we are now in a Mobile 2.0 phase where people expect more than a Lynx-like experience when they use their phone to access the internet. Mobile Safari in iPhone, along with the device’s superior text handling thanks to Apple and Adobe technologies, is changing perceptions about and expectations of the web in the same way social networking did, and just at the historical moment when social networking has gone totally mainstream.

Oprah’s on Twitter, your mom’s on Twitter, and they’re either using an iPhone or a recently vastly upgraded Palm or Blackberry that takes nearly all of its cues from the iPhone. Devices that copy the iPhone of course mostly end up selling the iPhone, the same way Bravo’s The Fashion Show would mostly make you miss Project Runway if you even watched The Fashion Show, which you probably haven’t.

Safari isn’t perfect, and Mobile Safari has bugs not evident in desktop Safari, but Webkit + Apple = secret sauce selling web standards to a new generation of consumers and developers.

Read more

  • Web Fonts, HTML 5 Roundup: Worthwhile reading on the hot new web font proposals, and on HTML 5/CSS 3 basics, plus a demo of advanced HTML 5 trickery. — 20 July 2009
  • HTML 5: Nav Ambiguity Resolved. An e-mail from Chairman Hickson resolves an ambiguity in the nav element of HTML 5. What does that mean in English? Glad you asked! — 13 July 2009
  • In Defense of Web Developers: Pushing back against the “XHTML is bullshit, man!” crowd’s using the cessation of XHTML 2.0 activity to condescend to—or even childishly glory in the “folly” of—web developers who build with XHTML 1.0, a stable W3C recommendation for nearly ten years, and one that will continue to work indefinitely. — 7 July 2009
  • XHTML DOA WTF: The web’s future isn’t what the web’s past cracked it up to be. — 2 July 2009

[tags]webdesign, webstandards, design, standards, browsers, CSS, webkit, gecko, mozilla, firefox, opera, safari, mobile, mobilesafari, iphone[/tags]

Filed under: Apple, Applications, Design, Google, HTML, HTML5, Microsoft, User Experience, W3C, Web Design, Web Design History, Web Standards

50 Responses to “Web standards secret sauce”

  1. Antoine E Butler Sr said on

    I agree only in the mobile space, I’m beginning to find the tiny Web-Kit (desktop) bugs (although few) more than frustrating.

    My question is, in an effort to ensure growing cross platform / manufacturer / and browser compatibility in the mobile market, when will mobile standards become an issue? Surely our current set of standards & recommendations will need to be augmented in order to meet the needs of handheld devices in the future.

  2. Edgar Leijs said on

    I use Firefox for some years now and i love the standards compatibility and the add-ons, something we all miss in other browsers, but since, the new Microsoft, Google launched a hyperspeed browser Chrome based on Webkit and Safari 4 is advancing, i now doubt if Gecko is the standard…

    I use all kinds of browsers to test, my neighbour doesn’t…

    I buy a phone for it’s features (like JZ says) but my sister for it’s status… so how much does it really matter for the consumer what technique there is underneath the skin?

    iPhone is consumer minded and they are good at it! but if it’s standard and if it’s good or a little bad? can’t answer you that one…

  3. Jonathan Snook said on

    Webkit has been expanding into plenty of other areas, as well, that shouldn’t be ignored. Of course, Webkit powers the dashboard widgets in OSX but it also powers the cross-platform capabilities of Adobe AIR and Titanium. It’s also in other mobile platforms such as webOS (and android? I can’t remember.). Sadly, Firefox and Opera are now playing catch-up, instead of being leaders.

  4. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    when will mobile standards become an issue?

    In theory, a mobile device understands and correctly supports (X)HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, so there is no need for separate mobile standards, and if you create a mobile version of your site, you do so for reasons of user experience, not because of technological limitations.

    m.flickr.com is a fine example of a mobile version created for reasons of user experience. The mobile version essentially fits the form of the page to the form factor of a hand-held device, and eliminates the clutter of choices that work on a large monitor but would create frustration on a small hand-held screen. It eliminates that clutter by presenting a smaller set of choices that are most appropriate to the device at hand (pardon the pun). This is UX design at its best.

    m.flickr.com was not created because of problems with CSS, (X)HTML, or JavaScript. It was designed to create great experience on today’s best devices, not to create a fair experience on bad devices. We should approach accessibility as smartly as the folks behind Flickr approached their mobile version design.

  5. hawkman said on

    As I mentioned, it’s not a bug, it’s deliberate behaviour – the body text size has been bumped up to make it readable when zoomed out so far. You can disable it, or control it using -webkit-text-size-adjust. See the page I linked to there, with -webkit-text-size-adjust: none; added for the <body> element.

  6. Antoine E Butler Sr said on

    In theory, a mobile device understands and correctly supports (X)HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, so there is no need for separate mobile standards, and if you create a mobile version of your site, you do so for reasons of user experience, not because of technological limitations.

    Perhaps best practices would have been more appropriate than “Standards”. Either way well said and I see your point in regards to the motivation behind creating a mobile experience. A less cluttered and perfected UX is what drove my decision to create an iPhone version of site.

    As a result I’m slow to fully support Android, Windows Mobile and potentially other mobile devices and platforms. Something that may have been more readily resolved with an established best practice in mobile design and coding practices.

    Then again, further research on my part may yield the same result.

  7. chad udell said on

    Great article and an interesting take on this decision that indeed had us wondering WTF in 2003, when Safari’s beta was released.

    Webkit really is a great and emerging platform, with Adobe choosing it for it’s AIR HTML renderer as well. Yes, there are a few bugs with it, and it seems that Safari on Windows is a bit of annoyance due to Apple’s intrusive way of trying to cram it in iTunes and Quicktime updates from time to time (I think this tactic has mostly been abandoned due to backlash).

    I do wish that there was a better way to directly target Webkit based browsers, a la Conditional Comments, but by and large it’s a good citizen of the web and the mobile version has proven that even a little browser can do well on the Acid test (Not a complete test on 2 or 3, but very close!).

  8. Michel said on

    //A sidenote: the iPhone in the USA starts from $99; but in other countries — in Europe, for example — its price can today often start from as low as… $600. No joke. I think that Apple have to do much more before they can make the iPhone really popular. The world is not USA, you know… ;-)

  9. Eric Eggert said on

    Michael: It’s 600€ without any contract. The price for the iPhone in the US is 99$ with contract, in Germany – for example – the iPhone 3G is 1€ with an 24-month contract, so it is even cheaper then in the US.

  10. Joe Clark said on

    What exact “text-handling technology” has Adobe added to the iPhone?

  11. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    The world is not USA, you know… ;-)

    Indeed it is not!

    On the price issue:

    Apple’s ability to partner with a single phone company in the U.S. enables that phone co to subsidize part of the consumer’s phone cost by amortizing it across monthly contractual service payments. Apple can sell a $300 phone for $99 because AT&T pays for part of the phone, and reimburses itself via a subscriber’s monthly fees over time.

    Europe frowns upon partnerships like this as being anti-competitive, and in many cases legislates against them. That’s mostly a good thing for people and companies in Europe. But it has the unintended consequence of preventing Apple from selling a $300 phone for $99.

  12. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    What exact “text-handling technology” has Adobe added to the iPhone?

    As you know, Adobe PDF is part of OS X Quartz. (Details.) When a person interacts with OS X via a Macintosh computer or an iPhone, they are interacting with the PDF drawing model.

  13. J Cornelius said on

    As our friend on Twitter remarked the other day, “well said”. It may also be worth noting that by nature of the device it’s highly unlikely we will ever have choice over which browser we use on our phones. This means that even if mobile Safari is much more advanced than the alternatives, the distinction will probably be attributed to the device-not the software-extending the paradox you describe above. How will mobile Safari convert desktop users if they (still) don’t recognize the choice is there?

  14. Craig Hockenberry said on

    It’s probably a good idea to mention the ALA article I wrote about the iPhone. Some of the mobile-specific features of WebKit are described in it.

    Also be sure to check Apple’s developer site: lots of great info for both mobile and desktop Safari.


  15. Steve said on

    Most people use Windows without thinking much about it, and most Windows users open the browser that comes with their operating system, again without too much thought.

    Generalize much?

  16. Craig Hockenberry said on

    @J Cornelius: I think the importance of another strong “default” is mainly due to the effect it will have on developers, not consumers. Another browser with dominent market share makes standards the path of least resistance.

  17. David A McClain said on

    The bit that struck a chord with me was that yeah, it’s not really “their” fault that they’re using IE, a browser that you’d be hard pressed to find any fervent support four outside of Redmond, it’s well…ours.

    Maybe it’s our jobs (those who don’t like this mess we’re in) to educate the users that there is something better. I wrote a brief post on that thought this morning. Although I’m not sure how to go about it, I’m sure that we should.

  18. Jeff Croft said on

    Great article, and I agree completely!

    Just one little nitpicky thing that doesn’t really matter, but I’ll point it out for the sake of accuracy: Apple technically didn’t choose WebKit over Gecko. They chose KHTML, from KDE’s Konqueror browser, over Gecko. Then, they forked it and branded their fork as “WebKit.”

  19. Neal G said on

    It seems that over the past year or two, Webkit has pulled ahead of the other rendering engines to become the most compliant, or at least supporting the most bleeding edge features. Many of the CSS3 features I would like to use were only available in Webkit, up until Firefox 3.5 was finally released.

    With that said, its good to give the other browser a little competition, or something to aim for even if few people use Safari.

  20. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Mr Croft is correct. I forgot about Konqueror. Thanks, Jeff!

    Mr Hockenberry is also correct. The apparent lack of resizing on this blog’s initial paragraphs isn’t because of a bug in Mobile Safari; it’s because Mobile Safari boosts text size for legibility, and the boosted size cancels out the size difference between paragraphs. I could override this with a webkit CSS rule, but if I did so, I would lose the accessibility benefit iPhone’s default rendering provides. Better not.

  21. J Cornelius said on

    @Craig I totally agree that more developers targeting standards is a good thing. The question is how much impact that will have on consumer behavior, and more importantly, on a certain browser vendor to play along.

    As Zeldman points out, most people stick with the default choice, and we all know Redmond is motivated by profit first, then by consumer behavior, with developer relations far lower on the list. Until the standards movement breaks through into impacting one of these top motivators it’s unlikely we’ll see the shift in adoption we are all hoping for.

  22. John Allsopp said on

    Or Jeff, you could create a simple iPhone only style sheet, using media queries ;-)

  23. roxstyle said on

    “In theory, a mobile device understands and correctly supports (X)HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, so there is no need for separate mobile standards”

    In Reality, PPK has done some great research with mobile browsers “there are hundreds of mobile browsers” and the differences in the way they handle javascript, in his podcast under YUI Theatre (April 2009)

  24. seutje said on

    Mobile Safari in iPhone, along with the device’s superior text handling thanks to Apple and Adobe technologies, is changing perceptions about and expectations of the web in the same way social networking did, and just at the historical moment when social networking has gone totally mainstream.

    I’d like to add that I find it rather disappointing that there is still no decent flash player that runs properly on Safari or Mobile Safari, which is making them lose a lot of users

  25. Stephane Deschamps said on


    Generalize much?

    I’m afraid not. Most people say “the internet” when they should mean “the browser”, and they have no idea whatsoever as to what a browser is, much less as to how one changes from their OS-native, out-of-the-box browser to one of the open-source browsers we all know. (“we all” is used relatively to this knowledgeable audience, hint hint)

    Generalizing too much? Certainly not. Knowing the real-world audience? Definitely.

  26. lupp said on

    “Sadly, Firefox and Opera are now playing catch-up, instead of being leaders.”

    How, exactly?

  27. Secret Sauce | Web Standardistas · Web Standards Design said on

    [...] Mr Zeldman on Apple’s web standards secret sauce: [...]

  28. Michael Bruns said on


    I completely agree. I run into issues of trying to explain to clients why a site looks one way on there screen and another on mine. Some user’s are more in tune with me and understand the differences between browsers and some seem to not care what browser they are using or how old, they want there site to look a certain way. It certainly puts me and my fellow developer (I’m the designer) in to a clusterfuck of a situation.

    This hits the nail on the head for me. As a designer I am constantly struggling with needing to create something the our clients and their viewers can see and use in “outdated” browsers :cough: IE6 :cough: and because when they look at it is seems fine to them, they don’t see a reason to upgrade. Now, I know some in the design and development community who would just like to not even bother designing for IE6 and leave it broken. By doing so however, you would alienate a large number of viewers who would then just go elsewhere rather than take the time to upgrade to a better browser. If large companies like Amazon or Best Buy did that, they would be up shit creek without a paddle.

    Lastly, I think it also boils down to statistics in some cases when it comes to creating that UX. For my company, the sites we do (mainly tourism promotion and regional magazines) we look at what browsers people are viewing are sites with and surprisingly to me, a good deal still use IE6, at least a percentage enough that means we need to keep our sites IE6 compatible. I think part of creating a good UX is not just trying to make the most solid and creative design possible but also designing for the people who are going to view it. This may have a counter productive aspect to it but at the same time, those viewers make up a large chunk of the viewing public that can’t just be ignored because they are using a “outdated” browser.

  29. Michael Bruns said on

    The last two paragraphs of my first post are supposed to be in response to this quote.

    If you knew enough to want Firefox and Opera, those browsers delivered features and experience that confirmed the wisdom of your choice. If you didn’t know to want them, you didn’t realize you were missing anything, because folks reading this page sweated like Egyptian pyramid builders to make sure you had a good experience despite your browser’s flaws.

  30. Hacker News said on

    [...] speed through multiple locations (webpagetest.org) 10 points by geeko 1 day ago | 5 comments118.Web standards secret sauce (zeldman.com) 12 points by mcav 1 day ago | 1 comment119.Reusable static sheets that turn walls (or [...]

  31. Molly E. Holzschlag said on

    I strongly agree with the “platform” selling issue you raise, Jeffrey.

    However, I am deeply disturbed by the ongoing mythologies about browses and their capabilities. In 2001, when IE6 was released, it had incredibly advanced features that we take for granted today – for the context of its time.

    Firefox 1.0 didn’t see the light of day ’til 2004, so you can’t compare those two. Opera offered many powerful features and vision, but it had a long way to go in DOM and JS at that point in history.

    I really wish we’d keep an eye on timelines. Way, way back when I was a journalist, we were supposed to do our research and get our dates, histories and comparisons as accurate as we could. We’d even utilize fact checkers for that.

    But I fear our frustration over IE6 is blinding us to some critical facts, which adds to the anger/frustration/problem instead of helping us pave the way for better interoperability.


  32. Troy Gilbert said on

    @Molly is right! I began doing web development professionally in the late 90’s and remember how IE was the “good” browser, and that supporting Netscape was the proverbial pain-the-web-developer’s-arse.

  33. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    @Molly, thanks for the fact check. IE6 was an amazing browser for its time—no one said otherwise—but its standards compliance was inferior to that of Mozilla. And Mozilla, Opera, and Webkit continued to advance w/r/t web standards while IE6 stood still for more than half a decade. Even more to the point, millions of people are still stuck using IE6 because their companies see no need to upgrade.

    So there are these teeming masses of people who, through no fault of their own, are either having an inferior experience vis-a-vis standards-based design, or (more likely) are having a good experience because developers tie themselves in knots supporting IE6—possibly at the expense of degrading their markup with all manner of non-semantic hooks needed to deliver the same experience in a nearly 10-year-old browser that is delivered to people who use IE8, Firefox 3+, Opera 9, Safari 3/4, or Chrome.

    This deformation of markup and reliance on CSS hacks retards the adoption of standards and deforms designers’ and clients’ understanding of the web, prizing print-like control over a more web-like give-and-take exemplified by progressive enhancement. Standardistas are fed up with IE6 not because it was a bad browser in its day (no one makes that argument), and not because we are simply tired of the endless hacks and workarounds IE6 demands if we wish it to deliver exactly the same visual experience as newer, more capable browsers. We object because this relic browser’s hold on the marketplace has a negative effect on the adoption and progress of standards-based design.

    My post, of course, was not about IE6. The point wasn’t “Why didn’t Apple use IE’s rendering engine when they created their own browser?” Naturally they were not going to do that. (For one thing, it was a Windows-only rendering engine.)

    Indeed, Apple was driven to create its own browser in large part because many developers in 2001 wrote code that only worked properly in IE6/Windows, excluding Linux and Macintosh users, Opera and Mozilla users, and so on. Apple couldn’t save the world, but they could at least do something to ensure that Macintosh users had a good web experience.

    (Yes, Microsoft had created a great standards-compliant browser in IE5/Macintosh, but the team that built that browser was immediately reassigned to other work, and Microsoft never allowed IE5/Macintosh to progress. Most likely, the part of the company that makes its living selling Windows OS didn’t want the part of the company that makes non-Windows software to offer Mac users a better experience than Windows users.)

    Apple couldn’t count on Microsoft to create a level playing field. So what did they do? After looking around, they took the KHTML open source engine in Konqueror, released their own version as Webkit, and built a fine browser around it. Some of us think it is the best browser on the web today. In some ways its standards support leads the pack. And its handling of typography has few serious competitors.

    In an all-desktop world, what Apple did by creating Safari would have helped Macintosh users have good web experiences, but it would not necessarily have advanced the cause of web standards—which was the actual subject of my post. Webkit has exposed non-Mac users to advanced web standards support and brilliant web typography via the iPhone platform. And that, however roundabout the genesis, is a win for web standards.

    The story’s point is that Apple did what it did out of pure corporate self-interest, not altruism or standards evangelism; yet Apple’s actions have elevated awareness and promoted the cause of open web standards. Sorry if anyone thought the post was about IE6.

    P.S. When I was a journalist for The Washington Post, we also had fact checkers, but designers writing informally on their personal sites do not have fact checkers. Sorry about suggesting that Firefox existed at the same time as IE6. Of course it didn’t. But Mozilla and Netscape 6 did, and they were the power behind today’s Firefox.

  34. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Fact check: have corrected opening paragraph to refer to KHTML before Webkit, and correctly reference Gecko browsers Mozilla, Camino, and Netscape 6 which were contemporary with IE6 and creation of Safari.

  35. Frank Jonen said on

    @Molly yes IE6 was an early browser and it was good in its time. But these days it’s nothing more than an expensive liability to companies that actually have to pay designers to do it.

    Being often on the receiving end of these lately costs are being cut and the first thing to go is the biggest chunk, names IE6 legacy support. So in that regard maybe the financial reboot we’re in is a good thing. It makes companies ask questions like “do we REALLY need this?” where before it was just “sure, have at at, every browser under the sun!”.

    @Troy Mozilla is still a pain in the a$$ at times. Way too often I have to redo large chunks of CSS just because Firefox renders them in a way that breaks the design. Not to mention that before 3.5 it was 100% colorblind. While it still doesn’t match up in 3.5 it’s much closer than ever before. It’s about 70% there in terms of color.

    That’s also a part no one in the web standards community really seems to bother with. Color. We now have displays that can hold color consistent for over 100 hours and then gradually fade along the X and Y axis in chroma space. So the average user will have a display that’s sort of calibrated when leaves the factory. Even Dell displays are useable now out of the box.

  36. Steve said on


    Generalizing too much? Certainly not. Knowing the real-world audience? Definitely.

    Really now, you have any hard facts to back up Zeldman’s fairly typical elitist statement that Windows users will open whatever they’re spoon-fed? Firefox became a viable platform due to Windows users making it popular, not OSX/Linux, whose Firefox install base is statistically insignificant by comparison.

    most Windows users open the browser that comes with their operating system, again without too much thought. This doesn’t make them dumb and us smart. We are interaction designers; they are not.

    Zeldman has used “they” in reference to the lowly Windows commoners, so who must “we” knowledgeable interaction designers be? Mac users, naturally.

  37. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

    Steve: You’re projecting your own hang-ups into the conversation. Nobody said Windows users were lowly, or that the majority of Firefox users aren’t Windows users. I said most normal people don’t waste brain cells thinking about user experience, operating systems, or browsers. They have other things to be getting on with, and they work with what’s put in front of them. Linux and Mac OS and non-default browsers are tastes for people who seek them out. Most people don’t. The sales figures tell you that.

    As a web designer, I put research into every project. So does our whole team. Research includes interviewing people who use a product or website or have a point of view about a service. These aren’t members of an elite group, they’re “normal” folks (for lack of a better word), and I can tell from hundreds of hours of first-hand experience, they mostly don’t care about web browsers and OSes.

    Published documentation backs this up as well. (As does common sense.) It’s not elitism, it’s just the nature of things.

  38. 일모리와 웹표준 said on

    [...] Web standards secret sauce » Jeffrey Zeldman 43 hours ago [...]

  39. Apple's mobile Safari advances web standards - Notebook | Web Style Guide said on

    [...] Zeldman has written a nice piece on how Apple's Safari (particularly the mobile version) has made quiet but important advances to [...]

  40. bayrak said on

    thanks man.

  41. Steve said on

    I said most normal people don’t waste brain cells thinking about user experience, operating systems, or browsers.

    You never said normal people, you said “Windows” users. Twice in fact.

  42. Jeffrey Zeldman said on


    I’m sorry if my words distressed you. It was not my intention to malign Windows users. That would be like maligning most of humanity.

    My point was simply that for many people, Windows, “the computer,” and “the internet” all sort of blur together as a platform they use to achieve business and personal tasks—a platform they don’t necessarily think about. Just like most of us who aren’t entertainment professionals don’t spend a great deal of energy thinking about, say, television.

    We may watch television, we may have favorite shows, favorite actors and news anchors, but we don’t analyze the five acts of the story when we’re watching a sitcom, and we respond emotionally to a close-up but don’t analyze why the director cut to it. Screenwriters, filmmakers and film buffs are likely to watch TV analytically. The rest of us aren’t. It’s just not our job.

    It’s not over-generalizing to say people in the film industry likely watch TV in a different way than people outside that industry. It’s not over-generalizing to say a user experience designer probably experiences problems on a website differently than a non-UX designer. And it’s not over-generalizing to say that those who seek minority platforms and browsers have different agendas and different interest than those who do not seek them.

    Mozilla and Opera have always appealed to an out-of-the-ordinary web user. And because they do so, to a certain extent they preach to the converted—just as a blog post about web standards is read almost exclusively by people who already care about web standards.

    People who enjoy their browser and OS don’t have a compelling reason to try a different browser. But they may well encounter a different browser when it’s time to replace their smart phone. Those who pick up an iPhone will experience Webkit, the open source, standards-compliant browser that powers Mobile Safari, AKA the web on iPhone.

    It was that point which I intended to make in my post. If through some clumsiness of word choice I led some readers to infer that I disrespect any group of people based on the computer they use, I regret the inadvertent transgression.

  43. Rudolph Kawasaki said on

    I agree with your point, but while the “out-of-the-ordinary-web-user” thing may be true about Opera, Firefox is a somewhat different story: it has a pretty high user base, for an open source browser (around 20-25%, if i remember correctly): it’s not a browser for web geeks only. A good number of “normal” windows users actively switched to Firefox mainly because they were fed up with security vulnerabilities in IE.
    Sorry for attempting a nitpicking action :)

  44. Not so fast, net nerds – The Tea Makers said on

    [...] but probably not using handheld CSS, that functions on any mobile device? (Works for Flickr; ask Zeldman.) Why tie the future to one pod? And since it’s so hard to type on a small device, why isn’t [...]

  45. Nice Web Type likes Bello and Proxima Nova said on

    [...] are supported by at least one popular browser though, and that browser's mojo is advancing our craft faster than you can say, “IE went to Sturgis and all it got was this [...]

  46. Justen said on

    That’s a really interesting take on the subject. The real head scratcher for me is not why Apple chose Webkit (I don’t bother wondering why Apple does what it does, I just wait to see if they’re right or crazy), but at this point why the Konqueror developers are still using KHTML. Correct me if I’m wrong but there is to date no Webkit-based Linux browser (though Google did announce a Chrome port recently). As much as I love Firefox as a dev platform, Chrome is just an all around wonderful user experience… but I digress. Why not port Webkit back to Konqueror for an out-of-the-box brilliant rendering engine to go with the out-of-the-box brilliant window manager that is KDE? Installing, customizing, integrating, and removing the horrible default theme on Firefox is such a bother.

  47. Justen said on

    On windows users – come on, seriously. I think 75% of Windows users is a large enough portion to make a generalization about without whining or argument. I can also guarantee you that very few of those 75% make an informed choice to stick to IE. Before I was a developer I was a technician, and I spent much time converting clients to Firefox – who would almost always return to tell me how much they loved it. I can only think of a couple who tried it and went back to IE. Surprisingly, my quite-set-in-her-ways mom loved Firefox and she is as default as it gets.

  48. Happiness in Business said on

    [...] das hier zu suchen hat? Alles! Lesen Sie den Artikel: So einfach wie nur geht! oder besuchen Sie Jeffrey Zeldman. Oder besuchen Sie Presentation Zen oder TED oder abonnieren deren [...]

  49. JanC said on

    @Justen: there are several webkit-based browsers for linux, both for Gtk & Qt-based environments, e.g.:
    – Epiphany (default GNOME browser) can use both Gecko & Webkit-Gtk as render engine
    – Midori also uses Webkit-Gtk
    – Arora uses QtWebkit & will be the default browser in Kubuntu 9.10
    – Rekonq is another QtWebkit-based browser
    – Palm’s WebOS browser is based on Webkit too (not sure which variant)

  50. Mancini Eleonora said on


    I would like to know what does “secret sauce” mean? Could you explain me it in other words??

    Thank you very much


Comments off.