3 Sep 2008 9 am eastern

A bug in Google Chrome

Between hurricanes and hericanes, you could easily have missed the technology news. Released yesterday in public beta, Google Chrome is a standards-compliant web browser created to erode Microsoft’s browser dominance (i.e. to boost Google’s web dominance) while also rethinking what a browser is and does in the age of web apps and Google’s YouTube.

The new browser is based on Webkit, the advanced-standards-compliant, open source browser engine that powers Apple’s Safari for Mac and PC, but Chrome currently runs only in Windows. You figure that out.

Here are the new browser’s terms of service.

And here’s an important early bug report from Jeremy Jarratt: Google Chrome wrongly displays alternate styles as if active, thus “breaking” websites that use them. (Here’s more about alternate style sheets, from Paul Sowden’s groundbreaking 2001 A List Apart article.)

To compete with Microsoft, the new browser must offer what other browsers do not. The risk inherent in that proposition is a return to proprietary browser code. It is not yet clear to me whether Chrome will compete the wrong way—offering Chrome-only features based on Chrome-only code, thus prompting Microsoft to rethink its commitment to standards—or the right way.

Competing by offering features other browsers do not (easier downloads, streamlined user interface) or by consolidating other browsers’ best features (Opera’s Speed Dial, Firefox’s auto-complete) avoids this risk, as improvements—or at any rate, changes—to the browser’s user interface have no bearing on the display of existing web content.

Competing by supporting web standards ahead of the pack, although not entirely without risk, would also be a reasonable and exciting way to compete. When one browser supports a standard, it goads other browser makers into also supporting it. Because Safari, for instance, supports @font-face, Firefox is not far behind in supporting that CSS spec. @font-face raises font licensing problems, but we’ll discuss those another time. The risk that concerns us here is when a browser supports an emerging specification before it is finalized, thus, essentially, freezing the spec before it is ready. But that is the traditional dance between spec authors and browser makers.

For web standards and web content, we once again live in interesting times. Welcome, Chrome!

[tags]google, chrome, googlechrome, beta, software, browsers, standards, webbrowsers, webstandards, bugs, standards-compliant, alternatestyles, alternatecss[/tags]

Filed under: A List Apart, Ajax, Applications, Browsers, bugs, chrome, Design, Google, Microsoft

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17 Jun 2008 6 am eastern

ALA 261: CSS layout redux; in praise of prototyping

In Issue No. 261 of A List Apart, for people who make websites:

Faux Absolute Positioning

by Eric Sol

CSS layout is awesome, except when your layout calls for a header, a footer, and columns in between. Use float, and content changes can cause columns to wrap. Use absolute positioning, and your footer can crash into your columns. Add the complexity of drag-and-drop layouts, and a new technique is needed. Enter “faux absolute positioning.” Align every item to a predefined position on the grid (as with absolute positioning), but objects will still affect the normal flow (as with float).

Sketching in Code: the Magic of Prototyping

by David Verba

The rise of Ajax and rich internet applications has thrown the limitations of traditional wireframing into painful relief. When you leave the world of page-based interactions, how do you document all but the simplest interactions? Flowcharts and diagrams don’t work. Prototyping saves the day by focusing on the application and conveying its “magic.” Prototypes can help you sell a decision that is fundamentally or radically different from the client’s current solution or application. Sit a stakeholder down in front of a working prototype and show him or her why your approach is compelling.

[tags]css, layout, ajax, prototyping, information architecture, design, faux absolute positioning, webdesign, alistapart[/tags]

Filed under: A List Apart, Ajax, CSS, Design, Information architecture, Layout, Publications, Publishing

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