Current Glamour: Happy Meal
: Alternative Style—Working With Alternate Style Sheets
Recent Project: Standards–Compliant Style Guide
Recent Thinking: Redesign on a Shoestring
2 November 2001
In Issue No. 126
of A List Apart
, for people who make websites: Alternative Style—Working With Alternate Style Sheets
, by Paul Sowden. CSS meets the DOM: After explaining the basics of alternate style sheets, Sowden shows how to make them work in IE, Mozilla, and Netscape 6.
Sowden’s easy–to–implement Style Sheet Switcher requires no back–end programming and is entirely standards–compatible. We dug it so much, we’ve started using it at ALA and right here on the Daily Report. (See the Jakob Nielsen Corner, above right.)
At ALA, the Switcher enables visitors to choose larger type—helpful to folks with poor vision, those who over–drive their monitors, and people who simply prefer large text to small. At zeldman.com, for the moment, it’s just a font–switching toy. We’re sure you’ll find interesting creative uses for the Switcher on your own sites. Go have a look
At Adobe Studio: Portrait of a Web Designer
. “Our favorite designers from around the world—their influences, peeves, and favorite cheese.”
, Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the web and director of the W3C, broke his silence on the RAND patent issue. Now he’s lambasting Microsoft for preventing folks who use non–Microsoft browsers from acessing MSN.com. See Berners-Lee slams ‘blatant’ MS browser tactics
at The Register, and see previous Daily Reports below for more about this issue.
1 November 2001
[12:30 | noon]
As you might have anticipated after reading earlier Reports
, “Trends in Web Design,” our last remaining seminar at Pix New Media
, has been cancelled. More in World Tour
The makers of the Opera web browser have issued a press release
on MSN.com’s claims of XHTML compliance and continued blocking of Opera users. (See also these previous Reports
Tim Berners-Lee: web royalties considered harmful
. It’s good to see Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web and the leader of the W3C, taking this stand ... or at least, dropping these hints that patent–encumbered “standards” could fragment the web.
Independent web designer/publisher L. Michelle Johnson celebrates her sixth year online
. Congratulations, babe!
31 October 2001
My Glamorous Life
No. 64: Happy Meal
Happy Cog, in cooperation with NotLimitedNYC, has produced Phase One of a standards-compliant Style Guide
for The Branch Libraries of The New York Public Library.
The guide is part of a larger effort to bring uniformity, accessibility, and compliance with W3C recommendations to The Library’s vast site.
Phase One of the Style Guide also makes a dandy tutorial for any web designer or developer working with XHTML and CSS.
30 October 2001
Believe it or not, we’re still receiving entries for Mr Jenkins’s Last Martini
, our ancient (started 1996) alcoholic haiku contest. Here are the latest
poetic gems. We disclaim responsibility for the bad writing, lousy (1996–97) design, and rotten markup. Enjoy.
So our Pix New Media seminars
have been cancelled, along with those of (in alphabetical order) Lance Arthur
, Carrie Bickner
, Eric Costello
, Joshua Davis
, Jason Fried
, Molly Holzshlag
, Chris MacGregor
, Eric Meyer
, Derek Powazek
, Todd Purgason
, and perhaps others.
is going to go on anyway. As far as we know, the talented and entertaining Jeffrey Veen
and Geoffrey Hiller
are still planning to speak, and it looks like we’re still scheduled to participate in a panel discussion
. In any other year, in any other place, Pix New Media would have been great.
29 October 2001
[noon | 11 am | 3 am]
The New York Times: After an Online Ruckus, Microsoft Opens MSN Site to All
. “The imbroglio was another example of how the Web is really regulated.”
: In spite of The New York Times’s
optimistic coverage, MSN.com is still unavailable to many browsers, and still does not validate
. Thanks to all who’ve continued to test MSN.com with a variety of browsers.
When interviewed by the mainstream press on complex issues involving web standards, we reply clearly and carefully, with an ear ever cocked to the nuances of the layman–friendly sound byte. Nevertheless, when the article comes out, we often find that our comments have been condensed into koans
of obviousness or meaninglessness.
What we actually told The Times
was pretty much what we’ve been saying in The Daily Report:
MSN.com uses old-style browser detection and invalid markup to look best in MSIE while blocking other, equally good browsers. Microsoft’s claim that the site’s problems point out the defects of competitors’ browsers is entirely spurious and can be easily disproved by anyone with even a mid-level knowledge of HTML.
All things considered, The Times
did a good job of translating this for non–web–developers, but the issue is more complicated, and the outcome (so far) less rosy, than The Times’s
While we’re clarifying things, Dave Winer’s complaint
that our recent PDN article
“rules out content management systems” is inaccurate.
What that article (cut by more than one–third before publication) actually says is, clients trying to improve their own sites in a time of diminished budgets should not mistake content management systems for a panacea. Good content management systems cannot fix bad writing, design, programming, and architecture.
Further, most commercial content management systems are absurdly costly and frequently require expensive maintenance. Manila
is an exception, as we’ve noted in previous PDN–Pix articles—most of which are now offline, due to PDN web publishing decisions over which we have no control.
Victor Davis Hanson
: “If the mass killing of thousands of our civilians in a time of peace ... mean[s] we are in a war, then a number of very difficult, but inescapable consequences must naturally follow.”
27 October 2001
To show how easily MSN.com could support “web standards” if it wanted to, Dylan Foley has thrown together an HTML-compliant version
of the site. “Took me five minutes this morning to get msn.com to validate using my trusty text editor and my good friend TidyGUI,” says Dylan.
26 October 2001
My Glamorous Life
No. 63: Day in the Life
Microsoft’s claim that MSN.com locked out competitive browsers in the name of “web standards” is easy to disprove by validating
MSN.com. Just for starters, the body tag includes the invalid, IE-only attributes “topmargin” and “leftmargin.”
Any professional web developer knows those proprietary attributes are not part of the HTML or XHTML standards. Moreover, they’re not needed, since you can control margins via CSS.
So why would you use “topmargin” and “leftmargin?” You’d use them if you wanted your site to look better in IE than in any other browser, and were willing to use bad markup to achieve that objective.
If Microsoft wants use invalid XHTML to build a site that looks best in its own browser, so be it; but don’t label the result “standards compliance.” It’s anything but. (In fact, the bad code at MSN.com is a slap in the face to Microsoft’s own browser engineers, who have worked long and hard to make IE comply with W3C “standards.”)
: the markup at MSN.com has been changed; “topmargin” and “leftmargin” are gone, and the site now generates a “FATAL ERROR” message when you attempt to validate it.
In a press release at Brainstorms and Raves, Opera Software has plenty to say
about Microsoft’s bizarre MSN.com tactics.
A List Apart
is down, following an emergency move to a new Apache server. It should be up again soon. Thanks to all who’ve written to tell us about the site’s disappearance. (Update: problem fixed at 3 p.m.)
[9 am | midnight]
We’ve finally secured replacement DSL after losing our long-standing service due to terrorist damage on September 11. Unfortunately, a SMTP issue currently prevents us from sending mail. We can receive but not reply.
It’s like that “Alfred Hitchock Presents” episode where a paralyzed Joseph Cotten, mistaken for dead, lies in an open casket prior to being buried alive. Cotten is saved when his eyes tear up, cueing the mourners to the fact that he still lives. Alas, we cannot mail our tears.
(Update: problem fixed at 6 p.m.)
Another Friday, another Photoshop Tennis
match at Coudal.com. This one pits Emme Stone of Sydney against Manila’s own Jose Illenberger. It’s happening live, right now.
Web Conference time: Pix New Media
, 1–3 Nov., Javits Center, NYC, will tackle issues of web design and content. See you there.
In Issue 125
of A List Apart
, for people who make websites: INFORMATION vs. EXPERIENCE—by Emmanuel King Turner. The conflict between presentation and structure reveals two views of the web.
Thanks to all who wrote to us yesterday about MSN.com’s decision
to shut out non-Microsoft browsers
in the name of “W3C standards”–a blatantly hypocritical rationalization for anti-competitive behavior. Properly implemented, W3C recommendations make sites more
accessible; they need not lock out anyone.
The new MSN.com blocks standards-compliant Opera 5 and Mozilla, yet supports Netscape 4.7, perhaps the least compliant browser ever foisted on the public. This dumb move on Microsoft’s part will surely hurt MSN worse than it hurts Opera and Mozilla users.
Meanwhile, W3C has its own problems. A recent thread
on the W3C Style mailing list points out the deficiencies of CSS2, a layout language that is supposed to free us from using HTML tables as design tools, yet frequently seems inadequate to the task. (Geek Factor: 9.)
25 October 2001
Honoring the first anniversary of Phyllis Zeldman’s passing. A few days before she died, we wrote this farewell