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The Daily Report

16 June 2003 :::

3 pm | 11 am est

ALA 158: Accesskeys – Unlocking Hidden Navigation

In Issue No. 158 of A List Apart, For People Who Make Websites: All your favorite applications have shortcut keys. So can your site, thanks to the XHTML accesskey attribute. Accesskeys make sites more accessible for people who cannot use a mouse. Unfortunately, almost no designer uses accesskeys, because, unless they View Source, most visitors can’t tell that you’ve put these nifty navigational shortcuts to work on your site. In “Accesskeys: Unlocking Hidden Navigation,” Stuart Robertson unlocks the secret of providing visible accesskey shortcuts. Dig in and have fun.

Many have asked when ALA will provide an RSS feed. It will do so as soon as we finish redesigning the site. The old design is tired and unattractive, and less usable than it ought to be, in part because the old architecture points to the wrong things and does not point to the right things. All of this will be fixed soon. :::

W3C needs you

A few days back, The Daily Report commented on the unhelpful error message language of the W3C’s free online CSS and Markup validation services. (We also wrote to the group responsible for the development of these services; although their resources are few, they welcome and encourage your comments.)

Our pals Olivier Thereaux and Karl Dubost at W3C tell us that lack of manpower is the single greatest impediment to improving the W3C validation services. The CSS validator is developed in Java; it is handled by one W3C member (Phillippe Le Hegaret) and one volunteer (Sijtsche de Jong). The markup validator is crafted in Perl by three underappreciated volunteers: Terje Bless, Nick Kew, and Ville Skytta.

If you want to do something for web standards, and you have the time and technical knowledge, you can help the W3C improve these free, essential products. Download the markup validation service source code or the CSS validation service source code and be part of the solution. :::

Worth your time

Typorganism presents a series of creatively engaging visual experiments designed in Flash: check “Visual Composer” and “Good News, Bad News.” XPAIDER offers free bitmap fonts in a clean-edged presentation from the same stylistic school as K10k and GUI Galaxy, but with its own sharp charm. Pixeltable Studios has redesigned beautifully in CSS. Design Matters discusses the virtues of white space and the basics of fonts, color, and alignment – and unlike some online design tutorials, Design Matters’s stuff looks as good as it reads. Swedish pop bands will bring tears to your eyes.

Emilio Vanni’s JnkMail is a well designed personal blog and portfolio. SimpleBits offers yet another take on the quest to replace 10K of junk code and GIF fragments with a few lines of structured markup and CSS: its CSS Mini Tabs are sweet.

Asterisk has launched a conversation about the use of weblogs for marketing and PR. CreativePro’s Chuck Wegner explains how fonts really work in Mac OS X. Linked from everywhere else, but you may have missed it anyway: Martha’s New Digs. (People can be so cruel.) Inspired by ours, Andy King launches a banner campaign on behalf of his superb book, Speed Up Your Site. Spiderweb Studios offers a small but nice collection of downloadable desktop backgrounds. :::

More IE5/Mac perspectives

Our friend Tantek, father of the Tasman rendering engine, contributor to the CSS and HTML working groups, and inventor of the Box Model Hack, describes how he found out the product he gave three years of his life to had been cancelled. Tantek also links to third-party posts discussing IE5/Mac’s demise.

Eric Meyer explains the benefits of innovations IE5/Mac introduced, all of which helped the cause of web standards, and still do: no matter what browser or platform you favor, much of this stuff probably found its way from IE5/Mac into your browser of choice. (Which is why we get a little nuts when people who don’t know the history put IE5/Mac down.)

Interestingly, we may still get standalone IE5/Mac upgrades for a while. Microsoft will release IE 5.2.3 for OS X later today, claims the Mac News Network. :::

Conspiracy theory

Dave Winer puts the death of IE5/Mac into context, concluding “It took [Bill Gates] ten years to erase the web as a threat. It’s done now. He owns it, it’s in the trunk (I know you don’t like to hear this), it’s locked, and they’re driving it off a cliff into the ocean.”

The timing of recent events bears out Dave’s thesis, at least as far as Microsoft’s intentions are concerned. The U.S. government found Microsoft guilty of having criminally abused its monopoly power to crush competing Internet-based businesses. Yet the government did nothing about it. The AOL lawsuit posed a problem for Microsoft; so Microsoft bought off AOL. Only after AOL took the money did Microsoft quietly let slip the news that it intends to kill its Mac and Windows browsers. (And in fact, we now learn, some eighteen months ago a few Microsoft marketers told a designer friend that the company intended to kill its own browsers once all the legal hubbub died down.)

By its recent actions, Microsoft seems to believe that if consumers want the Internet, they will use the next version of Windows to access Microsoft-based web services and MSN content, and to download XBox patches. And some consumers will do just that. But consumers have a choice.

By its recent actions, Microsoft has also made dupes of its employees who contributed to web standards. In light of recent news, it appears the company tolerated these employees’ activities because they pacified the developer community.

Yet regardless of Microsoft’s intentions, those standards did make it into all recent browsers and the availability of browsers that commonly support CSS1, XHTML, some of CSS2, and the DOM is changing the way designers and developers create websites. And that will not stop. So long as we design with standards, we and the end-users on whose behalf we toil will continue to have a choice. :::


Although it works fine in our copies of Mozilla, several readers have told us about a problem when viewing our site in that browser. One reader did something about it. Bugzilla Bug 209217 describes the bug, which has now been confirmed by Mozilla Quality Assurance engineers, and will hopefully be fixed soon. :::

13 June 2003 :::

5 pm est


The rumors flew all day, but we held off until we had it from an unimpeachable source. Jimmy Grewal is a key member of the Mac Internet Explorer team and a stand-up guy. He confirms that IE5/Mac is dead.

There is much that could be said. IE5/Mac, with its Tasman rendering engine, was the first browser to deliver meaningful standards compliance to the market, arriving in March, 2000, a few months ahead of Mozilla 1.0 and Netscape 6. On a mailing list today, Netscape’s Eric Meyer said, “I don’t think people realize just how much of a groundbreaker IE5/Mac really was, and how good it remains even today.” IE5/Mac introduced important innovations such as DOCTYPE switching and Text Zoom that soon found their way into comparably compliant browsers like Navigator, Konqueror, and Safari. And all but Text Zoom eventually made it into IE6/Win, Microsoft’s most compliant Windows browser to date – and the last one they will ever make.

Bafflingly, after attaining dominance on both the Windows and Macintosh platforms, IE stopped evolving. In the past three years, its existing competitors at Netscape, Opera, and the open source Mozilla project greatly improved their browsers, and new competitors flooded the market, but IE/Win and IE/Mac stayed as they were.

That might sound like the complacence of victors after throttling an opposing army. But inside Microsoft, nobody was slacking off. Our friends there, we knew, were working on improvements, particularly in the areas of CSS and DOM support. Yet in three years, no significantly new browser version ever came of their activity. IE6/Win still has trouble with parts of CSS1, still does not support true native PNG transparency, and still does not incorporate Text Zoom. IE5/Mac, which had worked well in OS 9, became flaky under OS X, and a minor upgrade did not fix its problems. Even die-hard IE5/Mac fans began switching to Camino, and, when it arrived, Safari.

Some who switched may have done so on the basis of features like tabbed browsing or popup blocking; others, because of the improved standards compliance in Gecko browsers like Camino and Netscape. But mostly, we think, the switchers were behaving instinctively. With Camino or Safari, you felt you were using a living product that was continually improving in response to user feedback. With IE, you wondered if the browser was ever going to improve. Microsoft’s browser engineers were busy working on something, but their activities took place behind a (figurative) corporate firewall.

Over the past weeks, the stories we and others have been covering (including the unavailability of an improved version of IE5/Mac outside the subscription-based MSN pay service, and the news that IE/Win was dead as a standalone browser) suggested that, in spite (or because?) of winning the browser wars, MSIE was on its way out. And now we know that that is the case.

We know that, after spending billions of dollars to defeat all competitors and to absolutely, positively own the desktop browsing space, Microsoft as a corporation is no longer interested in web browsers.

We know that, on the Windows side, it will eventually release something that accesses web content, but that “something” will be part of an operating system – one which won’t be available until 2005, and won’t be widely used before 2007. We don’t know if the part of the upcoming OS that formats web pages will be more or less compliant with W3C recommendations than what we have now. Neither do we know if the OS components that handle web browsing will support CSS3 and other specifications that will emerge during the long years ahead in which Microsoft offers no new browser.

From here, as it has for several weeks now, it looks like a period of technological stasis and dormancy yawns ahead. Undoubtedly the less popular browsers will continue to improve. They may even gain in market share. But few of us will be able to take advantage of their sophisticated standards support if most of the market continues to use an unchanged year 2000 browser.

But enough, and enough, and enough. We are glad of the latest versions of Opera, Mozilla, Konqueror, Safari, and Omniweb. But on this grey and rainy day, this news of a kind of death brings no warmth. To Tantek and Jimmy and their colleagues on the IE/Mac team: for what you achieved on behalf of web standards and usability, much respect. :::

12 June 2003 :::

10 am est

We stand corrected

It turns out only 99.29% of websites are obsolete, according to a thesis that examined 2.4 million web pages. Kindly ignore our earlier estimate. Hat tip: Bill Mason. :::

Language of design

We don’t speak German, but Lambertin & Grotegerd is clean and beautiful in any language. Under that lovely surface, the site is made of valid XHTML 1.1 and CSS. But the first time we ran Lambertin & Grotegerd through the W3C’s CSS validation service, we encountered an incomprehensible error message:

“I/O error,” huffed the validator, as though that were all that needed to be said.

The Validator FAQ explains that “I/O error” means the site’s systems administrators neglected to set the text/css MIME type on the server. (They have since done so.) This is a common problem. It might be less common if the CSS validation service used human-friendly language to explain errors clearly and tell how to fix them.

In February 2002, we said that the W3C’s free online tools could easily be made much more usable if attention were paid to the language with which they report errors. Over a year later, we’re still waiting for the W3C to take the hint. Confusing, abstract language makes well-intended people give up in frustration. Clear, usable text would lead to fewer server or code problems, and more sites that follow W3C recommendations.

Better writing is the most affordable usability improvement you can bring to your product or service. :::

Auto popups dead?

For years, artsy designers have used self-launching popup windows to exert total control over every aspect of their site, including the size of the visitor’s browser window. It doesn’t work any more.

Since Mozilla 0.9, most modern browsers have given users the ability to turn off self-launching windows. And most of us do just that, thereby eliminating unwanted popup and popunder ads. This also means we can no longer see your self-launching porfolio site. Word to your mother. :::

11 June 2003 :::

5 pm | 3 pm est

DMXZone interview

“We were interested in enhancing our ability to design and in simplifying our jobs.” DMXZone’s Bruce Lawson interviews Jeffrey Zeldman about peace, love, and web standards. :::

Adobe cleans up

Page 28 of Designing With Web Standards cites a Zeldman article produced by Adobe as evidence that browser-specific style sheets do more harm than good. As originally produced, and as seen in the book’s screen shot, that article and others were hard to read in many browsers because of conflicts between several generations of overly complex (and overly platform specific) style sheets. Handsome Bill Merikallio of Scott Design actually fixed the page’s CSS (and that of all our other Adobe articles) back in January. Thanks, Bill! If the book makes it into a second edition, we’ll replace the screen shot or revise its text. DWWS readers, please be advised. :::

Never one to sit on his hands when there is a problem to be solved, Dan Rubin found a way to force IE5/Mac to display our book site’s CSS sub-nav the way other modern browsers do. Dan’s version is identical to ours, except that he added a semantically meaningless span element around the text of every list item. The added tags are boldfaced in the snippet below:

    <li id="homebook">
<a href="/dwws/" 
title="[title text]">

Dan’s solution is simple and it works. But it also wastes bandwidth on nonsemantic tags to force a display issue in an uncooperative browser. This is the very problem designing with standards is supposed to solve. It’s not our goal to find fault, but to point out how pervasive old school methods are, even among forward-thinking developers. While we greatly appreciate Dan’s help, the Hypocrisy Police would toss us in the hoosegow if we used this method on a site for a book that recommends using clean, structural markup.

NYC designer Andy Arikawa tackled the problem by tweaking our style sheet instead of our markup (demo | CSS tweak). This approach makes sense from a standards point of view, as it confines its visual adjustments to the presentational language of CSS. But while it works on Andy’s site (and might work equally well on yours), it breaks on ours as it interacts with other style sheets:

Close, but no cigar. Andy's CSS tweak.

It may be hard to tell from the screen shot, but when Andy’s CSS tweak is deployed here, Roman text incorrectly becomes bold, and the height of the navigation “buttons” breaks. The highlighted item is the correct height; non-highlighted menu selections are few pixels shy of a full deck.

Other readers’ proposed CSS tweaks line our email in-box. Between their efforts and our own, we hope to find a solution soon. :::

2005? Are they kidding?

We’ve commented several times on Microsoft’s announcement that the existing version of Internet Explorer for Windows will not be improved, and that if Windows users hope to see better standards compliance in a Microsoft browsing environment, they will have to buy the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn. Reader Chris Moritz called our attention to a comment by Microsoft’s Robert Scoble indicating that Longhorn will be available in the year 2005. Which is another way of saying Microsoft’s browsing environment won’t change for at least two years.

In other words, for the next two years, 85% of the web using population will have buggy support for CSS float, no support at all for adjacent sibling selectors, and no hope of PNG transparency unless developers are willing to write proprietary, IE-only code or deploy sophisticated JavaScript workarounds to make IE/Win do what other modern browsers do natively. Not to mention IE/Win ’s known caching problems with background images and its insistence on displaying the a:active state even when a link is no longer active. Can anyone tell us how two more years of flawed standards support is supposed to be a good thing?

The other day, while opining that developer-led anti-IE campaigns were astronomically unlikely to change consumer behavior or to reverse AOL and Microsoft ’s recent business decisions, we tried to look on the bright side: We pointed out that IE/Win is not that bad. But you know what? It’s nowhere near good enough to stay as it is for another two years. :::

10 June 2003 :::

4 pm | 11 am est

Tom Sawyer’s fence

Reader Dave Anderson tracked the cause of the body id problem in the book site’s new sub-nav: a missing comma between two CSS rules made browsers see the two as a single rule. Thanks, Dave.

Dan Rubin discovered a stray ASCII quotation mark following one of the rules. The W3C’s CSS validation service did not catch this error, nor did any browser appear to be bothered by it, but we took it out anyway. Thanks, Dan.

As with any CSS or code on this site, if you’d like to copy or modify our horizontal nav bar style sheet, feel free. (View source on the book site to see the simple markup structures that the style sheet’s rules hook into.) :::

Mini-site refreshed

We’ve updated the mini-site for Designing With Web Standards. It now provides information and downloads and is organized into sections. The horizontal secondary navigation bar is a structured XHTML list, as described in the book. An id attribute applied to the body tag triggers the “you are here” indicator – an idea Eric Meyer suggested to us over a year ago, and one that is used to superb effect on Kalsey’s CSS tabs with submenus (see The Daily Report of 23 May).

Oddly, the body id method failed on two of the mini-site’s sub-pages, possibly due to a coding error we haven’t spotted yet. So on those two pages we cheated a bit by using an embedded style sheet to achieve the same effect. When we figure out the problem, we’ll recode; meanwhile, the improved mini-site is available for your use and pleasure.

One other CSS note: in all browsers tested, the nav bar text is correctly centered, except for IE5/Mac, where text hugs the left edge of each nav block. Likewise, in all browsers tested but IE5/Mac, the entire area of each nav block is clickable – an important accessibility enhancement for those with limited mobility. In IE5/Mac, only the link is live. This may be due to a flaw in our CSS, but we think it is equally likely to be an IE5/Mac bug.

If so, the bug may have been corrected in the recent IE5/Mac upgrade, but to get that browser you must subscribe to MSN, and we feel no more compelled to do that than we would be to subscribe to AOL. We have nothing against either service: they help millions of people use the net. We have a problem with the notion that Microsoft browser improvements will henceforth be tied to products like MSN or Longhorn, but we don’t blame the engineers for decisions made by marketing, and we’ve already covered that ground. :::

Meyerweb redesigns

Speaking of Eric Meyer, that gentleman has just unveiled a site-wide redesign based on positioning instead of floats. Redesigns might be more accurate: there are several to choose from (the updated Natural is our favorite), and, as at CSS Zen Garden, each deliberately differs from the next. Eric also found ways to achieve transparency effects across browsers despite IE/Win’s lack of support for true PNG transparency and its problems with background attachment. This underscores one of our favorite things about the Eric Meyer brand: although Eric is a frighteningly proficient CSS expert, he applies his knowledge in practical ways. As a Netscape guy, Eric could easily create pages that look less than stellar in IE and shrug, “Hey, it works in our browser.” But then he wouldn’t be Eric Meyer. :::

6 June 2003 :::

12 noon est

A List Apart does Six Apart

A List Apart Magazine returns to the airwaves. In Issue 157, we interview Six Apart’s Anil Dash about his company’s upcoming TypePad, which may be the first standards-compliant publishing tool for the rest of us. Six Apart has understandably played some of TypePad’s features close to the vest; we are honored that they elected to tell their standards story in ALA. After reading, feel free to comment. ALA’s Tanya Rabourn produced the issue; Erin Kissane midwived. :::

Meet the Makers does DWWS

This week Brian Alvey of Meet the Makers interviews Jeffrey Zeldman about designing with web standards and the book of the same name. The in-depth, Rolling-Stone-style conversation covers the book’s genesis, rationale, and approach to its multiple audiences. More importantly, the interview makes the business case for adopting standards, and discusses how designers and developers can persuade clients and managers to hop on board. Meet the Makers is a series of free, one-day events for creative people in a technical world. :::

OmniWeb does standards

In the past, the OmniWeb browser lagged behind IE, Netscape, Camino, Safari, Opera, and others in its support for standards. Lag no more: OmniWeb 4.5 beta 1 now uses Apple Webcore, the same engine as Safari. Expect vastly improved compliance, with no rendering differences between Safari and OmniWeb – and transparent improvements to both browsers as Webcore is updated. Preferences and contextual menu options in the new OmniWeb reveal dream features such as View Source amenities that let you edit source and see how your changes will display. Hat tip: Todd Fahrner and Waferbaby. :::

4 June 2003 :::

2 pm | 12 noon est

Art Directors Club Gala

Seats are still available for the Art Directors Club’s 82nd Annual Awards Gala and Exhibition Preview, to be held tomorrow night in New York City. Most of the judges and many of the winners will attend, along with folks from Pixar, Adobe, and Getty Images. See some of you there. :::

Job(s) opening

Our friends at Apple inform us that they’re looking for one great web designer to join their team. If hired, you will work long hours with great people on one of the best-looking, best-branded sites in the commercial web space. Knowledge of CSS and other web standards is a plus, as long as you are first and foremost a skilled graphic designer. :::

One to one usability 101

Adrian Holovaty has been conducting a simple, homespun, first-person usability test across a spectrum of online news sites. On hitting each site, he attempts to find a contact address for its web editor. Today Holovaty tries his luck with a visit to, a midsized news site. :::

Design process revealed

Douglas Bowman of Stopdesign describes the creative process by which he arrived at his CSS Zen Garden entry, “The Golden Mean.” Our readers with a non-design background often ask where they can find insights into design as it relates to the web. Doug’s article may be their meat. :::

IE/AOL: the flip side

Last week we pointed out that the end of a standalone version of Internet Explorer, coupled with the AOL deal, raises questions for anyone who creates or uses websites. With some exceptions, so far the web design community has largely ignored this issue and its implications. But a few community members are determined to take action. One has proposed an anti-IE campaign targeted at consumers; another has urged a gentler, more positive spin on the same thing: a “luxury” campaign extolling the pleasure of using Opera or Gecko or Safari.

These ideas cannot work.

The anti-IE guy points to the success of The WaSP’s now-defunct Browser Upgrade campaign. Like many, he misunderstands what that campaign was about. Overtly, it was about increasing the speed with which IT departments and ordinary web users dropped 4.0 browsers in favor of newer, more standards-compliant ones, and it may have succeeded on that level in a minor way. Covertly, the campaign was about fostering a climate in which designers and developers felt freer to explore and use CSS layout, XHTML, and DOM-based scripts, which are the staples of modern web design.

The campaign succeeded on that covert level: first, many independent sites and weblogs converted to standards; then public sector sites began doing it; and finally commercial sites like ESPN and Wired took the plunge. Changing developer methods, not user behavior, had always been the goal. The campaign succeeded because of advocacy, but also because developers could see which way the wind was blowing: it was blowing toward new browsers and away from old ones. No such wind is blowing against IE/Windows. Nor is IE6/Win a bad browser, in spite of its lack of support for PNG transparency and its shortcomings with regard to CSS float and adjacent sibling selectors.

Yes, the fact that IE as we know it is dead outside an upcoming Windows operating system means that users of Windows 98, 2000, NT, XP, and so on will be stuck with these bugs or shortcomings until they buy into Redmond’s next operating system (in which the bugs may or may not be fixed). Yes, that means folks who build websites will be stuck working around those bugs for years to come. But no campaign by developers is going to change that – and we know how to work around those bugs.

Even if Longhorn stamps out the bugs, and even if it offers OS advantages and web services that benefit users, it will be years before most Windows users migrate. People do not change operating systems lightly, and IT departments are even slower than consumers to upgrade. Apple has spent millions on ad materials crafted by some of the best minds in marketing to persuade Windows users to switch, and OS 9 users to upgrade, to its OS X system. Yet in spite of the ads and the genuine advantages of OS X, 75% of Mac users still use OS 9 or earlier, and most businesses and consumers are still using Windows – and an old version of Windows at that. And this, in a realm where people actually give a damn.

Consumers don’t care about browsers. If they did, and if persuasion in this sector was effective, Opera and Netscape would advertise heavily and gain market share. Instead, last week, Netscape’s corporate owners accepted a fraction of Microsoft’s pocket change in return for agreements that will further diminish their own browser’s market share. If companies and their ad agencies cannot interest consumers in the advantages of their browsers, it’s unlikely that a grassroots effort led by few web professionals can.

Instead of tilting at windmills, we might spend our energy determining what the AOL deal and the death of a standalone IE mean in terms of the methods we use to create websites. It appears that we are about to enter a period of stasis, wherein we can reliably use the standards-compliant methods developed over the last three years, but not push the envelope beyond what IE6/Win can handle. There is both good and bad in that.

The bad is obvious: further dominance by one player, lessened innovation because of decreased competition, and de facto standardization on an imperfect platform whose eventual improvements, if any, will be locked to a single OS that comes complete with Digital Rights Management.

If you can’t see the good, here it is: “what IE6 is capable of” makes a far better platform for standards-based design than “what Netscape 4 can do,” which was where many of us were trapped the last time the browser space froze. :::

CSS support revisited

MacEdition has published an eye-watering chart detailing CSS2 support (or lack thereof) in browsers including IE6/Windows, MSN for Mac OS X, Opera 7, Gecko, Safari, and others. The chart is based on extensive tests and prior studies conducted by MacEdition’s CodeBitch and some of the leading lights in CSS, including former members of The Web Standards Project’s now-defunct CSS Samurai. The Samurai helped Microsoft and Opera identify the top 10 CSS compliance problems in their browsers during the late 1990s, thus helping to pave the way for the improved (although still imperfect) CSS support we enjoy today. :::

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), in extending all existing copyrights by an additional 20 years, has damaged the public domain by blocking access to works of cultural (but not commercial) importance. A petition asks members of the U.S. Congress to undo some of the damage by enacting the Public Domain Enhancement Act. We urge thinking Americans to sign this petition. :::

31 May – 1 June 2003 :::

weekend edition

Ninth year online begins

On 31 May 2003, Jeffrey Zeldman Presents celebrates eight years online. As of 1 June, our ninth year will begin. Thanks to Ronan for reminding us. With everything else that’s going on, our site’s anniversary had slipped our minds. :::

Glam 79

My Glamorous Life No. 79: Opening for an Unpopular Novel. :::

IE/AOL/Netscape: what happens next?

CNET has picked up half of the story we reported Friday, but it misses the AOL/IE connection, and it fails to ask the tough questions.

In its 31 May lead, “Microsoft to Abandon Standalone IE,” CNET links to Microsoft’s buried announcement that if you want an improved, less buggy version of its market-dominating Internet Explorer browser, you will have to buy the next version of its Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn. Although this aspect is even more deeply buried, if you want an improved version of IE5/Mac, you will apparently have to subscribe to Microsoft’s MSN service. CNET misses that part of the story.

What CNET misses even more is the simultaneous revelation that AOL, for a chunk of the Redmond giant’s cash, has dismissed its lawsuit against Microsoft, and will prop up the IE and MSN market share at the expense of its own America Online service and Netscape browser division. The two stories are peas in the same pod, even if a major news organization can’t see the connection. That’s why we told them in the same breath in Friday’s Report.

When AOL bought Netscape, that browser company was hemorrhaging market share, partly because its Netscape 4 browser was perceived to be outdated in comparison to IE5, but also because IE came with the Windows operating system, and Microsoft cut “agree or lose Windows” deals with PC makers that gave IE a huge and unfair advantage against Netscape’s product. Netscape and other companies sued Microsoft, claiming that the software giant had illegally leveraged its monopoly power, and the U.S. Justice Department agreed.

Well, you all know the history, and you also know that governments tend not to act against large corporations that contribute significantly to the health of their economy. By the time Netscape came out with a viably competitive browser, IE owned the market. But what happens now?

The announcement that Microsoft will no longer improve IE unless you buy its next OS (or subscribe to its MSN service), coupled with AOL’s announced willingness to play ball for bucks, raises slippery questions. If AOL is to use IE instead of its own Netscape browser for the next seven years, but IE will not change outside the Longhorn OS, will AOL users be stuck with IE6 until 2010? (IE6 was released in the year 2000.)

Will AOL continue to develop Mozilla/Netscape, using the cash it got from Microsoft to create a browser that is superior to the outdated one its AOL members must use? Or will it dump Netscape at fire sale prices after having cut a deal that lowers Netscape’s value by further diminishing its market share?

If AOL abandons Netscape, will Mozilla keep going? If so, will Windows users who do not upgrade to Longhorn switch to Mozilla (or Opera), or will they keep using the current version of IE6 for the foreseeable future? If they do that, will web development methods freeze? What happens to CSS3 and XHTML 2 if the bulk of web users (including AOL users) “standardize” on a year 2000 browser for the next three to seven years?

These are the questions CNET and other news organizations – and you – should be asking. :::

Gettin’ fuzzy wid it

This week at Meet the Makers: Brian Alvey interviews Darby Conley, creator of the popular daily comic strip Get Fuzzy, about “the life and deadlines of a syndicated cartoonist, plans for a Get Fuzzy movie, the bizarre requests he gets from fans, and the color of money.” Meet the Makers is a series of one-day events for creative people in a technical world. Between meatspace events, Meet the Makers conducts in-depth, online conversations with designers, developers, movers and shakers, like Jeremy Allaire and Marty Neumeier. :::

Previously in The Daily Report...

AOL to AOL Netscape: drop dead: AOL/Netscape drops suit, agrees to support IE instead of Netscape browser. Meanwhile Microsoft quietly lets slip that it will no longer offer a free, standalone version of IE. To protect and serve: local cops passing as FBI grill teenager over her blog. FCC no evil: FCC solicits your feedback on turning all American media over to the control of the few; unfortunately, FCC site feedback form does not work. Word cleaner: “We must put all our Word documents online.” Eight words that strike fear into the hearts of web professionals everywhere, and what you can do to ease the pain. All this and more await you within.