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The final countdown – more reasons to hate Netscape

25 May 2000

Hi! It’s not often that a site gives the Webmistress a column of her own. Usually, the job of a Webmistress / HTML production jockey is to translate words and thoughts into pristine HTML. Creating those words is generally the preserve of editors, journalists, columnists and rumorologists.

But MacEdition is different, so here I am. While I direct the nuts and bolts production (assisted by my team of eager and nubile slave boys), I’ll also pen the occasional column about matters of Web production.

Isn’t this the way it always goes? My first column is in the can, ready to go. You’ll get to read all about how problems and limitations of Netscape browsers are forcing Web developers to write bloated HTML and ignore the standards recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (you know, the people who decide what goes in HTML).

Then, in the countdown to launch, one of the MacEdition team identified a problem with one of the pages using Netscape Navigator 4.0. Netscape Communicator was fine, I’d made sure of that, but some versions the 4.0x series was definitely having problems. We tried a number of things, and honestly thought we’d fixed it before launch.

Unfortunately, what we thought was the fix wasn’t sufficient. A few readers started to complain, and to those readers, all I can do is offer my sincerest apologies.

Things could have been a bit less annoying for Navigator users if our shift arrangements had been different. I’m in Australia, so I’m asleep when US readers are awake and vice versa. And when I’m at my day job, I can’t access the MacEdition server. So there were hours ticking by with me desperately trying to rustle up one of my slave boys to fix things. And other hours ticked by while the editorial staff was waiting for me to wake up and check my e-mail. We’re working on a better roster so things go more smoothly next time.

We think we have fixed the problem finally, so now I’d like to take a little time to explain what went wrong.

We spent a lot of time during the development phase of MacEdition making sure the layout conformed to W3C standards. We like standards. We validate by the W3C standard for HTML 4. Our stylesheet is conformant. And iCab smiles. But Netscape couldn’t care less if the page plays by the rules. Navigator 4.04 crashes hard if it encounters a stylesheet with a border-width attribute. But without it, the black background doesn’t show in Communicator 4.5 and 4.6. So if you are using Netscape Communicator and you’re wondering where the nice black borders went, that was the price we had to pay to stop the site from causing crashes in certain point releases of the Netscape stand-alone browser. Even in the latest non-beta version, 4.7, Netscape’s CSS support sucks.

At some point one has to decide whether to follow the standards or work around the bugs in a particular point release of a browser that is now several years old. I erred on the side of standards, because I believe strongly in the merits of Web standards and Cascading Style Sheets. And if you have limited bandwidth on your Internet connection, so should you. But the state of Netscape browsers won’t let me take that position.

Now you’ll have to wait a little longer for my article arguing Netscape must die. But as you can see from recent events, it bloody deserves to. I for one don’t appreciate being punished for doing the right thing.

— CodeBitch (codebitch@macedition.com) is the currently very grumpy cow who does the HTML production for MacEdition.

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