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No More Improvements to the Web

It's very interesting to hear about all the suggested improvements to web, such as those on Joel's blog. But I can't see how they will get over this chicken and egg problem:

If the improvements are not available on all major browsers at once developers will not use the new features. And no browser maker will have any incentive to add those new features if there are no applications built with those features.

I have concluded that HTML 4, CSS, JavaScript 1.5 and maybe Flash will pretty much be around forever as they are the lowest common denominator, and the only choice if you want to reach the widest possible audience.

For example XUL is quite cool, but what's the point in building a web app in XUL if only a few percent of your audience can see it? And what incentive does Microsoft have to add XUL to IE?

Matthew Lock
Thursday, July 01, 2004

You've made an all-or-nothing proposal out of something that isn't.

First, a web-app that uses advanced features may not be targetting the entire web populace.  The use of advanced features may be targetted at a self-selecting group of highly capable users who have the latest browser or are ok with downloading a second browser just to the use the app (I started using IE again for a while when I had an Oddpost account).  A good niche market can be the kernel around which a new browser technology grows.

Second, browser makers may add technologies to create selling points.  Microsoft is waking up to the threat from Mozilla (Slate just ran a story telling people how to switch to Firefox):  Now there's been several stories about MS reconstituting its browser team and kicking its Marketing department into gear again.  What's the natural thing for them to do?  Advertise that they support the latest cool features, and include (imperfect) support for them while proposing their own.  A lot of what browsers can do now is the result of the browser wars, not the W3C (like iframes).

Justin Johnson
Thursday, July 01, 2004

Justin makes a good point: "a web-app that uses advanced features may not be targetting the entire web populace".

For example, one of my current projects is a insurance underwriting and claims handling system. Here the client (insurance company) has set a standard that Users must adhere to. That is, Windows XP and IE6.

They can control their own desktops, and any third parties (such as brokers, large clients, etc) that want to use the system will also have to use this desktop configuration.

While saying WinXP/IE isn't exactly a stretch for most corporate clients, it does allow me to take advantage of various useful stuff, without having to wonder if it works on any other platform/browser.

The potential number of Users for this system is tiny ("no one" in Joel's recent writings), but substantial in the London/Lloyd's insurance market.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, July 01, 2004

Are there any actual web sites out there using "advanced web features"?

Matthew Lock
Thursday, July 01, 2004

I am sure there are many, its just that you never hear about them.

Steve Jones (UK)
Thursday, July 01, 2004

http://www.publictechnology.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=945

Christopher Wells
Thursday, July 01, 2004

I'm sorry, but this is like saying, "Office 4.3 on Windows 3.1 does everything I need, so why should I ever upgrade my computer?"

Aaron F Stanton
Thursday, July 01, 2004

Which not surprizingly is the choice of many (well, let's say Windows98 SE/Office 97 for arguments sake).

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, July 01, 2004

Which by the way leads to the following interesting observation:
If some deity got drunk tomorrow and decides to grant SteveB a free whish of eliminating one competitor, would he choose:

1) OSS
2) Microsoft's own legacy products
3) Nokia and the Symbian posse

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, July 01, 2004

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with building web apps that would utilize special advanced features from a particular browser, or possibly a plugin that could be added to any browser.  I don't even think the argument of standards is against that.  The point of web standards, and how the browser wars caused collateral damage, is that all content targetted to the public should be accessible to the entire public, regardless of which browser or OS they are running.

Offering enhanced content that has conditional requirements is a calculated risk that any website owner should be allowed to take.  I would just say that offering the regular content should be according to standards.

Even from a business perspective, if you want to tell clients that they must install Internet Explorer to use your app, that's your business, and its not even that big of a deal for them as long as its remains free, or you buy it for them (included in the cost of the app).  Technology will continue to move forward, and the web and browsers will move with it.

Clay Whipkey
Thursday, July 01, 2004

It has nothing to do with what's coming. Nothing at all. The biggest problem for all this, is Win98, or even Win95.

Why?... because when people bought them, it gave them "enough". Typically on a machine where they could surf the web, look at full colour photos of their kids, type emails, and use a spreadsheet and word processor.

And you can't blame the non-tech-savvy people for doing only what it is they need to do, and not bothering to update. But it does mean that if you want to be accessible by "everyone", you'll be coding for these people for a long, long time.

For the mass market... there will be no more paradigm shifting, unless it's wow... one mighty huge step forward. It has to be big enough to drag all the "I already do what I need to do" people along... or... slippery enough that it can get into the install base without effort or "putting out" on behalf of the user. This includes getting whatever it is installed over a modem et al.

Be happy that flash and javascript made it in there at all. :)

Arron Bates
Thursday, July 01, 2004

But personally... I don't mind using the latest and greatest stuff, as long as the buy-in of the user to update is worth is (ie: are you running a productivity "value-add" app, or are you just a general viewing site). Especially when you can point them at the mozilla project's FireFox app, and have about the best browser there is at the moment for just a few megs download.

Mozilla is the bomb. If it wasn't for mozilla (and possibly macromedia and adobe at the outside) there would be no continued development in the web browser. Even if you're an IE lover (of which there is absolutely no reason to be), you should still thank mozilla for waking the sleeping giant to get them to consider improving it.

Arron Bates
Thursday, July 01, 2004

I don't know if I agree so much that there is that much of the population that will remain satisfied with the old <400mhz Win95 machines.  5 Years ago or so, people were predominantly on dialup, and new packaged computer systems were in the $2000 range.

You can walk into a Walmart (low cost general store chain in the US) and buy a 2 ghz computer with a DVDRW and 80gb HDD for less than $700 USD nowadays.  High speed internet has to be close to half the internet connections these days (I don't know anyone, except my mother, that uses dialup).  I think as the hardware and connectivity gets cheaper and better, people will continue to upgrade.  Maybe 40 year old and up would be satisfied with what is working, but their kids certainly will not.  What percentage of purchases in American households do you think are in some way influenced by children (especially teenagers)?  My guess is that its pretty high.

Clay Whipkey
Thursday, July 01, 2004

Wow Clay, you must have been shopping six months ago...

Steamrolla
Tuesday, July 06, 2004

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