The WaSP Buzz recently posted several links to CSS resources, including a rather thorough CSS Reference at SitePoint.

The ISC reminds us that IE7 will be pushed out to WSUS next week, which should help get rid of IE6. Yeah, I’d rather more people switched to Firefox or Opera, but I’m at the point where I’d love to be able to stop worrying about IE6’s shortcomings when trying to build sites. IE7’s shortcomings are much easier to work around. (Sorry to keep harping on this!)

The inventor of Norton Antivirus talks about computer security and has some rather interesting ideas on what policies are worth pursuing…and what policies aren’t. Long passwords? Great for protecting a stand-alone machine, but on a 10,000 machine network, they only need to crack one. Patch everything? Not every vulnerability gets exploited. I’ll have to read the Slashdot thread when I have time; that should be really *ahem* interesting.

When web designers switch from focusing on a single browser (usually Internet Explorer) to developing cross-browser sites (usually adding Firefox, sometimes Opera or Safari, ideally all three), they often find that things don’t work as expected in the “new” browser. This can be for a number of reasons, including:

  • Bugs or “missing” features in the new browser (whether incomplete support in the new browser, or proprietary features in the familiar browser).
  • Broken code on the website being handled differently.
  • Different defaults where behavior isn’t well-defined in the specifications.

A big problem is that when you get into the code, a lot of pages aren’t as specific as the authors think they are. When you write code and test it on one browser, you’re not testing that the code is correct, you’re testing that that browser makes the same assumptions you do.

It’s like ordering pizza.

No, really. Let’s say Internet Explorer specializes in Chicago-style pizza, with a thick, chewy crust. And let’s say Firefox specializes in New York-style pizza, with a thin crust. But each can make the other style of pizza on request.

So you call up Internet Explorer and ask for pizza. They deliver you Chicago pizza, and if that’s what you wanted, you figure your order is fine. If you actually wanted New York style, you make sure that next time, you tell them you want that style of pizza.

But let’s say you like Chicago pizza. You get used to calling up IE and just asking for “pizza,” until one day you’re busy, and ask your roommate to order it. He likes to get his pizza from Firefox, so he calls them up, asks for “pizza,” and you get New York style. That’s not what you wanted. Obviously, Firefox pizza is inferior, because they got the order wrong! Well, no, it’s not, and no, they didn’t. They delivered what they were asked for. If you’d told your roommate to ask for Chicago style, Firefox would have been perfectly happy to deliver that style of pizza.

The moral of the story: always be specific with your code. Make sure it’s asking for what you think it’s asking for (validation helps here). And if something doesn’t do what you expect, make sure you didn’t leave that expectation out of your order.

See also: No, Internet Explorer did not handle it properly

(Expanded from a comment I posted at Mozillazine.)

Opera BrowserIn an interview at Opera Watch last week, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner responded to the eternal question: with less than 1% of global marketshare, why should web developers make the effort to support Opera? His response demonstrates another perspective on the numbers:

I believe we have something like 10 – 15 million active desktop users. That is actually quite a lot of people.

If you try to think about it, the place that I’m come from is Iceland. I was born in Iceland, that’s three hundred thousand people – we have a lot more. The place I live is Norway – we have a lot more. Actually if you look at it, the US has about 300 million people that live here, 50 states, about 6 million in each state on average. So which states have people that you would like to ignore?

He goes on to add that Opera Mobile is installed on 40 million mobile phones, with an additional 7 million people actually using Opera Mini. And then there are devices like the Nintendo DS and Wii…

Going by 2005 numbers, only four states have 15 million people or more: California (36M), Texas (23M), New York (19M), and Florida (18M). So take the 10–15M desktop users, the 7M Opera Mini users, and even 10% of the 40M mobile install base, and you’re looking at 21–26 million—the equivalent of the population of Texas.

Put that way, it doesn’t seem so small.

If you’re already supporting Firefox, in most cases the changes to support Opera 9 are minimal. The recently-launched Opera Developer Community has has tools, articles, and other resources to help build cross-platform sites.

Unless, of course, you don’t mind writing off a potential audience the size of Texas.

Microsoft is really pushing for people to make sure their websites and apps are compatible with IE7. Apparently this is a real concern for a lot of people who relied on certain proprietary features, bugs, and quirks in IE6. I guess they figured they wouldn’t have to worry about future versions. (Hmm… I wonder where they got that idea?)

The fact of the matter is, I’m not worried. I tested my personal sites and the sites I’d built for work months ago, using the IE7 betas, and more recently with RC1. I made a couple of minor changes to some stylesheets, but that was about it.

Why? I’ve been writing standards-based code for years. I validate it from time to time, and I test to make sure it works in the latest versions of Firefox, Opera and Safari as well as IE. So the code was already portable.

Plus, anything new I’ve built since January has been designed with IE7 in mind from the beginning.

Most of the changes were to workarounds for IE6. Either stopping them from running on IE7 (if the bug was fixed), or keeping them running on IE7 (if it was done using a CSS hack).

Today I noticed a spike in traffic coming from a post on Spread Firefox where I had made a comment. Not a ton of traffic, just ~15 hits from the same page on the same day, but that’s unusual for traffic from SFX posts—especially old ones. I checked to see if it had climbed into the site’s list of top posts (the usual explanation), but it wasn’t there. I just couldn’t figure out what was causing the traffic.

Then I realized the author of that post had another story show up on Slashdot today. I discovered this chain of links:

  1. Slashdot: Just what has Microsoft been doing for IE 7?
  2. Idealog: Microsoft Drops The Ball on Internet Explorer 7 Standards Compliance []
  3. SFX: Should Remain Firefox Only? []
  4. The Alternative Browser Alliance (via signature in comment)

You can see how powerful the Slashdot effect is, if it can cause a noticeable (if minor) spike in traffic to a page 3 degrees away!

Of course, it pales next to being linked from the ISC Handler’s Diary, which seems to have pulled in 10 times as many visitors in 2 days. (Thanks!)