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"DHTML & Cross Browser Compatability" 

Web Site Design & Development

"DHTML & Cross Browser Compatability" 

For quite some time now I have been watching the browser wars with interest. Partly because I'm very interested in marketing and secondly because part of my livelihood is dependent upon the whims of the two giants Microsoft and Netscape. When I say whims I feel this is an accurate word to describe what has been going on!

The Evolution of Open Standards

I am very pleased the standards body has finally stood up to one of them and more or less said "Sorry guys this stuff ain't going to cut it anymore!". I hope it was done to put the giants in their place. That being, a place of cross browser compatibility or else!

The rejection of Netscape's <layer> tag by the body was a clear indication of where we are headed. More importantly to the members of the development community, what we will have to work with is becoming much clearer. This lame tag was the best that Netscape could muster to implement it's sub standard document object for the current standards. Well, IMHO anyway;)

I first became interested in cross browser compatibility following the threads on the HWG mailing lists after the release of the current flavors of each browser. There was a lot of unrest, to say the least. I personally believe it may have been responsible for the pledge at Anchor Desk one of Ziff Davis's sites. I saw a few posts by some of the principles at Anchor Desk on the HWG mailing lists around the same time as the pledge at Anchordesk started.

A lot of design and development people saw the implementation by the two bigguns' as "take it or leave it we're doin' what we please." The resounding cry was "we'll leave it, thank you very much!"

This has left "PUSH", "Channels" and whatever netscape calls their flavor wallowing in obscurity. Netscape decided to give away their browser, code and all, rather then fix it!!

Folks, they aren't givin' away much IMHO. Basically Mosaic circa 1994, with a bunch of java, outdated proprietary tags and who knows how many plugins? I believe it will never meet the present standards in its present form. "Look out Peggy I smell a heavy load a comin'!"

That was T yellin' in the background to Peggy our mail client and savior. If you're going to bombard me with mail please address it to webmaster@tsworldofdesign.com with "Hi Peggy" in the subject. Sorry folks no mail hacks here, you'll have to type it in yourselves.

I am forced to make a statement like that because as it presently stands there is no known way to format the simple mailto:tag in any form which is cross platform compatible. In other words you hack, you loose! The sender doesn't know the mail went into HTML hell making the programmer (author) or company look unresponsive to mail. They never got it, how could they respond!

Microsoft realized early on for css and all to work well a change was needed and started building their browser to the 4 standards long ago. Maybe even before joining the standards body. I get upset when I see statements that make Microsoft out to be the dark force or bad guy in the browser wars.

There is no ONE bad guy, just two behemoths fightin' it out. Unfortunately we're caught in the middle. However, we're only stuck in the middle if we take a side with either or by siding with the DOJ who have decided this is a new area that needs a bureaucratic nightmare! The Us Gov't seems to want to get control over the net by any means possible even if it means making us pay the consequences.

Microsoft has won IMO because they are and were more responsive to the standards. Netscape continued to try and implement the standards with a Red Green Handy Man approach using a duct tape (tags) and balin' wire (plugins) approach! Instead of looking at the DOM!

The title of this article is  DHTML and Cross Browser Compatibility or To DHTML or not to DHTML, That is the Question?

My answer is no, not for the main components of a site or page. That is, at least until the next flavor of each browser is released and assessed. Unless you are ready to spend a lot of time writing code or have a pretty savvy editor you will never get real cross browser compatibility using a single site approach.

Update

This document was written a few years ago, however, Netscape is still IMHO very noncompliant to current standards and doesn't work with some of the best parts of CSS.  It still is noncompliant from a DOM perspective making fancy DHTML a pain. Microsoft is a bit better but like all things M$ is not very backwards compatible. How can JavaScripts stop working with a new browser release even though the JS standards haven't. 

At present to implement css or DHTML you better be a veteran JavaScript coder willing to spend a lot of time or you build two versions of every site. Good for now but in the long run a poor strategy. This more or less keeps the small business offline unless they can learn to do it themselves.  The Browser Wars have to be costing a lot in extra web site development costs.

Another way around this is to take it server side as Microsoft has done with it's Front Page product. I know a lot of you believe I'm nuts and I've turned traitor when I started touting it is as a REAL editor. Capable of doing some pretty neat stuff with little effort and time.

Update

I am still a big fan of FP. It has improved substantially with each release. I am now using it with Visual Studio. I no longer use the borders and themes . They became a bit wieldy at times. I am now using style sheets instead of themes and design around the includes component (SSI without the server setup).

Look around you and this site is mostly built around objects in the document to give the same benefits as css. I don't have to write one lick of JavaScript and I spend little or no time coding for this document. I just developed around borders and themes.

I wrote this in plain text, dropped it into ASC2HTM and it's converted to HTML. I copy that, go to front page make a new page, open that in the editor, insert a table 540 pixels wide(for Web TV), paste text and about ten minutes later with some fine tuning I have a finished document. My documents are finally cross browser compatible. Of course I don't use any client side Active X!! That would defeat the whole purpose of designing for cross and backward browser compatibility.

In the past the cover has given me fits tryin' to get the same look for both browsers. Look at some of the past covers in the archives and now they are always the same in the past it was like they were made out of elastic!

No muss, no fuss giving me the time to do other things like promote the page, take the original text document and add it to my free content area to help me promote the site. This is how I leverage everything I do using technology to get more done by leveraging my online activity.

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