More Thoughts on Mobile Browser Standards

November 30, 2011 - By

This week an editorial for Six Revisions went live! Originally titled ‘Occupy Browser Standards‘ (a reference to the Occupy movement which was more relevant when I had the idea than when it went live); the post ‘Will the Browser Wars Invade Mobile‘ had a fair bit of offline discussion!

I was surprised when .net Magazine emailed me a few questions on the topic for a post of their own – to see my name on the site of a magazine I’ve been reading for the last 6 years was pretty astounding (I’m on a last name basis with Magazine!).

The Debate

The really great thing that came out of this was the discussion. A few people (notably Bruce Lawson) pointed out that a browser monoculture would be a terrible thing (he linked to an amazing post about South Korea which basically has this in place now with Windows XP). I conceded the point in my comments and added an amendment to my post, stating that I was getting a bit too focused on the means rather than the end.

I need to be more careful in the future when getting into editorials. I should have been more clear that it’s not so much the IE browser that I have issue with, but rather how it renders CSS. IE7 has been a pain in my neck for ages. How much time have I spent on work-arounds for it now allowing display:inline-block?! I have only just started looking at IE9 when I was finding some of the same bugs on a site. My point was that WebKit would never have this issue; and if it did, enough major platforms used it that it would be default in the mind.

Another problem I created for myself in my post was that I was speaking about the default browser on mobile platforms. I was disregarding third-party browsers like Opera and Firefox – which to their credit seem to get along fine with the CSS WebKit does well with.

My Take Away

I never intended to come off saying I wanted WebKit to rule the world, but I guess I kind of accidentally did. I agree that browser competition can be great (but I don’t think innovation enters into the equation as far as rendering CSS goes).

Another thing I never said in the post, is that I am actually resigned to the fact that I’ll be making IE specific stylesheets for mobile in the not-too-distant future. I can see this isn’t work I can avoid. This can still be a browser war, and we’ll need to draw the line somewhere. If (when) Amazon makes a browser will we support that too? OK, fine. What about when Sony does? Sure? What about Joe the Plumber? Ugh. There’s enough information online that I could probably make my own browser – I feel like the onus is on browser makers to comply with some set of CSS standards.

In summary what we need is more browser standards. I think everyone can agree with that!

If browsers don’t render the fundamental CSS properly this could lead to one scary thing – lazy developers going back to predictable, ‘safe’ tabular layouts that can be easier to make universal across browsers. And no one wants that.

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This post was written by ArleyM