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The Times They Are A Changin

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Ben Henick

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User since: 24 Jan 2000

Articles written: 9

I was at a job interview on Thursday afternoon, and the interviewer was a Mac guy. I had the opportunity to see some of my projects - with my own eyes - on a System 8 box for the first time... and I was disappointed.

Subsequently cross-platform issues entered the discussion, and the only conclusion reached was that standards-based support for the Mac as a Web platform is truly awful... at least in regard to interactivity.

I have every reason to believe that Mozilla will fix this problem, and will provide a ray of hope in regard to making our jobs easier, not harder. That it will make affordable budgets the rule rather than the exception. All of this applies, too, to Intel-based platforms.

As we are beginning to discover, Netscape 5 is in alpha, with beta scheduled to follow in little more than a month.

I have a proposal:

That as of 1 July 2000, those of us providing high degrees of interactivity leave Netscape 3/4 and IE3 out in the cold.

This is concomitant with a current discussion elsewhere under the "herding" thread, but perhaps more drastic... "You haven't upgraded yet? Too bad."

I have visions in my head of angry users and skeptical clients, but... even in the short term, I fail to see how such a course of action would make things worse. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Properly implemented CSS/DHTML does wonders for accessibility. If you're a federal employee who knows these technologies, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Oh - good DHTML and XML save bandwidth, too.

  2. The upgrade hassles can be simplified: lobby the ISPs you know of that support Netscape. Tell them to start burning new CDs, and make them available. Offer to help.

  3. This will save #$*@loads of money. Tell your clients that such a strategy will annihilate the budget requirements. That'll get 'em listening. You will get more sleep as a result, and be able to do more-interesting projects, too.

  4. You can still provide for the users who resist. "Herd" your "legacy" users to an "Enhanced for Netscape 1.1" version of the site that can be slapped together with just about any of the tools out there, with a minimal investment of time. Make sure to include an HTML 2.0 DTD. Make it so vanilla - down to the 25%-black bg and blue underlined links - that they'll wonder what they can do to fix it. Provide the answer to that question in a very prominent space on that version of the site. <chuckle> If it was good enough for Word, shouldn't it be good enough for you?

I imagine that some of you are upset at such a prospect, because it will damage revenues. I can't say that such a risk is nonexistent but it's like they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained. If clients can buy into the idea, the entire Internet will improve as a result, and in a fairly short period of time.

Why? If the average level of interactivity available to users increases, the Web will grow, much as a rainbow follows a rainstorm. Why shouldn't we take steps to boost the popularity of the Web as a medium?

...And before I forget, keep in mind that the abandonment of legacy code will give us more time to innovate. I hinted at it, sure, but now I'm spelling it out.

Something to keep in mind, too, is that the Web has grown to its present proportions because from a marketer's perspective, it has the highest return-on-investment of any medium. Users could care less where they get the information, as long as it's usable... they're on the Web because that's where the information is most accessible. If we take steps that will make the Web valuable as an experience, users will eventually love us for it... and that will create a positive feedback cycle.

Do you want that? I sure as hell do.

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