Sunday, October 17, 2004

Coding Web Sites: Mozilla Firefox or IE?

I just finished reading an article over at about how despite the growing market share that Mozilla Firefox (and to a lesser extent, Opera) are acquiring, many companies are continuing to code their web sites to support Internet Explorer exclusively. Many developers cited in the article claim that the expense of re-writing code, or coding for multiple browsers, is cumbersome and expensive. So, they default to writing their web pages to work in IE. Period.

I completely agree that writing code for multiple browsers - well, it sucks, and it doesn't address the real problem at hand: browser incompatibility. That's a problem we may well never solve, as various browser vendors try to keep their products competitive and (particularly in the cases of Microsoft and Netscape) proprietary.

But - web develpers CAN solve the problem of making web sites functional and attractive across multiple browsers. How? Stick to web standards!!! It boggles my mind that more developers don't jump on the standards bandwagon, as it truly does solve the problem of writing multiple versions of web pages for various browsers.

Today's web browsers are getting better and better in terms of W3C standards support. Even recent browsers support enough of the web standards (recent as in, IE5/Netscape6/Opera5/Mozilla1.0 era) to make writing web code to W3C standards a practical solution. If you need to support ancient browsers like version 4 and earlier - and honestly, you shouldn't (unless you want to contribute to the global internet problem of browser incompatibility) - you can still use standards like CSS to generate functional but less fancy versions of your web site, without writing multiple versions of web pages.

While companies with existing web sites that are written in an all-IE-based fashion will have some investment if they want to covert to standards-based web solutions, it's not something that has to be done all at once. Implementing web standards on an existing web site can be done gradually, bit by bit, until all components have been validated and converted to be standards-compliant. For companies overhauling a web site or starting from scratch, it should be a no-brainer. Comply to web standards, and your pages will be visible to the greatest number of people using the greatest variety of web browsers. In essence, you then no longer have to worry which browser (or internet device or cell phone or PDA etc etc) your visitor is using. How refreshing is THAT?!

To quote the article I just read:
"It makes good business sense to code valid, standards-compliant Web pages. We all know IE is not in any immediate danger of losing its dominance, but in the long term, who knows? Look at how quickly Netscape lost its dominance to IE. Companies can't make these costly mistakes." (Source: )

That just about says it all.

Related articles of interest:

"I Love Firefox but Can't Escape Explorer" -

Moral of the story: Don't be a non-standards-compliant web developer!

"New Firefox browser is smokin' as upstart challenges Internet Explorer" -

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