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‘A’ is for annoying and NOT accessibility…

I’m a web developer, write websites and web applications.

As a web developer, certain things that I produce are subject to various accessibility laws. I make a note of pointing out that not all of what I produce is subject to those laws since not everything I write is publicly accessible, and the brief of a particular project might be exclusive of such things.

Anyway, this legislation is often quite vague: ‘we’re not sure what we want, but if you don’t do what we want, we’ll take you to the cleaners…’ or something to that effect.

So, as a developer — and as a developer who tries to keep at the pointy end of technology — I try to act in such a way as to anticipate the whimsy and capricious thinking of the legislators and cover as many options as is practical.

With this in mind, I invested in a number of books discussing proper, valid use of Cascading Style Sheets [CSS] and valid Hypertext Markup Language [HTML].

All was good. I’ve since developed some nice, standards-compliant and wholly accessible web applications .. but wait!

There’s a fly in this otherwise, soothing ointment. A fly by the name of Microsoft. Yes, the Beast of Redmond has decided that their browser, Internet Explorer, isn’t going to support the standards properly and break just about every damn thing you put in front of it; much like a petulant 3-year old with his most expensive toys from unwanted relatives, arms folded and pet lip inclusive.

This is particularly annoying — thus, the title of this discourse — because how the hell am I meant to produce standards-compliant and wholly accessible web applications when the company responsible for the market-leading browser has no intentions of producing an up-to-date version of their software?

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

8 replies on “‘A’ is for annoying and NOT accessibility…”

I absolutely agree, not least as I am now a Firefox user (having gone through Netscape, Opera and Mozilla).

“Never underestimate the power of maket forces.”

I can’t remember who said that, it might have been Maggie Thatcher, or maybe Bill Gates.

Essentially Microsoft was built upon Marketing, not technology, and marketing will ensure that the majority of people will continue to have to toe the Microsoft line for a long time to come.

As to the legislation that forces you to be caught between a rock and a hard place – well you could campaign for a change in the legislation, or write for permission everytime you want to do something that might deviate from it. Or you could produce two versions of everything you do. Lots of nice choices! Not.

This situation is akin to everyone agreeing to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, except the biggest polluter, imho.

Well, you might want to read this article.

I’ve been saying for a long time what you’re saying: Microsoft succeeded not through superior technology, but through superior marketing.

That isn’t a problem, so long as after you get into the market, you make sure you have a product worth using.

The thing is Microsoft — bless’em — when they rose to dominance, there wasn’t such a great emphasis on quality, so they’ve never seen a reason to change.

However, with the rise of Linux, they’re having a devil of time and for the first time in their history, they’re having to compete on someone else’s terms.

That of stability, reliability and performance.

Must be a jarring experience for them?

Also the rise of Firefox. If Firefox supports the new standards, and with IE’s declining share.. hopefully MS will see some sense.

Microsoft have been caught out by the success of Firefox, of that there is no doubt.

In being nudged out the 90% market share bracket, Microsoft are probably not very happy at all.

So, on top of all of the other problems they’re having with Longhorn [or should I say, Longyawn?] Microsoft are having to un-bundle Internet Explorer and release a version separate to the new Windows.

But, even after years of collective bellyaching, don’t expect Microsoft to do the right thing, or even the one thing most people like me want them to do…

Microsoft’s take on standards as quoted on their own website:

Microsoft believes very strongly in Internet standards and the standards process, and is committed to implementing appropriate standards when driven by customer demand. However, standards compliance is part of a larger effort that includes many constituencies. By innovating, and driving customer requirements into Internet Explorer and then into the standards groups, we’ll make the Internet a richer platform for all users.

The position is very clear — because a standard exists, that does not mean Microsoft will automatically implement it. Microsoft will implement appropriate standards that we believe are useful to our customers.”

The bit I find most worrying is this: “driving customer requirements into Internet Explorer and then into the standards groups
Actually, they are indeed driving customer requirements – shouldn’t it be the customers who drive the requirements?

And making the internet a richer platform (interesting choice of words) is not the same as making the use of the internet a ‘richer’ experience for the users.

Way back when, Microsoft had great plans for Longhorn.

Since then, the paper tiger has turned into a bit of a toothless kitten.

Much of the original major selling points of Longhorn are gone, and what Microsoft are left with is something that isn’t the animal they’d hoped for.

Even with Microsofts’ formidable resources, they simply do not have the wherewithal to pull something like this off.

They’re even more pissed off because part of Longhorn was to be a new communication layer that they were pitching as a direct competitor to HTML, XML and CSS among others.

In short, they wanted to own the web.

They soon realized two things: 1) they were being far too ambitious, and 2) no one wanted such things, they were happy with what’s in place already.

Since then, legal battles have pulled them one way, Windows XP Service Pack 2 has pulled them another and reality has just bent them out of shape.

They’re even considering ‘back-porting’ the new — and since placed on the back-burner — Windows file system to Windows XP.

Eh?!

It seems fate is not without a sense of irony. I remember all of the Microsoft executives crowing like mad when Apple were faced with an enormous and horrible choice: build in backwards compatibility to OS X, or make backwards compatibility a stand-alone ‘sand box’ environment .. essentially, a fudge.

The fudge was preferable, even though it turned out to be more painful, but the dividends are now being paid out in full.

Meanwhile, Microsoft believed they’d be smarter than that and they would avoid such nonsense.

All that came to a head at the WinHEC conference last year when they announced a vast library of API’s that almost completely replaced the existing API’s.

Microsoft were so arrogant, they believed their ISV’s would have no choice but to capitulate.

Things didn’t quite turn out according the Plan A and Plan B was hastily thrown together.

So what does Plan B look like?

Quite a bit like the Apple fudge cake but without the sweet-tasting, soft centre.

Microsoft really, really .. really needed to break away from the old code base to be sure of giving up the old ghosts.

A friend of mine has worked with Windows for quite some time. He once imparted to me the six deadly flaws of Windows.

These six flaws are in such low and kernel-level spaces that they can never be fixed without breaking everything above them.

Microsoft are desperate to get away from them. Longhorn was the key to this.

The new / old revised API’s mean that’s probably unlikely to happen any time soon.

I think what we will see with Longhorn is basically more or less the same, only .. more with less, if you know what I mean…

These comments are far too technical and deep for me to make any kind of contribution to apart from:

Did you know that “Microsoft” is an anagram of “Bunch of gits” … ?

“Did you know that “Microsoft” is an anagram of “Bunch of gits” … ?”

I can see that cold remedy is really kicking in, now!

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