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"MSIEnformed and Naive(gator)"

Everywhere I look on the Web, every site I turn to for some sort of hope that maybe sites are rediscovering what's interesting and what's just plain generic, I'm disappointed. Is not seeing an author's bias towards one browser over another a major sign that the site will not be much to feed the mind with?

There has always been vehemence towards different browsers on the Web, ever since Mosaic impregnated the incestuous Web with pet projects and commercial exploitations all competing to release the next generation of browsers. But recently I've noticed intense hate and snotty comments on web sites, which, as any competent Web author would know, are completely uncalled for and, bluntly, are just untrue now.

Why are authors so intent on choosing a browser to sponsor them for free, receiving nothing in return except the derision of people who, whether because of need or preference, use the other browser? Why do authors assume everyone has the same access, the same interests, and the same time to devote to the Web? Is this some sort of Web elitism, where those who create what the rest look at ignore what the rest of the Web is like and only concentrate on the world they see? Oh, Augustus, call in thy tribunes and let them announce the will of the people.

Let me give you some background. Many personal sites I've seen have had statements as direct as this: "If you're not using Netscape, and the pages look like crap, UPGRADE dammit!!" Either that or they post reams and reams of spurious and fallacious information about how Internet Explorer lacks something that Navigator has implemented correctly. Quake sites especially stress their own arbitrary, imposed settings, since the authors run top-of-the-line Quake systems which are configured to 1024x768 and run the latest of the latest Navigator versions.

It is sad to note that the only sites not really guilty of browser exclusion are corporate sites. Yes, those scabs of popular culture, who once scoffed at the resourcefulness and potential of the Internet are now populating the Web with domain names and sites as fast as rabbits have babies in the spring. Corporate sites are in the business of making your stay enjoyable and informative, with as little hassle as possible. They hire people who toil over creating pages (usually separate ones since peoples' WYSIWYG HTML editors won't support different tags for different browsers a lot of the time) so that every viewer is ooh'd and aah'd.

The only people who care about your experience on their site want to earn money off you. Did you think people who created their sites for free would put aside their egos in order to make your stay less painful and crashy?

The heart of this matter is all the flak that browsers other than Netscape Navigator receive. Speaking as someone who works with HTML rather thoroughly (from little-used definition lists to overused FONT specifications), and someone who has integrated Java, Javascript, stylesheets, DHTML, and other things into his site, I would have to say that Netscape Navigator 4.04, the latest version of Navigator, is not the best tool for the job. Which is? Internet Explorer 4.01.

I'm sure a lot of the disgust towards Internet Explorer is based solely on the fact that it is produced by Microsoft. Ooh, the big bad boy is destroying our civilization by working its way into our lives through computers. Right. Give it a rest. If you're really so sure in your convictions about using Navigator so as not to support Microsoft, then go ahead, right now, and remove Win95 from your computer. That means Office98 or Microsoft Works, Encarta, most of the system powertoys, Age of Empires, and Close Combat, too. Delete it all. Now install Linux. Linux is what you want! A cheap, source-released operating system which is well-programmed, solid, and doesn't exploit its users. Come on, now, do it! After all, you wouldn't want to help the Microsoft quest for world domination, would you?

I don't think I'll get into the fact that Microsoft's pretty much guided the software industry into the state it's in now, which is by no means perfect, but is a large improvement from the old days of cheesy word processing machines and clunky proprietary operating systems.

So get past the Microsoft hate thing, first of all. If you're going to support something, support it the whole way, not just to the point where it's no longer convenient to you anymore.

Second, get past the idea that there are only two browsers in the world. Yes, I will agree for certain that Navigator and Internet Explorer are the best browsers overall for Web use today. But there are also solid browsers like Lynx and other browsers which are a few point releases away from being strong contenders, like the lightweight Opera or Mac's darling, CyberDog. Internet Explorer and Navigator support the most features that you'll need to view the Web these days, but some people are forced into using other browsers. That does not make them lesser or inferior, you snobbish prick. Your holy Navigator is hardly a masterpiece -- if I had more of a selection, I'd be using something far more configurable than IE or Navigator.

So, let us begin with the doll of the Web, Navigator. It still gathers the most users, probably because of the Netscape legacy which has people interchangeably using "Netscape" and "Web". Navigator is known for being cross-platform (but the support for versions other than Winx platforms is terrible), stable (right), and the most user-friendly. Yes, Navigator was built with the user in mind, in a way. Navigator can interpret even the most unintelligible slop you can come up with, which just signifies that although Navigator's idea was good at first, now authors are designing FOR Navigator and not TO the HTML standards.

Navigator has a long, long history, and it keeps getting longer with every damn beta release. Do you remember Navigator 1.1N? I still have it installed, for testing purposes. Damn stable browser. But 2.0 as a major mess, as were its seven or so betas. It barely supported Java. 3.0 had a lot of betas too, and 4.0 too. Let's not forget the bug fixes for the gold versions, which brings Navigator 4.0 up to 4.04. At least Navigator sort of works now. What people don't tell you, though, is that Navigator is wishy-washy with its stylesheet implementation. Stylesheets allow for easier management of an HTML page by being able to change the properties of one tag throughout a whole document. Netscape wouldn't have added stylesheets had Microsoft not first, I think. They did a poor job with the implementation. Even 4.04 barely supports stylesheets and it most certainly doesn't support linked stylesheets.

I don't know if Navigator has a JIT compiler now, but it certainly didn't use to. IE has had a JIT compiler, which has made Java compile a lot faster. Netscape beat Microsoft to the punch with Java, and they blew it.

Navigator doesn't support many of the tags and attributes discussed in the HTML standards. Granted, IE isn't flawless in this respect, either, but they've done a better job of sticking to the standards than Navigator has. One thing, for example, that Navigator doesn't do correctly, is show background images in embedded tables. Like on my main menu, in Navigator, you can see that the buttons for the jump scroll bar have backgrounds in the table they're in -- instead of leaving the embedded table cell's background properties blank, it reloads the background of the table it's inside, which causes the effect to fail. DHTML in Navigator? Whoo! Forget about it! You can't get those text color changes in Navigator that you can in IE. You can't change text dynamically without reloading the document in Navigator. And to think, that's where the Web is going...dynamic content...

Internet Explorer...well. It's the browser I use. I used Navigator all the way up to version 3, but IE 4.0 just changed my mind. IE is not perfect -- its stylesheet is still more than Navigator's, but it's not complete. Same with HTML. Since the preview releases of IE tinkered with the OS (OS update, remember that?), a lot of people had to reinstall Win95 in order to get rid of them. Tough! Don't install preview releases, guys. I regret getting those damn preview releases, but it's part of the whole thing I agreed to. I'm just glad I just toasted my hard drive and reinstalled everything, including the standalone IE 4.01 final...very nice. ;)

Microsoft has been goofing around with Java -- therefore, it can stray from the standards when you get to the advanced stuff. But that JIT compiler sure does help. At least, for me. Java loads up like a snap. I've personally found the IE implementation of Javascript much better than Navigator's. Let's hope for JSS, Javascript stylesheets, eh? IE loads faster and loads pages faster than Navigator. Its DHTML support is good for a first try, certainly better than Navigator. If you're using IE on my site, you'll see hover links (light up when you pass the mouse over them, much like onMouseOver/onMouseOut images which are so standard these days), and hotlinked text which isn't anchored to a link.

Internet Explorer doesn't crash as often as Navigator does for me (4.03 of Navigator used to freeze on Java) and so I usually go a day or three without rebooting my computer (good, considering some of my software is written by people who didn't learn how to track those C++ memory pointers). Such a comfort. It allows for more customization, from disabling stylesheets to using your own desired stylesheet (so if you're partially blind, you can override author's choice and use 30 point Courier New). It supports ActiveX, which I personally find and want to use only on Microsoft's site, but it is very cool to work with since it can profile your system and then send back information on how to improve the system..

You tell me to upgrade my browser? Switch to a higher resolution? Why? People don't have to do that for my site. I'm running the latest versions of the latest software on a system which rarely crashes or leaks memory. I have my system tweaked and refined to the point where it's perfect for me. I probably have a better idea of what to do than you do. So don't tell me I'm asking for something which can't be done.

Okay, so the jargon is tough. I just presume that if you even care about this stuff, you understand some of what's going on.

I guess the primary object of this rant was to justify IE against all the mainly ignorant support for Navigator, since I find IE excels at many things it is criticized for.

Most people I know use Navigator. Roommates, friends, family, and so on. They prefer it. That's fine with me. It's a choice they made. But I would expect them not to blindly scream about how bad alternative browsers are if they don't know what they're talking about. I expect the same out of everyone else -- if you haven't done your research, the only things from your mouth should be questions.

Is this a big deal to me? No, not really. I used to participate more in Mac vs. PC, Navigator vs. IE, PC vs. console, etc. conversations. But then I just got bored with it. Everyone has their reasons, everyone has their causes or experiences. But this shouldn't translate into the slop I have to read on the Web everytime I go looking for content. Do what you like and do what you feel is best. And then, when you do that, don't FORCE your views on other people (I guess, rhetorically, I shouldn't use an imperative there, but screw it). If you found the best way to live a life, shaddup and hide that precious secret. Only fools reveal secrets of that nature.

Fix your damn magic 8 ball if it doesn't work on more than one browser. Jesus. Implement if..then loops for multiple versions of the same Javascript. Stop being such a prig about the software you use. It doesn't make a frigging difference what software YOU use -- it's all about what your viewers use. And again, speaking as someone who creates this shit every day, don't come at me whining about how you can't make pages work for each browser -- my site works reasonably well on everything from raw text to HTML source text editing to IE to Navigator.

It's not that hard if you know what you're doing. Such a shame everyone thinks that they DO know what they're doing.

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