browsers posts

Supporting HTTP 0.9

I recently added support for HTTP 0.9 to my site. I have access to no browsers that use that protocol, and it’s highly unlikely that anybody is visiting sites with one. Why support it then? It’s not that hard (for me), and it fits with the progressive enhancement related concept that all browsers should be able to use the most basic functionality of a website that they are capable of.

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Line Mode Browser, or progressive enhancement all the way back

Progressive enhancement is a development strategy meant to provide older and / or less capable browsers with a working website while providing the more capable with a rich, full experience. It is often presented as a set of layers of support, with HTML at its base, then CSS added to that for styles, then JavaScript for advanced behavior. With this, it’s often posited that a well-crafted HTML experience can be used by any browser. However, for really old browsers from the early web, the new web provides many things that can make pages difficult to read, functionality unusable, or even entire sites inaccessible.

Today, I’m going to go back as far as I reasonably can in terms of browser support, to the second web browser ever made, and the first widely supported one, Line Mode Browser. I can’t look at the first, WorldWideWeb, because it was only made for NextStep and, as far as I can tell, isn’t accessible for me to test with. Line Mode is though. It was open-source by the w3c and kept available. I was able to get it with MacPorts with the ‘libwww’ package (run as www on the command line).

Line Mode was based on WorldWideWeb, and in fact was less featured, so it is likely to have any issues WorldWideWeb has and more. I will look at some issues that Line Mode has with modern web pages, and provide some solutions that will improve the abilities of even the oldest browsers to use a page.

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IE 10 and CSS Grid Layout

IE 10 has recently graduated from beta and is now the current official release. It started out Windows 8 only, but now is available on 7 as well as a preview release. Hopefully that will allow it to grab more IE users quickly. IE, which has long been the bane of web developers, has been getting better and better with each release. IE 6 has always been a pain to develop for, having many bugs/quirks in rendering pages. In all but fairly simple sites, it always took me a fair amount of time to fix after getting things looking right in other browsers. Luckily, the market share is low enough that at work we don’t even worry about it anymore. IE 7 was better. Using a subset of HTML4/CSS2 level development, I usually have had to do only minor tweaks unless the sites were fairly complex. Luckily, It’s share is almost to the cutoff point where we stop developing for it as well. With IE 8, I’ve been able to do most HTML4/CSS2 level stuff without worries. display: inline-block;, :before, :after, onhashchange, etc. It still remains a limiter in using some selectors and in making use of HTML5/CSS3 level techniques, though using an HTML5 shiv and CSS3 PIE or allowing for progressive enhancement to skip over some features in it works rather well. IE 9 has brought some HTML5/CSS3 stuff to the table, like selectors, HTML5 semantic elements, SVG, though it’s missing some important ones, like CSS3 columns and HTML5 form stuff. Since I develop to support IE 8 usually without browser specific tweaks, IE 9 basically works automatically, and has some style enhancements over 8.

And now there’s IE 10. IE 10 has added a lot more and is finally coming close to other browsers in implementing the not-yet-fully-standardized standards. It’s still missing some good ones, but the list of things that have to be skipped, worked around, etc, for IE’s current version has shrunk a good bit. It even implements some features that others haven’t yet.

The big one is the CSS3 grid layout module, which is the one I’m most excited about for the future. This module is pretty close to allowing for a real decoupling of markup from style that CSS has promised finally for page layout.

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