Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘browsers’

FOWA London – Get excited and build things (and a browser panel)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Yesterday I went to London to deliver the opening Keynote at the Future of Web Apps. In it, I reminded people of using the web to build apps on the web, why it makes sense to build with open technologies and showed off some of the new technologies.

The presentation slides are available here

The audio recording of the talk is available on

In the afternoon we also had a browser panel with participants from Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Opera. My colleague Dan Horner was busy taking notes (impressive, thanks!):


Alex Russell – Google (JS standards commitee)
Giorgio Sardo – Microsoft
Patrick Lauke – Opera
Chris Heilmann – Mozilla

1. Question: How do you choose standards and prioritise them

A – Google – Extolling getting together rather than 1st mover disadvantage. Chrome’s goal is to understand what web developers need, and try to get vendors to join them; either by implementing and shipping first, or taking and pushing standards forward.
A – Microsoft – Iteration is key – pushing a standard out, and iterating to prioritise.

2. Question: If someone wants to lobby; who do they talk to?

A – Microsoft – We want feedback; incredibly important, whether enterprise or individual feedback. Discussed community groups; allows users / developers to participate. By getting a minimum of 5 people together, which allows a proposal to be considered by the W3C board. Join W3C community groups.
A – Opera – Looking at what other browsers are doing / WebKit as an example – they follow what’s going on in the WK community; and prioritise it. Large section of Opera team in developer relations, and attend (or speak at) many conferences. Get a feel for what the other browsers are doing, but try to prioritise what their end users and developers want.
A – Mozilla – Bugs is the fastest way to do it. Best way to do it – and better than using Twitter / Social media. Security is very key in testing: raised example of a full screen UI, that could potentially trick you into entering information under false pretences.

3. Question – Desktop versus mobile

A – Microsoft – Have been in desktop and mobile for a while ( quote: could debate how successful we’ve been). WIndows Phone 7 – Mango update – they’re now shipping IE9 mobile with every client. Have started sending out 1-2 weeks ago. 50% have updated to 7.5, and are planning to have everyone updated by the end of the month. IE9 is exactly the same engine on desktop as on mobile. They think that the expectation for developers is that it should be equal.
A – Opera – Have been in the mobile space for a while: mentioned Opera mini, how it precluded Amazon by a long way. Opera mobile also exists. Core rendering engine is identical between the two. Pretty much on par with desktop and mobile (Opera mini is updated automatically as it’s processed through a server).

3b. Question – Are there any Opera features which aren’t supported on mobile that are there on desktop

A – Opera – They think they’re pretty close between the two (although could be a delay of a couple of weeks to have parity with each update.
A – Google – Chrome is not the Android browser. The Android browser has a lot of the same technology that WebKit / ChromeKit have. Chrome is the same for every platform it’s supported on (Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS).

4. Question – Any frustrations (initially asked about Chrome)?

A – Google – Bandwidth caps; no server rendering available.
A – Mozilla – Firefox comes out every 6 weeks; cool new features all the time. Mobile Firefox is being taken very seriously – kicking and screaming and on par with desktop now. However different devices have different challenges. On mobile we’re concentrating on performance, as well as sync – user experience between desktop and mobile.

5. Question – How fast is Microsoft updating IE?

A – Microsoft – In two years since IE 8 - have updated release cycle. They want to ship a new developer version every 8-10 weeks. Want to show prototyping as it’s happening with risky experiments. Have new environment HTML5 labs – where they prototype and iterate; they prototype, test, and then push successful features into the main release.

5b Google Q to Msoft – Thinks there’s problems with lag in updates. Creates a limiting factor with new features – what’s with the half life of IE when Windows Phone is auto-updated.

A – Microsoft – Microsoft has a support in place that lasts 10 years; that’s why they still support IE6.

6. Question – Testing: How do you recommend folks in the room test your browser

A – Mozilla – suggests having the latest stable build, have the next beta – to make sure the next 3 months will work. Make sure you know the OS / browser split of your audience and test that. Chris holds testers in high regard. In mobile devices; thinks it’s very important to test on the device itself. Has a separate laptop for testing. – is where you can test for old versions.
A – Google – hopes that there aren’t old versions of Chrome. Would like admins to let them know if there are older versions out there (there shouldn’t be). Suggests checking current version and beta.
A – Opera – there are older users out there. Recommends you should test the current and beta version (Opera Next). They also have Opera Labs, that allow users to test APIs like the camera in your device. Can also test through TVs as well (although some TV OEMs block this). Reinforced Christians view that developers should get 1-2 devices and test directly on them (although there is an emulator that helps).
A – Microsoft – they have builds for all old versions of IE - Mentioned Expression Web Super Preview – tool that allows you to test every single version of every browser (including non IE): submits to the cloud and sends back not only the image but also the DOM. Allows you to test graphical issues for all operating systems and browsers.

Last 10 minutes – talking about the future

7. Question – What do you think will be happening in the next 10 years to browsers (in particular TVs)

A – Opera: Excited by ubiquity through platformisation. Excited about giving even more power to the browser; e.g tilt sensor, camera. Have browsers that can interact with the hardware. Being able to run almost native app experiences in the browser itself. Using canvas, user media, geolocation to build Alternative Reality Apps. Opera believe that sticking points of giving access to Camera (e.g security) need to be fixed.
A – Mozilla: Identity is the big thing. Not having to log in using separate accounts. Wants passwords to die – brought up lifehacker password steal. Wants browsers to own the identity, and have different personas for different web uses, and not tracked (or tracked differently) when looking at Cats, or looking at serious work. Then brought up example of Wii, PS3, Kinnect – how these sort of UX changes could be the future.
A – Microsoft: Applications, Games and Marketplaces – will be the new freshness for Consumers. For developers; responsive design will be very important – building from a smartphone to a large television; sees CSS3 introducing a lot more here.

8. Question – About Chrome: Thinks confusion of building Chrome App v. Native App is not good

A – Chrome – You can use Chrome packaging format, but a lot of developers are using metadata – really no more than a redirect to the website and App-Caching – high res icon and description, and that’s all that takes to build a Chrome App. They have more than 140 million users; nearly all of them have used a web App

9. Question – Are you building an App-store?

A – Microsoft: No comment on App stores
A – Mozilla – working on a store, but most important thing is distribution. Mentioned that Chrome should be doing this [Google – A – working on this]

HTML5 for XP – it is time for Microsoft to acknowledge other options

Monday, March 28th, 2011

If you follow me on Twitter then you must have seen the newest little web product I’ve put out : HTML5 for XP.

html5 for xp

So what is this about? Well, frankly the thing that holds us back when it comes to developing a beautiful and simple to maintain and create web: Internet Explorer not getting upgraded.

The issues are many (and I explained them in detail before), but here is the gist:

  • Internet Explorer 9 is not available for XP users – you need to have Vista or Seven to get IE9
  • Upgrading to Vista was not really exciting enough for a lot of businesses when it came out
  • Upgrading to Seven normally means that you also need to upgrade the hardware (which is actually a very common happening – as a lot of users simply don’t know what a browser is or don’t get the rights to choose an own browser in a corporate environment IE only gets upgraded when they get a new computer)
  • A lot of Windows XP machines never got upgraded as they had a pirated OS. The Genuine Check of Vista told users “computer says no” and that was that.

Now, I personally want to have HTML5 and CSS3 and other new exciting technologies right now – I am tired of writing code for cool things that browsers should be doing for me.

As Microsoft is spending a lot of time and effort to promote just how cool IE9 is and glosses over the fact that XP users cannot get it, I thought it is time to advertise the fact that users have a choice – even when they stick with XP. For Microsoft this doesn’t make any business sense as they want to sell Seven, and they are right in telling people that systems need upgrades. However, if the upgrade means spending a lot of money on new hard and software then I can also understand people who don’t want to do that. With Apple products being very expensive and Linux just not being as “mom and dad end user friendly” as Windows is this is what we are stuck with.

This is why I built HTML5 for XP, the site that Microsoft should release themselves. Please tell people about it and send it to your clients.

Creating it was the fun part. I wrote it, created a simple web site (fighting the urge to use all kind of CSS3 awesome as it needs to work in IE6…) and then asked for translations and promotion on Twitter. I put up a Google Spreadsheet with the texts for translation and shared it with the world. This was a too hippy an idea as it meant people did the cool h4xx0rrrr! thing of deleting all the content (well done, lads, wait for Trinity to knock on your door really soon). So I made it an invite only document to submit translations and within a day I had 16 languages – now we are up to 20. I also have to thank Prisca for making the CSS pretty as of course the first feedback from designers was that “this is ugly”.

The saga continues – IE6 has to die! Spread the word.

Rimshots for all – using HTML5 audio and CSS3 to make

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

I’ve been annoyed with the plethora of articles lately showing off HTML5 vs. Flash and building actually worse solutions using open technology. Therefore I thought I’ll have a go at it myself, too.

Instant rimshot is a fun site that has a button that plays a rimshot (the “babumm-tish” after a bad gag at a comedy club) when you press a large red button. I thought this is a good target to convert to CSS and HTML5 and I give you HTML5 instant rimshot.

HTML5 instant rimshot by  you.

In essence this was fun, although Remy had beaten me to it some time ago.

As the background for my work I used HTML5Doctor’s Audio in the browser article and Robert Nyman’s CSS gradient example and I have to say a few things about this:

  • There are not many HTML5 audio tutorials out there – if you Google for HTML5 audio you get video examples – and a lot of them not working.
  • HTML5 articles do not seem to get many fixes – the audio one above for example has a bug in the detection code (mentioned in the comments)
  • I had a hard time making the button work with the sound playing from start to end when you click the button. If you try the “version that loads the audio once and then calls the play() method onclick”: you will find that the second time you hit the button it plays the “badumm” twice in Firefox – why I don’t know. Therefore I needed to create a new audio object every time you click the button – which in Safari means it keeps loading the MP3.
  • The necessary browser support forking and the repetition of the file in MP3 and OGG format is simply annoying – if there is a new technology we should demand from browser makers to bloody well do it right and not as a repetition of the late 90ies madness. I guess the latest announcement on I/O solves that issue – but Safari would still need a plugin to play.
  • The same applies to CSS gradients – progressively enhancing the button (on Firefox < 3.6 and on Opera it gets a plain colour) was another annoyance. Westciv’s gradient generator was a good helper for that.
  • Another interesting bug I found was that you cannot position things absolutely inside a BUTTON element in Firefox. Originally I had the button link as a button but gave up soon enough – see the example here.

All in all I love the idea of the open web and HTML5 leading the way into the future but I am seeing us wasting a lot of time trying to make things work cross-browser and if the final result for the end user is not much better then it will be hard to convince our bosses that the effort is worth the time and money.

What we need for that first and foremost are good examples and not “look what we can do” tutorials that neither use HTML5 nor CSS3 but jQuery to simulate the lot whilst we still call it “HTML5 solutions”.

TTMMHTM: Chrome for IE, 3D for Safari and Firefox, NES for JS and accessibility and an open internet for all

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Things that made me happy this morning:

Did Digg and YouTube just spell the end of Internet Explorer 6?

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Back patting machine In the last few days the blogosphere was abuzz and Twiter a-twitter about Digg pondering dropping support for IE6 and now YouTube showing an ‘update your IE as we won’t support you in the future’ message.

While this is great and I am happy about it I really doubt though that this has a massive impact. Sites like YouTube and Digg seeing a negligible number of IE6 users arriving on their site has a reason: companies that lock their people into IE6 are also companies that block social web sites.

For example I cannot send any Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Myspace or Bebo links to a person I know that works in a large financial corporation. This blog, probably because of its name is also banned, and so is S3 for storage. What happens? People attach 10mb videos to emails which strangely enough don’t get banned as 20mb PPTs are not uncommon in that environment. That this is stupid is not the debate, that it happens is sadly enough a fact. The brave new world of web2.0 awesomeness is far from being the part of IT were most people are and where lots of money is spent.

In the case of YouTube the impact is even less impressive as for years YouTube has rightfully claimed to have 70% of their traffic from embedded media rather than people coming to their site. I upload videos to YouTube but I have given up on comments and tagging on YouTube years ago – the audience is simply not quality but quantity driven. What would be more interesting to see is if the YouTube player could detect a video being embedded in a site that is shown with IE6 and then asking for upgrade.

All this smacks of the well known number that 99% of the web has Flash installed. Well, this number comes from Adobe so yes, when I go to the Adobe site to upgrade my Flash plugin I do have Flash installed the same way that when I go to MSDN or I am very likely to have IE and Silverlight. These are self-fulfilling prophecies.

I guess Facebook will be next to say something in the vein of not supporting IE6, which would be as much of a media hoo-hah but actually much more useful if it supported standard development practices or made the site accessible to assistive technology at the same time.

Social web sites not supporting IE6 is a sign, but a sign to an audience that already understands the problem. It is like adding a message for blind users as a JPG without alternative text – nice idea, wrong tool to reach the intended target group.

What would be interesting would be to see just what kind of web sites are banned in the IE6 loving IT environments. That way we could go to clients and say that if thy want to build something in the same vein than they are OK to not give a toss about IE6 as their site will be banned anyway.

So, while I applaud the decision of YouTube and Digg I also see that it is a damn easy one for them to do as there is no danger involved.

Web sites like the BBC, Sky or even more interesting Bloomberg, Financial Times and other resources corporations use and need dropping IE6 support would be a real impact.

The BBC has the problem that they cannot ask people to upgrade anything by law – which is why they had to build their own JS library to support old browsers. You can say that was a step to keep old browsers around and stop innovation but in reality it was a legal necessity and there is no way around. Laws and especially publication laws are the enemy of innovation – and boy do we have a task ahead of us if we want to change that.

In the case of financial companies and large software corporations that build systems for other software corporations and supporting IE6 more or less exclusively (try using an Oracle self-service system with Firefox on a Mac, I dare you!) they are blissfully unaware of the issues they cause and who is to blame? Us, the people who want to change the web and live on the bleeding edge of web design and development. Every single time I ask what can be done about corporate environments, terrible education in universities when it comes to web development and shortsighted and very wrong guidelines and standards in government web sites I hear the same thing – “there is no point in wasting energy on this, we’ll never reach them or change that”.

If that is the case then we also have no right to complain about IE6, cause either we change the cause or moan about symptoms. Right now we do neither as we are too busy celebrating minor victories that make us feel as if we changed the world.

The ball is still in the court of Microsoft. They have the channels to reach the people that need to upgrade their browsers – to keep their systems more secure and to allow us to build web solutions that make the day to day life of cubicle dwellers all over the world much easier and prettier. Right now Microsoft is battling itself over an issue that keeps them from innovating. Google OS is an unashamed attack to the old-school office world, and I for one would love to see it succeed as stagnation and maintaining a status quo that makes people hate computers and programs that they need to use to do their job is not what building software for people is about. The money spent on marketing stunts comparing IE8 to other browsers and women throwing up when not using IE8 could be spent better in a campaign tailored at corporate IT to join us in a past-Y2K world.

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