The graphic above (and its lengthy
alt) is a parody based on a rather neat utility called the HTML5 Please API. You can drop the code onto your cutting edge demo site and it will indicate to a user what browsers support the features within. The code stays current by leaning on data from CanIUse.com
You can see this code in action by grabbing any browser that isn’t Chrome or the latest version of Firefox and visiting mothereffinganimatedgif.com, a browser-based utility built in 24 hours to produce animated GIFs.
The feature is great for demo and practice sites, but there is a risk that developers may drop this onto end-user facing sites without building appropriate alternates or back-ups to the features. The language for this project doesn’t help:
If you’ve created a demo or site that requires Canvas or WebSQL DB, you’ve been in the awkward situation of telling some of your visitors that their browser isn’t good enough.
That last part gets me. The first part does, too (demo or site), but the last part is the modern version of “best viewed in Internet Explorer.” Those of us who’ve been doing the web thing since its start know the disdain and disrespect for our users that message entails and have moved beyond such statements. Younger developers who are fascinated with all the “new shiny,” on the other hand, may take the explanation as validation that they can just ignore users who aren’t on the browser the developer has decided to support.
We have plenty of evidence to suggest that a browser monoculture is coming back, a repeat of the monoculture that we as developers created when we built for IE6 only, and now we rail against as if it’s the user’s fault.
The ongoing battle over vendor prefixes in CSS is a current example of the Webkit, or perhaps more accurately, iPhone mnonoculture that is developing:
- Browser Makers Caving to Vendor Prefix Misuse on this blog, Feb. 9, 2012;
- Reading List – Vendor prefixes, mobile, monoculture by Bruce Lawson, Feb. 13, 2012.
- The iPhone monoculture by Peter-Paul Koch, Feb. 20, 2012;
- Developers focus on the iPhone too much at .net Magazine, Feb. 21, 2012.
An sample that came across my Twitter feed is a rather nice mini-site called “The New Web Design Guidelines.” It uses an attractive design with clean cutting-edge transitions and animations, while promoting support for touch, displays of any size, and exploration. The new guidelines also suggest blocking any browser that isn’t Webkit:
For this screenshot I had to scale the page down. It seems designing for displays of any size work as long as the aspect ratio isn’t a netbook. Even when I could see the animations (using Chrome) I had the same height problem.
What’s so frustrating is that I have seen similar effects on other sites that work fine in Mozilla and Opera, but this developer has chosen to forbid those browsers from seeing the page. If these are truly the new design guidelines, then we may already be too far into a browser monoculture to climb back out any sooner than 10 years from now.