thinair

Boulder, Colorado

elevation 5400 feet

your guide: Eric Dobbs

The Great Browser Upgrade Campaign

Friday 18 July 2003 at 16:26

I started this project on July 3rd and then stalled on a little bit of scope creep. I've been kicked into gear now that Tim Bray has publicly observed that there's an opportunity to side-step the limitations of Internet Explorer. We just have to figure out how to get the alternatives in front of enough of the right people

I have an idea about how to notify the masses of the better web browser options that exist. But it will only work if the idea caches on.

Update 11/11/2003: It hasn't. WaSP recommends moving beyond the browser upgrade campain. They seem to have shifted their focus to getting web developers to educate themselves which seems sensible enough. I still think this idea has merit.

Exploit the deviations from standards to expose the deviant browsers. For example, according to this table of hiding CSS tricks the following html snippet should catch most of the browsers that generally make web development painful.

<style type="text/css">
  #campaign .thanks        {display: none;}
  #campaign [class=thanks] {display: inline;}
  #campaign .please        {display: inline; font-weight: bold; color: red;}
  #campaign [class=please] {display: none;}
</style>
<p id="campaign">
<a href="http://dobbse.net/thinair/2003/07/000123.html">
<span class="thanks">Thanks for surfing with a better browser.</span>
<span class="please">Please consider changing your web browser.</span>
</a>
</p>

Here it is in action:

Thanks for surfing with a better browser. Please consider changing your web browser.

Update 11/11/2003 simplified the HTML and CSS for clarity.

There are some ingredients which could help the idea spread more easily. There is some existing buzz to fill the sails a bit: Tim's post mentioned earlier and Simon's discussion about marketing Firebird. My example is pretty simple and follows Tim's view source lesson. Could the idea catch on? Would you add an adaptive link like this one to your blog?

It would probably be better if the link pointed to a wiki so that the web design community as a whole could maintain the message to J. Random Surfer over time. That is precisely the self-imposed scope creep that kept me from posting this earlier. I thought I would host a wiki just for that purpose. I may still, if the idea catches on, unless someone else beats me to it. I'm not particular about exactly what words are used in the message to the user, just that it be polite and use standard CSS (or whatever) to auto-detect lame browsers. I also think it will bet better accepted by J. Random if it doesn't single out Internet Explorer.

Spread the word or tell me why you think it won't work

Update 11/11/2003: WaSP mentions one key complaint about where their browser upgrade campaign fell short: earlier campaign techniques "became an easy out for site builders who didn't want to bother with testing their sites in browsers like Netscape 4, even if they were not concerned with the use of standards based markup." There's also some well-deserved and fairly widespread distain for the "best viewed in Browser X" badges which litter the 'Net.

My suggestion probably isn't much of an improvement over the browser badges. But it does have the virtue of thanking those who are using better browsers. One could remove the 'thanks' part have self-concealing web litter only visible for those using lame browsers. I especially like that there is nothing fancy going on. No browser sniffing nor redirection, just leveraging some CSS support to encourage better CSS support. CSS2 selectors hide the 'thanks' message and reveal the 'please' message. CSS3 selectors reverse that. Compliant browsers will prefer the CSS3 settings. Painfully simple and view-source friendly. Ah, well. Tough to push a tipping point alone.