diary of a mad

11 march 2000


 relapse of a browser junkie

Hi... my name is John. I'm a browser junkie.

It started off innocently enough. I just wanted to see how my Web pages looked in different browsers. That was back in the Bad Old Days of 1997, when the appearance of a Web page could change dramatically from one browser to another.

I'll spare you the full story of the growth of my addiction. Suffice it to say that, by last summer, I had these browsers installed on my computer (and frequently had them all running at the same time):

  • Internet Explorer 5.0
  • Netscape Navigator 4.08
  • Netscape Navigator 3.01
  • Netscape Navigator 2.0
  • NCSA Mosaic 3.0
  • Opera 3.60
  • WebTV Viewer 2.0
  • Lynx 2.7.1

Why? Vanity. I wanted my sites to be accessible to anyone kind enough to take an interest in them, regardless of their browser choice. And there are legitimate reasons why some people don't use the latest behemoths from the Big Two:

  • Some older computers don't meet the system requirements;
  • Older Netscape versions are still widely used in libraries and Internet cafés;
  • The Lynx browser, which ignores graphics and displays text only, is widely used with screen reading devices by people with vision problems.
  • Opera, the only browser on the list that isn't free, is superior in some respects to any of the others.

After much labor, all of my Web pages performed acceptably in each of these browsers, while validating to the World Wide Web Consortium's HTML 4.0 Transitional standard.

When I got this new computer last September, it came with Windows 98 Second Edition installed, so naturally Internet Explorer 5 was included. I transferred my Opera license to the new box, and control of the old computer to the Heir. I had the two best graphical browsers available on a fast computer. I felt no need to rebuild the Browser Collection on the new computer. I was in recovery from my addiction. Life was good.

There was no rest for the weary, though: The HTML 4.0 Transitional standard temporarily legitimizes a hodgepodge of formerly proprietary Netscape and Microsoft "extensions" to HTML, for use alongside the much more elegant and flexible Cascading Style Sheet markup tags which are replacing them. I knew I'd soon need to purge my existing sites of such tags, "deprecated" almost as soon as they were legitimized by the W3C, to be ready for the coming generation of browser-equipped "Internet Appliances" (whatever they may turn out to be).

Then I started working on this site, determined to fit it to the latest, strictest standard. The initial efforts looked pretty good to me in IE 5.01 and Opera 3.62... but how would it appear in older browsers? I uploaded a few pages, booted the Heir's computer, made a dialup connection (how quickly we forget! Cable has spoiled me), and launched Netscape 4.08. Eeww! Ick! I had forgotten how broken was that browser's CSS implementation. The pages also looked pretty bad in the WebTV Viewer. They were plain but functional in the older Netscapes and Mosaic, but clearly needed a few concessions. I'm proud to say that they looked wonderful in Lynx.

Back into Notepad, to make changes; upload. Back to the old box and dialup; better in the old browsers, not as nice in Lynx. More changes...

I couldn't stand it-- the switching back and forth between computers, the 28.8k connection speeds. I downloaded the latest WebTV Viewer and Lynx and installed them on the new computer.

That's still only four browsers; that doesn't make me a Bad Person, does it? No, I didn't put any of the Netscapes or Mosaic on the new box. Mosaic was just self-indulgence (or self-torture, depending on your viewpoint), and AOL will be shoving a buggy Mozilla/Netscape 6 out the door within the next few weeks. I can wait, and that'll only make five. Opera 4 will replace 3.62, so I'll still only have five when it comes out. That's lots better than eight, isn't it? And the new browsers will all be standards-compliant, so after I try them out I can get rid of all but the one or two I like the best, right? Yeah, that's the ticket...

Why are you looking at me like that?

You do believe me, don't you?

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