Alex recounts the sordid history of vendor prefixes and looks to new ways of allowing browsers to ship experimental features without causing long-term harm.
Fire up Firefox and try out these demos: the CSS
element value is pretty impressive (although there are currently some serious performance issues).
To put it simply, this function renders any part of a website as a live image. A. Live. Image!
A wonderful, wonderful history of the web from Dave at this year’s Beyond Tellerrand conference. I didn’t get to see this at the time—I was already on the way back home—so I got Dave to give me the gist of it over lunch. He undersold it. This is a fascinating story, wonderfully told.
So gather round the computer, kids, and listen to Uncle Dave tell you about times gone by.
The death of the web has been greatly exaggerated.
There’s nothing else like it. It’s constantly improving. It’s up to you what you do with it.
Here’s the video of the panel I participated in at Edge conference, expertly moderated by Lyza.
Thanks to the video editing, you can’t see the face I’m making when the guy from Facebook talks about user-agent sniffing as a totally cool and reliable way of working.
A superb illustration of why playing the numbers game and dismissing even a small percentage of your potential audience could be disastrous.
This is the way to approach building for the web:
I want to make as few of those assumptions as possible. Because every assumption I make introduces fragility. Every assumption introduces another way that my site can break.
It’s progressive enhancement, but like Stuart, Tim is no longer planning to use that term.
I really like Alex’s framing of best-of-breed progressively enhanced websites as “progressive apps” (although Bruce has some other ideas about the naming).
It’s a shame that the add-to-homescreen part isn’t standardised yet though.
Using Progressive Enhancement makes your site better for all users and enables the 275 million users of Opera Mini worldwide.
I believe that Mozilla can make progress in privacy, but leadership needs to recognize that current advertising practices that enable “free” content are in direct conflict with security, privacy, stability, and performance concerns — and that Firefox is first and foremost a user-agent, not an industry-agent.
Progressive Enhancement remains the best option for solving web development issues such as wide-ranging browser support, maintenance and future-proofing your application.
Apps must run on specific platforms for specific devices. The app space, while large, isn’t universal.
Websites can be viewed by anyone with a web browser.
And that doesn’t mean foregoing modern features:
A web browser must only understand HTML. Further, newer HTML (like HTML 5) is still supported because the browser is built to ignore HTML it doesn’t understand. As a result, my site can run on the oldest browsers all the way to the newest ones. Got Lynx? No problem. You’ll still be able to find matches nearby. Got the latest smartphone and plentiful data? It’ll work there, too, and take advantage of its features.
This is why progressive enhancement is so powerful.
My site will take advantage of newer technologies like geolocation and local storage. However, the service will not be dependent on them.
I completely understand Peter’s fears here, and to a certain extent, I share them. But I think there’s a danger in only looking to what native platforms can do that the web doesn’t (yet). Perhaps instead we should be looking to strengthen what only the web can offer: ubiquity, access, and oh yeah, URLs.
This is a wonderful presentation by Kimberley at O’Reilly’s Fluent Conference, running through the history of the Line Mode Browser and the hack project we worked on at CERN to emulate it.
Brad points out the importance of supporting—which is not the same as optimising for—the non-shiny devices out there.
I really like using the Kindle’s browser as a good baseline for checking that information is available and readable.
Charlotte has experimenting with a nice discrete bit of flexbox on her personal site. Here she documents what she did, and what the fallback is.
The launch of the Apple watch prompts Brad to remind us of the benefits of being future-friendly.
Once again, responsive design is not about “mobile”, “tablet”, and “desktop”. It’s about creating experiences meant to look and function beautifully on anything that can access the Web. We don’t know what gizmos will be sitting underneath Christmas trees two years from now, but there’s a damn good chance those gadgets will be able to access the Web.
Everyone who calls for WebKit in Internet Explorer is exactly the same kind of developer who would have coded to Internet Explorer 15 years ago (and probably happily displayed the best viewed in badge).
It’s happening again, and every petulant, lazy developer who calls for a WebKit-only world is responsible.
From the ashes of Opera, a new browser is born. Download the tech preview and take it for a spin—it’s quite nice.
Anna documents the most interesting bit (for me) of her new wearable/watch/wrist-device/whatever — the web browser.
I love Lyza’s comment on the par-for-the-course user-agent string of Microsoft’s brand new Spartan browser:
There must be an entire field emerging: UA archaeologist and lore historian. It’s starting to read like the “begats” in the bible. All browsers much connect their lineage to Konqueror or face a lack-of-legitimacy crisis!
That’s Netscape 1.0n, released in December of 1994, running inside Windows 3.11, released in August of 1993, running inside of Google Chrome 39.0.2171.99 m, released about a week ago, on a Windows 7 PC, released in 2009.
But when it comes to trying to navigate the web with that set-up, things get a bit depressing.
First, the browsers competed on having proprietary crap. Then, the browsers competed on standards support. Now, finally, the browsers are competing on what they can offer their users.
I don’t agree with the conclusion of this post:
But I think the author definitely taps into a real issue:
The real problem is the perception that any code running in the browser is front-end code.
This is something we’re running into at Clearleft: we’ve never done backend programming (by choice), but it gets confusing if a client wants us to create something in Angular or Ember, “because that’s front end code, right?”
The difference between back-enders and front-enders is that the first work in only one environment, while the second have to work with myriad of environments that may hold unpleasant surprises.
Designing primarily in a laptop web browser and testing with a mouse rather than fingers may come to look very out of date soon.
An important clarification from Stephen:
You don’t actually design in the browser
When I speak of designing in the browser, I mean creating browser-based design mockups/comps (I use the terms interchangeably), as opposed to static comps (like the PSDs we’re all used to). So it’s not the design. It’s the visualization of the design—the one you present to stakeholders.
Personally, I think it’s as crazy to start in the browser as it is to start with Photoshop—both have worldviews and constraints that will affect your thinking. Start with paper.
Kenneth has isolated Chrome’s dev tools into its own app. This is a big step towards this goal:
Why are DevTools still bundled with the browsers? What if clicking “inspect element” simply started an external DevTools app?
With DevTools separated from one specific browser, a natural next step would be making the DevTools app work with other browsers.
Like caniuse.com, but for typography features. Find out what’s supported in browsers today.
This strikes me as an eminently sensible idea by Emil: using the picture element to begin providing WebP alternatives to JPG.
Of course, picture-supporting browsers will have to adjust their decision-making algorithm to support this pattern.
Paul Ford’s potted history of web standards, delivered in his own inimitable style.
Reading through the standards, which are dry as can be, you might imagine that standardization is a polite, almost academic process, where wonks calmly debate topics like semicolon placement. This is not the case.
I’m an advocate for progressive enhancement. Tom Dale is not. But even though we may disagree on that, there’s a lot to like in his sensible, balanced answers to some sensationalist linkbaity questions.
It’s not that the pace of innovation on the Web is slower, it’s just solving a problem that is an order of magnitude more challenging than how to build and distribute trusted apps for a single platform. As we saw on the desktop, it may take a few years to catch up to all of the capabilities of a native, proprietary platform, but in terms of the impact it will have on humanity, forgive me for not losing sleep if we have to wait a few years for it to arrive.
I mentioned this a little while back, but it’s worth remembering just how many people are using Opera Mini …and how many more are about to join them.
Bring it on!
Angry, but true.
Don’t lock yourself into a comprehensive technology that may just die within the next few months and leave you stranded. With progressive enhancement you’ll never go wrong. Progressive enhancement means your code will always work, because you’ll always focus on providing a minimal experience first, and then adding features, functionality, and behavior on top of the content.
My name is Jeremy and I am a boring front-end developer.
I share the concerns expressed here about the “sizes” attribute that’s part of the new turbo-powered img element (or “the picture element and its associates”, if you prefer). Putting style or layout information into HTML smells bad.
This is a concern that Matt Wilcox has raised:
Change the design and those breakpoints are likely to be wrong. So you’ll need to change all of the client-side mark-up that references images.
I can give you a current use-case: right here on adactio.com, you can change the stylesheet …so I can’t embed breakpoints or sizes into my img elements because—quite rightly—there’s a separation between the structural HTML layer and the presentational CSS layer.
Following on from that post of Jason’s I linked to, Chris also emphasises that, for most use cases, you probably only need to use srcset (and maybe sizes), but not the picture element with explicit sources.
It’s really, really great that people are writing about this, because it can be quite a confusing topic to wrap your head around at first.
It’s very early days for ServiceWorker, but Jake is on hand with documentation and instructions on its use. To be honest, most of this is over my head and I suspect it won’t really “click” until I try using it for myself.
Where it gets really interesting is in the comments. Stuart asks “What about progressive enhancement?” And Jake points out that because a ServiceWorker won’t be installed on a first visit, you pretty much have to treat it as an enhancement. In fact, you’d have to go out of your way to make it a requirement:
You could, of course, throw up a splash screen and wait for the ServiceWorker to install, creating a ServiceWorker-dependant experience. I will hunt those people down.
Jason points out that the picture element might not be needed for most responsive image use cases; the srcset and sizes attributes will probably be enough—that’s what I’m doing for the photos on my site.
Bruce went to the Extensible Web Summit in Berlin and wrote up his notes.
Sounds like he shares my excitement, but also my nervousness.
There’s also this important point, that Alex would do well to remember before crying “Piffle and tosh!”:
We need to ensure that all devs who want to can participate by allowing ease of collaboration, courteous discourse.
Opera Mini is about to be installed as the default browser on a few more million phones.
Dan Donald gets to the heart of progressive enhancement:
Assumptions in themselves don’t have to be inherently bad but let’s recognise them for what they are. We know very little but that can hopefully enable us to be far more flexible and understanding in what we create.
One more reason why you should never sniff user-agent strings: Internet Explorer is going to lie some more. Can’t really blame them though—if developers didn’t insist on making spurious conclusions based on information in the user-agent string, then browsers wouldn’t have to lie.
Oh, and Internet Explorer is going to parse -webkit prefixed styles. Again, if developers hadn’t abused vendor prefixes, we wouldn’t be in this mess.
Personally, I’m all for more browsers. The more, the merrier.
I, for one, don’t welcome our applinks overlords.
So, you’re checking out your news feed on your Facebook app and you see a CNN post that you want to read. After reading the post on CNN, you decide you want to to read the source article on TMZ…
Some URLs are ugly. Some URLs aren’t. Let’s not sacrifice them.
A lovely post by Mark on the value of URLs.
Right now, this move to remove URLs from the interface of Chrome is just an experiment …but the fact that Google are even experimenting with it is very disturbing.
“Who? Me? No, I was never going to actually blow the web’s brains out—I just wanted to feel the heft of the weapon as I stroked it against the face of the web.”
Derek’s excellent advice on avoiding over-reliance on data attributes has this brilliant nugget of insight:
In the web front-end stack — HTML, CSS, JS, and ARIA — if you can solve a problem with a simpler solution lower in the stack, you should. It’s less fragile, more foolproof, and just works
I like this idea. It would be nice to see it catch on…
- Report a bug for any website or browser.
- Our team of volunteers diagnoses the bug.
- We send a fix to the site owner or browser.
A nice summation by Dan of when it makes sense to use a graphic design tool like Photoshop and when it makes sense to use a web browser.
John echoes some of my recent thinking about what qualifies as a web browser and, by extension, what qualifies as the web:
We shouldn’t think of “the web” as only what renders in web browsers. We should think of the web as anything transmitted using HTTP and HTTPS. Apps and websites are peers, not competitors. They’re all just clients to the same services.
That said, I think he is perhaps underestimating the power of URLs. Addressability—particularly over an extended time period—remains the powerful feature of the web.
A handy way of automating the creation of old-IE stylesheets using Grunt. This follows on from Jake’s work in using preprocessors and conditional comments to send a different stylesheet to IE8 and below—one that doesn’t contain media queries. It’s a clever way of creating mobile-first responsive sites that still provide large-screen styles to older versions of IE.
The importance of long-term thinking in web design. I love this description of the web:
a truly fluid, chaotic design medium serving millions of imperfect clients
Some good ideas on the idea of element-level media queries, a feature that developers are crying out for and browser makers are saying is too hard. This post has some thoughts on how to deal with the potential issues.
A lovely history lesson on CSS from John.
I think Chrome is doing the right thing by removing the 300 millisecond tap delay on sites that set width=device-width — it’s certainly better than only doing it on sites that set user-scalable=no, which felt like rewarding bad behaviour.
John shares his concerns about the increasing complexity involved in developing for the web.
Some excellent research for web developers: find out which unicode characters have the widest support—release useful for choosing icons.
I really like Scott’s approach to defining what “support” means in terms of browsers—it makes a lot sense to break things down to the component level.
The authors of the Extensible Web Manifesto explain the thinking behind their …uh… thinking.
Alex starts with a bit of a rant about the phrase “semantic HTML”, which should really just be “well-written HTML, but there then follows some excellent thoughts on the emergence of meaning and the process of standardising on vocabularies.
Good luck getting that script updated for the thousands of sites and applications, you say to yourself, where it’s laying dormant just waiting to send devices the wrong content based on a UA substring.
Henri gives an overview of the DRM-style encryption proposed for HTML. It’s a very balanced unbiased description, but if you have the slightest concern about security, sentences like this should give you the heebie-jeebies:
This is the worst idea for a W3C community group ever. Come to think of it, it’s the worst idea for an idea ever.
Brian writes up his experience working on the line-mode browser hack event at CERN.
Once you get past the cheesy intro music, there are some gems from Robert Cailliau in here.
I took a little time out of the hacking here at CERN to answer a few questions about the line-mode browser project.
This is what I’m working on today (where by “working on”, I mean “watching other far more talented people work on”).
Alas, that clever SVG fallback trick I linked to a couple of days ago has some unexpected performance side-effects.
Surfin’ Safari - Blog Archive » Improved support for high-resolution displays with the srcset image attribute
WebKit nightlies now have support for
srcset. I’m pleased to see that it’s currently constrained to just handling the case of high-density displays; it doesn’t duplicate the media query functionality of
I’ve always maintained that the best solution to responsive images will be some combination of
picture: they each have their strengths and weaknesses. The “art direction” use case is better handled by
picture, but the “retina” use case is better handled by
A great call-to-arms from Tim, simply asking that we create websites that take advantage of the amazing universality of the web:
The web has the power to go anywhere—any network, any device, any browser. Why not take advantage of that?
Inevitably there is pushback in the comments from developers still in the “denial” stage of coming to terms with what the web is.
A call for developers to let standards bodies know what we want:
It is important that we as developers focus on the right things again. If you encounter a bug, you should not only fix it for your site; you should reach out to browser vendors and web standards people to fix this in a long-term solution. It might cost you a few minutes, but brings a lot of improvement to the whole developer community.
Well, this is interesting: it looks like Chrome might stop waiting 300ms for potential double-tap-to-zoom events if the site is using a meta viewport declaration that sets the width to device-width.
The closing hot topics panel I moderated at this year’s Mobilism conference in Amsterdam, featuring Remy, Wilto, Jake, and Dan.
A great history lesson from Dave.
Ah, I remember when the CSS Zen Garden was all fields. Now get off my CSS lawn.
The battle between web fonts and performance. Ian Feather outlines some possible solutions, but of course, as always, the answer is “it depends”.
An intriguing initiative to tighten up the loop between standards development and implementation.
A terrific quiz about browser performance from Jake. I had the pleasure of watching him present this in a bar in Amsterdam—he was like a circus carny hoodwinking the assembled geeks.
I guarantee you won’t get all of this right, and that’s a good thing: you’ll learn something. If you do get them all right, either you are Jake or you are very, very sad.
Jake casts a scrutinising eye over the way that browsers load and parse scripts …and looks at what we can do about it.
A fascinating look at the history of cookies …from the inventor of cookies.
Joking aside, this is a useful resource for keeping track of the current spread of Android versions.
Wow! The CSS Zen Garden is a decade old. Crazy! It’s a true piece of web history …and it’s back!
A handy plugin for Chrome that always you to inspect media query breakpoints and take screenshots at any of them.
A terrific piece by Remy—based on a talk he gave—on when he uses jQuery and, more importantly, when he doesn’t. His experiences and conclusions pretty much mirror my own, but of course Remy is far more thoughtful and smart than I.
Really good stuff.
Want to style those new HTML5 input types? I hope you like vendor prefixes.
A good history lesson in rendering engines: KHTML, WebKit, and now, Blink.
This is wonderful stuff! I’m a big fan of the
datalist element but I hadn’t realised how it could be combined with
input types like
A handy one-stop-shop for tips on improving front-end performance.
This issue of A List Apart is a great double-whammy. Lara Swanson has a ton of practical tips for front-end performance enhancements, and Brian dives deep into making your own icon fonts.
The “client hints” proposal looks really interesting: a way for user-agents to send data to the server without requiring the server to have a library of user-agent strings. But Scott has a few concerns about some of the details.
The slides from Anna’s terrific talk at the Responsive Day Out.
And this is why user-agent sniffing not a future-friendly technique. A new mobile browser comes along, and it has to spoof a fake UA string to all of these sites.
It’s a Red Queen arms race.
A very hand tip from Ben on using SVG background images with a PNG fallback for IE8 and below.
Everything you ever wanted to know about using SVG today.