Ridiculously cute and fun—all in the browser.
Tuesday, December 15th, 2020
Monday, October 19th, 2020
Continuous partial browser support
That’s not what happened though. Developers used vendor-prefixed properties as though they were stable. Tutorials were published that basically said “Go ahead and use these vendor-prefixed properties and ship it!” There were even tools that would add the prefixes for you so you didn’t have to type them out for yourself.
Browsers weren’t completely blameless either. Long after features were standardised, they would only be supported in their prefixed form. Apple was and is the worst for this. To this day, if you want to use the
clip-path property in your CSS, you’ll need to duplicate your declaration with
-webkit-clip-path if you want to support Safari. It’s been like that for seven years and counting.
Like capitalism, vendor prefixes were one of those ideas that sounded great in theory but ended up being unworkable in practice.
Still, developers need some way to get their hands on experiment features. But we don’t want browsers to ship experimental features without some kind of safety mechanism.
- Developers are able to register for an experimental feature to be enabled on their origin for a fixed period of time measured in months. In exchange, they provide us their email address and agree to give feedback once the experiment ends.
- Usage of these experiments is constrained to remain below Chrome’s deprecation threshold (< 0.5% of all Chrome page loads) by a system which automatically disables the experiment on all origins if this threshold is exceeded.
I think it works pretty well. If you’re really interested in kicking the tyres on an experimental feature, you can opt in to the origin trial. But it’s very clear that you wouldn’t want to ship it to production.
You could ship something that’s behind an origin trial, but you’d have to make sure you’re putting safeguards in place. At the very least, you’d need to do feature detection. You certainly couldn’t use an experimental feature for anything mission critical …but you could use it as an enhancement.
And that is a pretty great way to think about all web features, experimental or otherwise. Don’t assume the feature will be supported. Use feature detection (or
@supports in the case of CSS). Try to use the feature as an enhancement rather than a dependency.
If you treat all browser features as though they’re behind an origin trial, then suddenly the landscape of browser support becomes more navigable. Instead of looking at the support table for something on caniuse.com and thinking, “I wish more browsers supported this feature so that I could use it!”, you can instead think “I’m going to use this feature today, but treat it as an experimental feature.”
You can also do it for well-established features like
geolocation. Instead of assuming that browser support is universal, it doesn’t hurt to take a more defensive approach. Assume nothing. Acknowledge and embrace unpredictability.
The debacle with vendor prefixes shows what happens if we treat experimental features as though they’re stable. So let’s flip that around. Let’s treat stable features as though they’re experimental. If you cultivate that mindset, your websites will be more robust and resilient.
Thursday, June 25th, 2020
A score of 100 in Lighthouse or 0 errors in axe doesn’t mean that you’re done, it means that you’re ready to start manual testing and testing with real users, if possible.
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
This would be a fascinating experiment to run in Firefox nightly! This is in response to that post I wrote about third-party scripts.
Sunday, August 4th, 2019
Bayesian analysis vs. statistical significance, clearly explained.
Monday, July 1st, 2019
Saturday, February 2nd, 2019
Wheeee! Another fun experiment from Cameron.
Monday, January 28th, 2019
Running an experiment for 500 years is hard enough. Then there’s the documentation…
The hard part is ensuring someone will continue doing this on schedule well into the future. The team left a USB stick with instructions, which Möller realizes is far from adequate, given how quickly digital technology becomes obsolete. They also left a hard copy, on paper. “But think about 500-year-old paper,” he says, how it would yellow and crumble. “Should we carve it in stone? Do we have to carve it in a metal plate?” But what if someone who cannot read the writing comes along and decides to take the metal plate as a cool, shiny relic, as tomb raiders once did when looting ancient tombs?
No strategy is likely to be completely foolproof 500 years later. So the team asks that researchers at each 25-year time point copy the instructions so that they remain linguistically and technologically up to date.
Sunday, July 22nd, 2018
Some lovely little animation experiments from Cameron.
Monday, June 11th, 2018
Mandy’s experiments with text effects in CSS are kinda mindblowing—I can’t wait to see her at Ampersand at the end of the month!
Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017
A massively in-depth study of boundary-breaking music, recreated through the web audio API.
- Steve Reich - It’s Gonna Rain (1965)
- Brian Eno - Ambient 1: Music for Airports, 2/1 (1978)
- Brian Eno - Discreet Music (1975)
You don’t have to be a musician or an expert in music theory to follow this guide. I’m neither of those things. I’m figuring things out as I go and it’s perfectly fine if you do too. I believe that this kind of stuff is well within reach for anyone who knows a bit of programming, and you can have a lot of fun with it even if you aren’t a musician.
One thing that definitely won’t hurt though is an interest in experimental music! This will get weird at times.
Thursday, April 27th, 2017
Fontlandia is yours to explore.
By leveraging AI and convolutional neural networks to draw higher-vision pattern recognition, we have created a tool that helps designers understand and see relationships across more than 750 web fonts.
Sunday, January 29th, 2017
The text detection API is still in its experimental stage, but it opens up a lot of really interesting possibilities for the web: assistive technology to read out text, archiving tools for digitising text …it’s all part of the nascent shape detection API.
Friday, January 6th, 2017
I can relate to what Rachel describes here—I really like using my own website as a playground to try out new technologies. That’s half the fun of the indie web.
I had already decided to bring my content back home in 2017, but I’d also like to think about this idea of using my own site to better demonstrate and play with the new technologies I write about.
Sunday, July 24th, 2016
The story of Science Hack Day …as told in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America!
(a PDF version is also available)
Friday, April 8th, 2016
I think the move away from side projects toward doing a startup day one is not all good. There was something great about the ability to experiment with an idea before committing to it and before sucking other people’s money into it.
Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
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.
Thursday, February 19th, 2015
A beautiful website for ISS-based biology experiments.
Wednesday, March 26th, 2014