Tags: rows



Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

A (more) Modern CSS Reset - Andy Bell

A solid update to Andy’s four-years old CSS reset. Best of all, every single line comes with an explanation. So if you don’t like the reasoning, don’t use that line.

Tailwind, and the death of web craftsmanship

CSS is better now. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than its ever been, and it’s better than tailwind. Give it another try. Don’t reach for big globs of libraries to paper over the issues you think it has.

This is why it’s so important to re-evaluate technology decisions.

I’ve seen people, lead and principal engineers, who refuse to learn modern JS, insisting that since it was bad in 2006 its bad today. Worse still is some of these people have used their leadership positions to prevent the use of modern JS.

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Secure tunes

The caching strategy for The Session that I wrote about is working a treat.

There are currently about 45,000 different tune settings on the site. One week after introducing the server-side caching, over 40,000 of those settings are already cached.

But even though it’s currently working well, I’m going to change the caching mechanism.

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have raised an eagle eyebrow when I described how the caching happens:

The first time anyone hits a tune page, the ABCs getting converted to SVGs as usual. But now there’s one additional step. I grab the generated markup and send it as an Ajax payload to an endpoint on my server. That endpoint stores the sheetmusic as a file in a cache.

I knew when I came up with this plan that there was a flaw. The endpoint that receives the markup via Ajax is accepting data from the client. That data could be faked by a malicious actor.

Sure, I’m doing a whole bunch of checks and sanitisation on the server, but there’s always going to be a way of working around that. You can never trust data sent from the client. I was kind of relying on security through obscurity …except it wasn’t even that obscure because I blogged about it.

So I’m switching over to using a headless browser to extract the sheetmusic. You may recall that I wrote:

I could spin up a headless browser, run the JavaScript and take a snapshot. But that’s a bit beyond my backend programming skills.

That’s still true. So I’m outsourcing the work to Browserless.

There’s a reason I didn’t go with that solution to begin with. Like I said, over 40,000 tune settings have already been cached. If I had used the Browserless API to do that work, it would’ve been quite pricey. But now that the flood is over and there’s a just a trickle of caching happening, Browserless is a reasonable option.

Anyway, that security hole has now been closed. Thank you to everyone who wrote in to let me know about it. Like I said, I was aware of it, but it was good to have it confirmed.

Funnily enough, the security lesson here is the same as my conclusion when talking about performance:

If that means shifting the work from the browser to the server, do it!

Monday, August 7th, 2023

A Blog Post With Every HTML Element by Patrick Weaver

I enjoyed this self-documenting journey of exploration.

Monday, June 19th, 2023

Button types

I’ve been banging the drum for a button type="share" for a while now.

I’ve also written about other potential button types. The pattern I noticed was that, if a JavaScript API first requires a user interaction—like the Web Share API—then that’s a good hint that a declarative option would be useful:

The Fullscreen API has the same restriction. You can’t make the browser go fullscreen unless you’re responding to user gesture, like a click. So why not have button type=”fullscreen” in HTML to encapsulate that? And again, the fallback in non-supporting browsers is predictable—it behaves like a regular button—so this is trivial to polyfill.

There’s another “smell” that points to some potential button types: what functionality do browsers provide in their interfaces?

Some browsers provide a print button. So how about button type="print"? The functionality is currently doable with button onclick="window.print()" so this would be a nicer, more declarative way of doing something that’s already possible.

It’s the same with back buttons, forward buttons, and refresh buttons. The functionality is available through a browser interface, and it’s also scriptable, so why not have a declarative equivalent?

How about bookmarking?

And remember, the browser interface isn’t always visible: progressive web apps that launch with minimal browser UI need to provide this functionality.

Šime Vidas was wondering about button type="copy” for copying to clipboard. Again, it’s something that’s currently scriptable and requires a user gesture. It’s a little more complex than the other actions because there needs to be some way of providing the text to be copied, but it’s definitely a valid use case.

  • button type="share"
  • button type="fullscreen"
  • button type="print"
  • button type="bookmark"
  • button type="back"
  • button type="forward"
  • button type="refresh"
  • button type="copy"

Any more?

Tuesday, June 13th, 2023

CSS { In Real Life } | Thoughts From CSS Day

It’s clear that companies don’t value CSS skills in the same way as, say Javascript — which is reflected in pay disparity, bootcamp priorities, and the lack of visibility in job descriptions. It’s not uncommon to see front end job specifications listing React, Redux, Typescript and more, with barely a passing mention of HTML and CSS, despite being core web technologies. New developers are encouraged to learn just enough CSS to get by, rather than cultivate a deep knowledge and appreciation for the language, and that’s reflected in the messy, convoluted code, riddled with bad practices, that many of us have to clear up afterwards.

Monday, June 12th, 2023

Days of style and standards

I first spoke at CSS Day in Amsterdam back in 2016. Well, technically it was the HTML Day preceding CSS Day, when I talked about the A element. I spoke at CSS Day again last year, when I gave a presentation about alternative histories of styling.

One of the advantages to having spoken at the event in the past is that I’m offered a complementary ticket to the event every year. That’s an offer I’ve made the most of.

I’ve just returned from the latest iteration of CSS Day. It was, as always, excellent. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I just love the way that this event treats CSS with the respect it deserves. I always attend thinking “I know CSS”, but I always leave thinking “I learned a lot about CSS!”

The past few years have been incredibly exciting for the language. We’ve been handed feature after feature, including capabilities we were told just weren’t possible: container queries; :has; cascade layers; view transitions!

As Paul points out in his write-up, there’s been a shift in how these features feel too. In the past, the feeling was “there’s some great stuff arriving and it’ll be so cool once we’ve got browser support.” Now the feeling is finally catching up to the reality: these features are here now. If browser support for an exciting feature is still an issue, wait a few weeks.

Mind you, as Paul also points out, maybe that’s down to the decreased diversity in rendering engines. If a feature ships in Chromium, Webkit, and Gecko, then it’s universally supported. On the one hand, that’s great for developers. But on the other hand, it’s not ideal for the ecosystem of the web.

Anyway, as expected, there was a ton of mind-blowing stuff at CSS Day 2023. Most of the talks were deep dives into specific features. Those deep dives were bookended by big-picture opening and closing talks.

Manuel closed out the show by talking about he’s changing the way he writes and thinks about CSS. I think that’s a harbinger of what’s to come in the next year or so. We’ve had this wonderful burst of powerful new features over the past couple of years; I think what we’ll see next is consolidation. Understanding how these separate pieces play well together is going to be very powerful.

Heck, just exploring all the possibilities of custom properties and :has could be revolutionary. When you add in the architectural implications of cascade layers and container queries, it feels like a whole new paradigm waiting to happen.

That was the vibe of Una’s opening talk too. It was a whistle-stop tour of all the amazing features that have already landed, and some that will be with us very soon.

But Una also highlighted the heartbreaking disparity between the brilliant reality of CSS in browsers today versus how the language is perceived.

Look at almost any job posting for front-end development and you’ll see that CSS still isn’t valued as its own skill. Never mind that you could specialise in a subset of CSS—layout, animation, architecture—and provide 10× value to an organisation, the recruiters are going to play it safe and ask you if you know React.

Rachel Nabors and I were chatting about this gap between the real and perceived value of modern CSS. She astutely pointed out that CSS is kind of a victim of its own resilience. The way you wrote CSS ten years ago still works, and will continue to work. That’s by design. Yes, you can write much better, more resilient CSS today, but if those qualities aren’t valued by an organisation, then you’re casting your pearls before swine.

That said, it’s also true that the JavaScript you wrote ten years ago also continues to work today and will continue to work in the future. So why is it that devs seem downright eager to try the latest JavaScript hotness but are reluctant to use CSS that’s been stable for years?

Or perhaps that’s not an accurate representation of the JavaScript ecosystem. It may well be that the eagerness only extends to libraries and frameworks. There’s reluctance to embrace native JavaScript APIs like Proxy or web components. There’s a weird lack of trust in web standards, and an underserved faith in third-party libraries.

Una speculated that CSS needs a rebranding, like we did back in the days of CSS3, a term which didn’t have any technical meaning but helped galvinise excitement.

I’m not so sure. A successful rebranding today becomes a millstone tomorrow. Again, see CSS3.

Una finished with a call-to-action. Let’s work on building the CSS community.

She compared the number of “front-end” conferences dedicated to JavaScript—over 50 listed on one website—to the number of conferences dedicated to CSS. There’s just one. CSS Day.

Heydon wrote:

It occurs to me there are two types of web conferences: know-your-craft conferences and get-ahead conferences. It’s no coincidence there are simultaneously more get-ahead conferences and more JS-framework conferences.

Una encouraged us to organise more gatherings. It doesn’t need to be a conference. It could just be a local meet-up.

I think that’s an excellent suggestion. As Manuel puts it:

My biggest takeaway: The CSS community needs you!

For me, the value of CSS Day was partly in the excellent content being presented, but it was also in the opportunity to gather with like-minded individuals and realise I’m not alone. It’s also too easy to get gaslit by the grift of “modern web development”, which seems to be built on a foundation of user-hostile priorities that don’t make sense to me—over-engineering, intertwingling of concerns, and developer experience über alles. CSS Day was a welcome reminder to fuck that noise.

The continuing tragedy of CSS: thoughts from CSS Day 2023 · Paul Robert Lloyd

With new or expanded modules for layout, typography, animation, audio (though sadly not speech) and more, it’s possible to specialise in a subset of CSS. Yet when aspects of frontend development not involving JavaScript are seen as ignorable by employers, few will get this opportunity.

Paul shares his big-picture thoughts after CSS Day:

But one CSS conference isn’t enough. This language is now so broad and deep, its implementation across browsers never more stable and complete, that opportunities to grow the community abound.

Tuesday, May 30th, 2023

First Experiments with View Transitions for Multi-page Apps

Some great ideas for view transitionts in here! Also:

If you look at any of the examples on a browser that does not support them, the pages still function just fine. The transitions are an extra that’s layered on top if and when your browser supports them. Another concrete example of progressive enhancement in practice.

Jack Franklin – Abstractions, complexities and off-ramps – All Day Hey! 2023 - YouTube

This is a terrific talk by Jack on how to deal with the tooling involved in modern front-end development:

  • Maintaining control,
  • Dependency awareness,
  • Lean on browser primitives,
  • Have an exit strategy.
Jack Franklin – Abstractions, complexities and off-ramps – All Day Hey! 2023

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

Add view transitions to your website

I must admit, when Jake told me he was leaving Google, I got very worried about the future of the View Transitions API.

To recap: Chrome shipped support for the API, but only for single page apps. That had me worried:

If the View Transitions API works across page navigations, it could be the single best thing to happen to the web in years.

If the View Transitions API only works for single page apps, it could be the single worst thing to happen to the web in years.

Well, the multi-page version still hasn’t yet shipped in Chrome stable, but it is available in Chrome Canary behind a flag, so it looks like it’s almost here!

Robin took the words out of my mouth:

Anyway, even this cynical jerk is excited about this thing.

Are you the kind of person who flips feature flags on in nightly builds to test new APIs?

Me neither.

But I made an exception for the View Transitions API. So did Dave:

I think the most telling predictor for the success of the multi-page View Transitions API – compared to all other proposals and solutions that have come before it – is that I actually implemented this one. Despite animations being my bread and butter for many years, I couldn’t be arsed to even try any of the previous generation of tools.

Dave’s post is an excellent step-by-step introduction to using view transitions on your website. To recap:

Enable these two flags in Chrome Canary:


Then add this meta element to the head of your website:

<meta name="view-transition" content="same-origin">

You could stop there. If you navigate around your site, you’ll see that the navigations now fade in and out nicely from one page to another.

But the real power comes with transitioning page elements. Basically, you want to say “this element on this page should morph into that element on that page.” And when I say morph, I mean morph. As Dave puts it:

Behind the scenes the browser is rasterizing (read: making an image of) the before and after states of the DOM elements you’re transitioning. The browser figures out the differences between those two snapshots and tweens between them similar to Apple Keynote’s “Magic Morph” feature, the liquid metal T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, or the 1980s cartoon series Turbo Teen.

If those references are lost on you, how about the popular kids book series Animorphs?

Some classic examples would be:

  • A thumbnail of a video on one page morphs into the full-size video on the next page.
  • A headline and snippet of an article on one page morphs into the full article on the next page.

I’ve added view transitions to The Session. Where I’ve got index pages with lists of titles, each title morphs into the heading on the next page.

Again, Dave’s post was really useful here. Each transition needs a unique name, so I used Dave’s trick of naming each transition with the ID of the individual item being linked to.

In the recordings section, for example, there might be a link like this on the index page:

<a href="/recordings/7812" style="view-transition-name: recording-7812">The Banks Of The Moy</a>

Which, if you click on it, takes you to the page with this heading:

<h1><span style="view-transition-name: recording-7812">The Banks Of The Moy</span></h1>

Why the span? Well, like Dave, I noticed some weird tweening happening between block and inline elements. Dave solved the problem with width: fit-content on the block-level element. I just stuck in an extra inline element.

Anyway, the important thing is that the name of the view transition matches: recording-7812.

I also added a view transition to pages that have maps. The position of the map might change from page to page. Now there’s a nice little animation as you move from one page with a map to another page with a map.

thesession.org View Transitions

That’s all good, but I found myself wishing that I could just have those enhancements. Every single navigation on the site was triggering a fade in and out—the default animation. I wondered if there was a way to switch off the default fading.

There is! That default animation is happening on a view transition named root. You can get rid of it with this snippet of CSS:

::view-transition-image-pair(root) {
  isolation: auto;
::view-transition-new(root) {
  animation: none;
  mix-blend-mode: normal;
  display: block;

Voila! Now only the view transitions that you name yourself will get applied.

You can adjust the timing, the easing, and the animation properites of your view transitions. Personally, I was happy with the default morph.

In fact, that’s one of the things I like about this API. It’s another good example of declarative design. I say what I want to happen, but I don’t need to specify the details. I’ll let the browser figure all that out.

That’s what’s got me so excited about this API. Yes, it’s powerful. But just as important, it’s got a very low barrier to entry.

Chris has gathered a bunch of examples together in his post Early Days Examples of View Transitions. Have a look around to get some ideas.

If you like what you see, I highly encourage you to add view transitions to your website now.

“But wait,” I hear you cry, “this isn’t supported in any public-facing browser yet!”

To which, I respond “So what?” It’s a perfect example of progressive enhancement. Adding one meta element and a smidgen of CSS will do absolutely no harm to your website. And while no-one will see your lovely view transitions yet, once browsers do start shipping with support for the API, your site will automatically get better.

Your website will be enhanced. Progressively.

Update: Simon Pieters quite rightly warns against adding view transitions to live sites before the API is done:

in general, using features before they ship in a browser isn’t a great idea since it can poison the feature with legacy content that might break when the feature is enabled. This has happened several times and renames or so were needed.

Good point. I must temper my excitement with pragmatism. Let me amend my advice:

I highly encourage you to experiment with view transitions on your website now.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023


Two weeks ago, I wrote:

I woke up today to a very annoying new bug in Firefox. The browser shits the bed in an unpredictable fashion when rounding up single pixel line widths in SVG. That’s quite a problem on The Session where all the sheet music is rendered in SVG. Those thin lines in sheet music are kind of important.

Paul Rosen, who makes abcjs, the JavaScript library that renders sheet music on The Session, managed to get a fix out pretty quickly. But I use an older version of the library and updating it would introduce some side-effects that would take me a while to work around. So that option wasn’t available to me.

In this situation, when the problem is caused by a browser bug, the correct course of action is to file a bug with the browser. That had already been done. Now all I could do was twiddle my thumbs and wait for the next release of the browser, which would hopefully ship with the fix.

But I figured I may as well try to find a temporary workaround in the meantime.

At first, I looked at diving into the internals of the JavaScript—that’s where the instructions are given for drawing the SVGs.

But then I stopped and thought, “If the problem is with the rendering of the SVG, maybe CSS can help.”

I started messing around with SVG-specific CSS properties like stroke, fill, and so on. With dev tools open, I started targeting the paths that acted as bar lines in the sheet music, playing around with widths, opacities, and fills.

It was the debugging equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall. Remarkably, it actually worked.

I found a solution with this nonsensical bit of CSS:

stroke: currentColor;
stroke-opacity: 0;

For some reason, rather than making all the barlines disappear, this ensured they were visible.

It’s the worst kind of hacky fix—the kind where you have no idea why it works, but it does.

So I shipped it.

And at pretty much exactly the same time, a new version of Firefox dropped …with the bug fixed.

I can’t deny that there was a certain satisfaction in being able to work around a browser bug. But there’s much more satisfaction in deleting the hacky workaround when it’s no longer needed.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2023

Site Search in Arc Browser — For Your Own Site - Jim Nielsen’s Blog

I can now have adactio.com on speed dial for search — a valid use case indeed.


Funnily enough, I tend to use tags more often than my own site search. I type adactio.com/tags/… followed by whatever I think past me would’ve used. So my browser’s address bar is kind of a sitesearch interface already.

Thursday, April 13th, 2023

Browser history

I woke up today to a very annoying new bug in Firefox. The browser shits the bed in an unpredictable fashion when rounding up single pixel line widths in SVG. That’s quite a problem on The Session where all the sheet music is rendered in SVG. Those thin lines in sheet music are kind of important.

Browser bugs like these are very frustrating. There’s nothing you can do from your side other than filing a bug. The locus of control is very much with the developers of the browser.

Still, the occasional regression in a browser is a price I’m willing to pay for a plurality of rendering engines. Call me old-fashioned but I still value the ecological impact of browser diversity.

That said, I understand the argument for converging on a single rendering engine. I don’t agree with it but I understand it. It’s like this…

Back in the bad old days of the original browser wars, the browser companies just made shit up. That made life a misery for web developers. The Web Standards Project knocked some heads together. Netscape and Microsoft would agree to support standards.

So that’s where the bar was set: browsers agreed to work to the same standards, but competed by having different rendering engines.

There’s an argument to be made for raising that bar: browsers agree to work to the same standards, and have the same shared rendering engine, but compete by innovating in all other areas—the browser chrome, personalisation, privacy, and so on.

Like I said, I understand the argument. I just don’t agree with it.

One reason for zeroing in a single rendering engine is that it’s just too damned hard to create or maintain an entirely different rendering engine now that web standards are incredibly powerful and complex. Only a very large company with very deep pockets can hope to be a rendering engine player. Google. Apple. Heck, even Microsoft threw in the towel and abandoned their rendering engine in favour of Blink and V8.

And yet. Andreas Kling recently wrote about the Ladybird browser. How we’re building a browser when it’s supposed to be impossible:

The ECMAScript, HTML, and CSS specifications today are (for the most part) stellar technical documents whose algorithms can be implemented with considerably less effort and guesswork than in the past.

I’ll be watching that project with interest. Not because I plan to use the brower. I’d just like to see some evidence against the complexity argument.

Meanwhile most other browser projects are building on the raised bar of a shared browser engine. Blisk, Brave, and Arc all use Chromium under the hood.

Arc is the most interesting one. Built by the wonderfully named Browser Company of New York, it’s attempting to inject some fresh thinking into everything outside of the rendering engine.

Experiments like Arc feel like they could have more in common with tools-for-thought software like Obsidian and Roam Research. Those tools build knowledge graphs of connected nodes. A kind of hypertext of ideas. But we’ve already got hypertext tools we use every day: web browsers. It’s just that they don’t do much with the accumulated knowledge of our web browsing. Our browsing history is a boring reverse chronological list instead of a cool-looking knowledge graph or timeline.

For inspiration we can go all the way back to Vannevar Bush’s genuinely seminal 1945 article, As We May Think. Bush imagined device, the Memex, was a direct inspiration on Douglas Engelbart, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee.

The article describes a kind of hypertext machine that worked with microfilm. Thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we now have a global digital hypertext system that we access every day through our browsers.

But the article also described the idea of “associative trails”:

Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.

Our browsing histories are a kind of associative trail. They’re as unique as fingerprints. Even if everyone in the world started on the same URL, our browsing histories would quickly diverge.

Bush imagined that these associative trails could be shared:

The lawyer has at his touch the associated opinions and decisions of his whole experience, and of the experience of friends and authorities.

Heck, making a useful browsing history could be a real skill:

There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record.

Taking something personal and making it public isn’t a new idea. It was what drove the wave of web 2.0 startups. Before Flickr, your photos were private. Before Delicous, your bookmarks were private. Before Last.fm, what music you were listening to was private.

I’m not saying that we should all make our browsing histories public. That would be a security nightmare. But I am saying there’s a lot of untapped potential in our browsing histories.

Let’s say we keep our browsing histories private, but make better use of them.

From what I’ve seen of large language model tools, the people getting most use of out of them are training them on a specific corpus. Like, “take this book and then answer my questions about the characters and plot” or “take this codebase and then answer my questions about the code.” If you treat these chatbots as calculators for words they can be useful for some tasks.

Large language model tools are getting smaller and more portable. It’s not hard to imagine one getting bundled into a web browser. It feeds on your browsing history. The bigger your browsing history, the more useful it can be.

Except, y’know, for the times when it just make shit up.

Vannevar Bush didn’t predict a Memex that would hallucinate bits of microfilm that didn’t exist.

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

The search element | scottohara.me

I’ve already add the search element to thesession.org, but while browser support is still rolling out, I’m being extra verbose:

<search role="search">

Brought to you by the department of redunancy department.

I’ll remove the ARIA role once browsers are all on board. As Scott says:

Please be aware that this element landing in the HTML spec today does not mean it is available in browsers today. Issues have been filed to implement the search element in the major browsers, including the necessary accessibility mappings. Keep this in mind before you get all super excited and willy nilly add this new element to your pages.

Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

Web fingerprinting is worse than I thought - Bitestring’s Blog

How browser fingerprinting works and what you can do about it (if you use Firefox).

Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

The Web Platform Is Back

So much ink spilled supposedly explaining what “the web platform” is …when the truth is you can just swap in the “the web” every time that phrase is used here or anywhere else.

Anyway, the gist of this piece is: the web is good, actually.

Tuesday, December 27th, 2022

User Stylesheets Are Still Pretty Great and Should Be More Widely Supported — Pixel Envy

Hear, hear!

If you have even a passing knowledge of CSS, I encourage you to experiment with its possibilities.