Tags: standards

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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.

Saturday, December 3rd, 2022

Transient Frameworks · Matthias Ott – User Experience Designer

Frameworks come and go. They are transient. Web standards, on the other hand, are the reason the Web is good now and it will become even better in the future.

Monday, November 21st, 2022

Harnessing groupthink: fine-tuning CSS specifications | Clearleft

In order to thoroughly attend to every pertinent aspect of the spec, fantasai asked us each to read one sentence aloud to the group. At which point we were all asked whether we thought the sentence made sense, and to speak up if we didn’t understand any of it or if it wasn’t clear.

Rich documents the excellent and fascinating process used in a recent W3C workshop (though what he describes is the very opposite of groupthink, so don’t let the title mislead you):

I’d never come across the person-by-person, sentence-by-sentence approach before. I found it particularly effective as a way of engaging a group of people, ensuring collective understanding, and gathering structured feedback on a shared document.

Tuesday, November 15th, 2022

When Our Tools Hold Us Back | OddBird

What happens if the ‘pace layers’ get out of sync?

A very thoughtful post by Miriam on how tools can adversely affect the pace of progress in the world of web standards.

When tools intervene between you and your access to the web platform, proceed with caution. Ask not only: How well does it work? But also: How well does it fail? Not only: What features do they provide? But also: What features do they prevent?

CSS Timeline

Here’s a remarkably in-depth timeline of the web’s finest programming language, from before it existed to today’s thriving ecosystem. And the timeline is repsonsive too—lovely!

Saturday, November 5th, 2022

Negativity bias

When I wrote about my hopes and fears for the View Transitions API, a few people latched on to this sentiment:

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.

But I also wrote:

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

I think it’s worth focusing on that.

Part of the problem is that I gave my hopes and fears an equal airing. But they’re not equally likely.

Take the possibility that the View Transitions API only ships for single page apps, but never ships for regular page transitions. The consequences of that would be big—the API would act as an incentive to build single page apps. But the likelihood of that happening is small. In fact, according to Jake, there’s already an implemention for page transitions in the works at Chrome.

Now what if the View Transitions API ships for pages? The consequences would be equally big—the API would act as an incentive to ditch single page apps and build in a more performant, resilient way. Best of all, the chances of that happening are very large indeed (pretty much a certainty now, given Jake’s update).

So I made a comparison between both of the consequences, which are equally large, but I didn’t make a corresponding comparison of the likelihoods, which are not equally large. Mea culpa!

I should’ve made it clearer that, although the consequences would be really bad if the View Transitions API only supports single page apps, the actual likelihood of that is pretty slim.

That’s probably my negativity bias showing through. (The reason I have a negativity bias is because I am a human. Like, have you ever noticed that if you get feedback on something and 98% of it is positive, you inevitably fixate on the 2%?)

Anyway, the real takeaway here is that if the View Transitions API ships for pages, then the consequences will be really, really good! It would be another nail in the coffin for monolithic JavaScript frameworks slowing down the web. And best of all, the likelihood of this happening is very high!

So let me amend my closing sentences from my previous post:

If the View Transitions API only works for single page apps—which is very unlikely—it could be the single worst thing to happen to the web in years.

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

The glass is half full and it’s only going to get fuller. Time to start planning for a turbo-charged web now.

If you’ve got a website with full page navigations, start thinking about how you’ll be able to apply the View Transitions API as a progressive enhancement to improve the user experience.

If you’ve got a single page app, start thinking about how to ditch a whole bunch of uneccessary dependencies to make a more lightweight foundation of HTML instead of JavaScript, and still get all those slick transitions you get in a single page app!

Time for transitions

I am simultaneously very excited and very nervous about the View Transitions API.

You may know it by its former name—Shared Element Transitions. The name change is very recent.

I’ve been saying for years that some kind of API like this would be brilliant:

I honestly think if browsers implemented this, 80% of client-rendered Single Page Apps could be done as regular good ol’-fashioned websites.

Miriam Suzanne describes the theory of View Transitions succinctly:

Shared-element transitions are designed to work with standard web navigation across multiple page loads, as well as page transitions in ‘single-page’ apps (often called SPAs).

This all sounds brilliant. But the devil is in the implementation details. Right now, the API only works for single page apps. This is totally understandable. For purely pragmatic reasons, single page apps are a simple use case to solve for. It’s going to take a lot more work to get this API to work for multi-page apps (or as we used to call them, websites).

If we get a View Transitions API that works across page navigations, it could potentially turbo-charge the web. It will act as a disencentive to building single page apps—you’d be able to provide swish transitions without sacrificing performance or resilience at the alter of a heavy-handed JavaScript-only architecture.

But if the API only ever works for single page apps (which is the current situation), then it will act as an incentive to make any kind of website into a single page app, regardless of whether it’s actually the appropriate architecture.

That prospect has me very worried indeed.

I’m making my feelings on this known just in case any of the implementators out there are thinking, “Hey, maybe it’s fine that this API only works for single page apps—I’m sure most people would be happy with that.”

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.

Update: Jake says:

We’re currently landing code in Chrome for the MPA version.

Very happy to hear that! It’s already in the spec, but it’s good to hear that the implementation isn’t going to lag too much.

Also, read this follow-up.

Sunday, October 30th, 2022

Chrome 108 beta - Chrome Developers

I think this might be the most excited I’ve been in quite some time about an update to browser support, which probably says a lot about my priorities:

Support for the avoid value of the CSS fragmentation properties break-before, break-after, and break-inside when printing.

Finally!

Monday, October 24th, 2022

The transitional web | Go Make Things

I’ve smelt the same change in the wind that Chris describes here—there’s finally a reckoning happening in the world of JavaScript frameworks and single page apps.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2022

Why we need CSS Speech - Tink - Léonie Watson

I was talking about this with Léonie just yesterday. I, for one, would love to have CSS speech support. You know who else would love it? Content designers!

In these days of voice interaction on every platform, there is a growing expectation that it should be possible to design that experience just like we can the visual experience. In the same way an organisation chooses a logo and colour palette for its website, it stands to reason that they may also choose a particular voice that represents their brand.

It’s wild that there’s no way to do this on the web.

The Proprietary Syndication Formats - Chris Coyier

Guess which format is going to outlast all these proprietary syndication formats. I’d say RSS, which I believe to be true, but really, it’s HTML.

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

Wired.com: 20 years later | Stopdesign

Doug casts an eye back on the Wired redesign he worked on 20 years ago. It’s hard to overstate the impact this had on the adoption of web standards.

We’ve come a long way:

We’ve come so far since this redesign in 2002. We no longer trip ourselves up trying to fit everything above an imaginable fold. Designs respond to various screen sizes. Text is comfortably larger and screens display at a much higher resolution. We tend to give everything more breathing room.

Tuesday, October 4th, 2022

The Thorny Problem of Keeping the Internet’s Time | The New Yorker

This story of the Network Time Protocol hammers home the importance of infrastructure and its maintenance:

Technology companies worth billions rely on open-source code, including N.T.P., and the maintenance of that code is often handled by a small group of individuals toiling away without pay.

A Web Component Story

I get it. React feels good and it’s sticky. But all frameworks eventually fizzle out.

Thanks to Web Components, large companies are realizing you don’t need to rebuild buttons and other UI primitives every few years. Teams don’t need to argue about frameworks anymore. You can have your cake and eat it too!

I think this may be the best long-term argument for web components:

Any org that goes all in on a single framework will eventually find themselves swimming upstream to hire talent to maintain legacy code and avoid framework rot. But you can reduce this burden (and the associated costs) by using Web Components in your design system.

Friday, September 30th, 2022

Supporting logical properties

I wrote recently about making the switch to logical properties over on The Session.

Initially I tried ripping the band-aid off and swapping out all the directional properties for logical properties. After all, support for logical properties is green across the board.

But then I got some reports of people seeing formating issues. These people were using Safari on devices that could no longer update their operating system. Because versions of Safari are tied to versions of the operating system, there was nothing they could do other than switch to using a different browser.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but as long as this situation continues, Safari is not an evergreen browser. (I also understand that problem lies with the OS architecture—it must be incredibly frustrating for the folks working on WebKit and/or Safari.)

So I needed to add fallbacks for older browsers that don’t support logical properties. Or, to put it another way, I needed to add logical properties as a progressive enhancement.

“No problem!” I thought. “The way that CSS works, I can just put the logical version right after the directional version.”

element {
  margin-left: 1em;
  margin-inline-start: 1em;
}

But that’s not true in this case. I’m not over-riding a value, I’m setting two different properties.

In a left-to-right language like English it’s true that margin-inline-start will over-ride margin-left. But in a right-to-left language, I’ve just set margin-left and margin-inline-start (which happens to be on the right).

This is a job for @supports!

element {
  margin-left: 1em;
}
@supports (margin-inline-start: 1em) {
  element {
    margin-left: unset;
    margin-inline-start: 1em;
  }
}

I’m doing two things inside the @supports block. I’m applying the logical property I’ve just tested for. I’m also undoing the previously declared directional property.

A value of unset is perfect for this:

The unset CSS keyword resets a property to its inherited value if the property naturally inherits from its parent, and to its initial value if not. In other words, it behaves like the inherit keyword in the first case, when the property is an inherited property, and like the initial keyword in the second case, when the property is a non-inherited property.

Now I’ve got three CSS features working very nicely together:

  1. @supports (also known as feature queries),
  2. logical properties, and
  3. the unset keyword.

For anyone using an up-to-date browser, none of this will make any difference. But for anyone who can’t update their Safari browser because they can’t update their operating system, because they don’t want to throw out their perfectly functional Apple device, they’ll continue to get the older directional properties:

I discovered that my Mom’s iPad was a 1st generation iPad Air. Apple stopped supporting that device in iOS 12, which means it was stuck with whatever version of Safari last shipped with iOS 12.

Saturday, September 17th, 2022

A long-term plan for logical properties? | Miriam Eric Suzanne

Well, now I’m really glad I wrote that post about logical properties!

We’re not there yet. So how do we get there?

Well, I don’t know for sure – but articles like this are very helpful as we try to work it out!

Thursday, September 8th, 2022

Modern alternatives to BEM - daverupert.com

Dave rounds up some of the acronymtastic ways of scoping your CSS now that we’ve got a whole new toolkit at our disposal.

If your goal is to reduce specificity, new native CSS tools make reducing specificity a lot easier. You can author your CSS with near-zero specificity and even control the order in which your rules cascade.

as days pass by — Farmbound, or how I built an app in 2022

Stuart writes up the process up making a mobile game as a web app—not a native app. The Wordle effect reverberates.

It’s a web app. Works for everyone. And I thought it would be useful to explain why it is, why I think that’s the way to do things, and some of the interesting parts of building an app for everyone to play which is delivered over the web rather than via app stores and downloads.

Monday, August 22nd, 2022

Using :has() as a CSS Parent Selector and much more | WebKit

A terrific tour of just some of the fantastic ways you can use :has() in CSS.

The section on using it with sibling selectors blew my mind:

How often have you wanted to adjust the margins on a headline based on the element following it? Now it’s easy. This code allows us to select any h2 with a p immediately after it.

h2:has(+ p) { margin-bottom: 0; }

Amazing.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

The Real Novelty of the ARPANET

Setting the scene:

The Washington Hilton stands near the top of a small rise about a mile and a half northeast of the National Mall. Its two white-painted modern facades sweep out in broad semicircles like the wings of a bird. The New York Times, reporting on the hotel’s completion in 1965, remarked that the building looks “like a sea gull perched on a hilltop nest.”

The hotel hides its most famous feature below ground. Underneath the driveway roundabout is an enormous ovoid event space known as the International Ballroom, which was for many years the largest pillar-less ballroom in DC. In 1967, the Doors played a concert there. In 1968, Jimi Hendrix also played a concert there. In 1972, a somewhat more sedate act took over the ballroom to put on the inaugural International Conference on Computing Communication, where a promising research project known as the ARPANET was demonstrated publicly for the first time.

It turns out that the most important innovation of the ARPANET isn’t obvious in hindsight:

So what I’m trying to drive home here is that there is an important distinction between statement A, “the ARPANET connected people in different locations via computers for the first time,” and statement B, “the ARPANET connected computer systems to each other for the first time.” That might seem like splitting hairs, but statement A elides some illuminating history in a way that statement B does not.