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Why writing valid, non-proprietary code is more essential than ever

Published: 30th January 2009

Author: Andrew Hart

Is your website working?

Website owners/managers ask yourselves these very important questions:

  • Has your website been tested on multiple browsers/operating systems?
  • Is the HTML/XHTML and CSS valid to W3C specifications, or does it include browser specific code?

If your website hasn't been tested or the code doesn't validate then you should ask the question "why not?".

All too often we audit websites only to find certain elements of the page do not work on browsers other than Internet Explorer. This may be something as simple as a bit of non-essential styling, or vital functionality such as the navigation bar.

Without proper testing you could easily make your website unusable to people on various browsers (Internet Explorer accounts for less than 46% of market share [source]). Not only does this prevent these users from using the website but it also creates a bad impression of the quality of your company. Remember that your website is an ambassador for your organisation.

Internet Explorer losing its grip?

For many years Microsoft's browser Internet Explorer (IE) has held massive influence in the market due to its popularity. Such popularity has not necessarily been through choice but rather due to it being bundled with Windows. This has led many less-than-credible developers to write code that simply does not work (or does not work as well) outside Internet Explorer.

However, the European Commission is currently in an anti-trust case against Microsoft's to determine if its dominance of the operating system market gives an unfair advantage to its own browser, Internet Explorer. If the Commission rules against Microsoft then it may be forced to bundle Firefox and other major browsers with future versions of Windows.

The EU executive is concerned that "the ubiquity of IE creates artificial incentives for content providers and software developers to design websites or software primarily for Internet Explorer which ultimately risks undermining competition and innovation in the provision"

"While computer users and OEMs are already free to run any web browsing software on Windows, the Commission is considering ordering Microsoft and OEMs to obligate users to choose a particular browser when setting up a new PC," according to the Commissions's "Statement of Objection".

These browsers could include Firefox, as well as Chrome, Safari and Opera.

Microsoft has two months to submit its response to the Commission's charges, after which the Commission will make its final ruling. Any change could come into effect with the release of Windows 7, which is expected to debut late this year or early in 2010.

The future

As Windows 7 replaces older versions of the operating system that the dominance of Internet Explorer is likely to fall yet further. Its market share has fallen by around 15% over the last 2 years:

  • Dec, 2006 - 60.6%
  • Dec, 2007 - 56%
  • Dec, 2008 - 45.7%

"Designing for Internet Explorer" is and always has been a bad industry practice. With IE's market share dipping below the 50% mark it should also ring alarm bells for those who own or run IE-biased websites!


Resources

All the following resources are free and require no registration to access them:

If in doubt, please feel free to contact us for an cross-browser compatibility audit of your website today.