Whats wrong with the "Web Standards Upgrade Campaign"?
The web is about dissemination of information. It does not matter what pretty images or buttons or DHTML effects are on the screen along with this information. It is the information that matters. If the information is unobtainable then the web, at least for that page/viewer combination, has failed.
The web is for the users, and we, those who build the thing, must work with the web as it is, and evolve it into what we wish it to be. It's unwise to cut off one's ass just because it sometimes smells bad.
WSP actively promotes and provides tools to support denying access to web content based upon the user's choice of browser. Their reasoning for this is that there are already standards compliant browsers that are free (as in beer) to obtain, thus no other reason to continue using a broken browser. This idea that browsers are free, in a world wide context is a fallacy. It is seen that the "Web Standards" cannot address the global problems of internet access using a browser, so they get ignored.
So the internet becomes the exclusive doman of people who are cash-wealthy, since it requires a considerable powerful personal computer to run the required software, even acquiring an "accepted" operating system is sometimes prohibitively expensive.
I hope that culling of users is not what they mean by "making the web more accessible (by kicking everyone else off)"
I sit here in the Rocky Mountains of western Colorado, and know without any doubt that fathers in Belarus look at their children and feel pretty much the same thing I feel when I look at mine. I'm not going to translate my content to Russian, but I'm not going to hide it from his kids just because they're not using a browser that I approve of, either. That's my beef with the WSP. They would have us hide our content from impoverished people, and that's just plain damned wrong.
One of the few ways to gain a PC is to buy/steal/beg one from multi-national companies that discard them to upgrades. So quite a large number of users will be using company hand-me-downs. Which could be anything from a 486 upwards. IBM's P100 range being the most common discarded hardware.
Most of the advocates of webstandards.org can be identified by: "Sorry, I do not live in a country where they charge per minute and have slow phone lines.", yet they believe themselves qualified to dictate to users in such a position. A certain band of webstandards.org adherents have announced themselves with the inability to even author standards compliant markup in the first place!
Those who put a page on the web might wish to consider who their customers are. The customers are the people at home or in the office visiting your page looking for information. If they are locked out by draconian attitudes about which browser to use (and what colour the mouse should be) then they are no longer customers. They have gone elsewhere.
They claim downloading a browser is free - which is not true.
HTML from the outset was designed to be extensible. Any new bell or whistle is to be an addition to functionality, not a replacement. Any browser that does not understand the new functionality must simply ignore it and rely on what it can understand.
So, too, a web page must be extensible. Sure, use the latest bell on a page but be very sure that the page will display on a browser that does not have that bell. I suppose I am suggesting extensibility in both directions, forward for the browser and backward for the web page, the latter covering all such things as backward compatibility and graceful degradation.
An indication of the WebStandards.org appearance (illusion?) of thought looks a little like this.
>>Next excuse. > > The best reason of all: > > What if I don't want to? What if I like my > current browser? You're going to tell me I > have to upgrade, or I can't access web sites > anymore? whats' next? my dial up is to slow, > so either I get a DSl or Cable, or I stay > off the net? Yup.
The more you look at the webstandards.org's position on older browsers, the more it seems they want to create a barrier for entry to the Internet, and keep it largely localised to first-world countries. It is a luxury in many countries to be connected to the Internet, there the choice of browsers isn't as free as webstandards.org presumes. If the cost of obtaining a recent browser is larger than the benefit reaped by content from censored sites, then it provides a barrier to entry. A strange position from an organisation "advocating" accessibility.
Updating is a fine idea, however mandating it is not. The customer decides what he/she wants. If we want that customer to spend his money on our site we darn well better make sure we code so that he can view the site. If research shows that the sector we are targeting has a large number of people using older browsers, then we should be designing our pages so that they can view them. If we find they are using slower modems then we better keep download speeds in mind when we load the site with graphics, because if it takes them to long to download they will find a site that doesnt.
When an "authority" on the future of the web decides to restrict access to vast swathes of the population under the name of "progress" I get angry.
When a group of people with some sort of intelligence decide to cut of the developing world from participating in a global medium because it causes "too much difficulty" for web designers - something is wrong.
To insist that downloading a free browser is free - even though people are paying through their noses for a luxury of an internet connection - something is wrong.
By all means, if you want to exclude people because of their browser - go right on ahead - that is your choice. But to make that choice because of ignorance in the belief you are making things better for the global community - something is wrong.
They may have the fairest of intentions - but they don't know much about the internet population at large.
I'm aghast at certain individuals that believe there is no Internet usage beyond the US, and below a digital always on connection. Sadly - they don't care. So this Browser Initiative will turn out to be a failed marketing stunt, nothing more than a passing fad.