Episode 112 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week the panel is made up of Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Brad Williams (@williamsba), Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy), Stephan Segraves (@ssegraves), and Craig Buckler (@craigbuckler).
Download this Episode
You can download this episode as a standalone MP3 file. Here’s the link:
SitePoint Podcast #112: Where Are My Rounded Corners?(MP3, 51:11, 49.6MB)
Here are the topics covered in this episode:
- The State of Mobile Web Development
- Explaining Progressive Enhancement to Clients
- How Microsoft could make us love Internet Expolorer again
- Facebook and Twitter remove RSS feeds
Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/112.
- Brad: Unusual Software Bug
- Patrick: Jack Sparrow – Music Video
- Stephan: The City Limits
- Craig: We Are IE
- Louis: Ubuntu 11.04 – Natty Narwhal
Louis: So, hello and welcome back to the SitePoint Podcast, we’ve got a big full house panel today, we’ve got our full regular crew and an extra special guest, so I guess we’ll just quickly go around the table, hi Stephan.
Louis: Hi Patrick.
Patrick: I made it let’s go!
Louis: Awesome, just barely made it racing against time to be here. Hi Brad.
Brad: Hey, how’s it going?
Louis: It’s going good. Good to have you on, we missed you last week so it’s good to have a full panel, and our special guest this week, hi Craig.
Craig: Hi everyone, great to be here.
Patrick: Well, I don’t see an option for cheap pay as you go phones so I don’t know if I’m on this survey or not (laughter)
Brad: I think you’re in the minority on that one.
Patrick: But is there a price bracket here for people who pay $10.00 or less a month because that’s me.
Brad: I don’t think anyone develops for you Patrick.
Patrick: Yeah, no one gives a damn about me.
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Louis: I think we’ve given up trying to make websites work on those phones Patrick.
Patrick: Or caring. I think that the thing that jumped out to me was the numbers, the Safari numbers seem real low to me. Developers using Safari seem like a really low number to me because when I go to these conferences I’m surrounded by people with iPhones, not to say Android phones aren’t popular, but I don’t see them all that much, and when I do it’s more of an oddity than anything else; I don’t mean that in a bad way but so that 23% number, down 20%, is definitely interesting to me as far as these tech-minded geeky kind of developers types are concerned.
Craig: Is that because though every iPhone user has their iPhone out and is showing it off rather than the Android users who are keeping it in there pocket?
Brad: Less flashy…
Patrick: What point are you trying to make (laughter)?
Brad: It’s a great point.
Craig: No, I just think it’s — I agree, whenever you go to a tech conference or anywhere where there are geeks hanging out there’s people with iPhones, and they’re continually on them, they’re continually Tweeting, and I just don’t see that as much in the Android marketplace, people just use it as a phone or they tend to be using email more maybe, I don’t know, but certainly I’d be interested to see how these results compare to the market at large and what people are actually using because let’s face it the developers are using things which tend to be a few generations on from what the actual users are using.
Patrick: Yeah, and let’s face it, this is kind of a sample size because if you add up all of the entries into the first column of the survey which is what browser the developers use themselves you come up with 543 respondents, so while that is a high number, not a small number, and certainly a good number of mobile developers, obviously it pales in comparison to the broader scope of the mobile marketplace.
Brad: I think it’s impressive how big the Android jumped; I mean 210% increase since last year I mean that’s huge.
Louis: Yeah, and everything I’ve seen from the actual market numbers as well seems to support that, at least primarily in the states but even in the general market in terms of device activations and sales they’ve really made huge, huge strides in the past year or so. And I guess a lot of that has to do with just the variety of devices out there, you know you go into a store and there are 11 phones on the shelf and one of them is an iPhone and the other 10 are Android devices, even if you just pick at random you’re still going to wind up with a lot more Android users. And the fact that some of them are at much lower price points I think also is affecting sort of the general market shift because the iPhone is still a fairly pricey device.
Craig: Definitely, you do pay premium for the iPhone don’t you, whereas Android it’s given away and people can use it.
Patrick: This is turning into a personality study,a personality survey more so than technonolgy.
Brad: That’s why they keep it in their pockets at conferences (laughter). And the article makes a good point that one of the key findings it lists is there’s a correlation between the devices and platforms developers use and those they develop for, I mean I fall into this all the time; I have an iPhone, probably by the end of the year I’ll be on the Android but right now I have an iPhone so the first thing I test is iPhone because that’s what’s readily available for me, and then usually prior to going live I have a few other people in the company that have Androids, we’ll fire those up and check them out as well.
Louis: I ran into this problem recently actually working on some book content with an author here, and we were working on some sort of mobile apps stuff where it’s sort of using Ajax to load in pages, and he’d hooked up all his sort of history management to sort of an onscreen back button, which is fine for iPhone users but had neglected to do any sort of handling of either a device or a browser back button, so if you hit back on your device it would just jump completely out of the app because all of the in-app transitions had taken place in Ajax so they weren’t being added to the browser history. So it definitely is sort of a thing to be aware of and be careful of is to not just assume that because you use a certain device that everyone does and that that’s the only way to browse the mobile Internet.
Stephan: Their target platforms, the top two are iPhone and iPad, right, and yet they’re mobile browser of choice; Android’s grown a bunch but the Android phone and the Android tablet really make up a small portion of the target platforms. I think it’s interesting because it means they’re developing more for the iPhone and iPad but they’re using Android as their personal device, it’s weird.
Louis: The other thing that’s interesting, well I think that might have to do with sort of a client bias, right, we’re still at a point when I think a lot of clients will come to a Web design agency and say oh I need an iPhone website or I need an iPhone app and they might not know what Android is, whereas developers are sort of a bit ahead of the curve as Craig was saying earlier, so that might explain that a little bit is if clients are coming in and saying I need an iPhone site and you build an iPhone site and maybe you try and explain to them that there are different kinds of mobile browsers out there but maybe you just go ahead with what they’ve asked for. The other thing is the Android tablet being a small percentage there, they do point out in the key findings listing that the latest generation of Android tablets had just been released at the time they were doing this survey, and a lot of those were available in the states but weren’t available elsewhere, so there’s only recently been Android tablets that are kind of worth people’s while; Zoom is fairly recent and the latest tablet, so that might change pretty rapidly, it depends on if they can hit a price point that’s a bit better than where they’re at now, but yeah, it’s interesting to see the shift.
Patrick: And to throw that into the greater context of browser usage in general like we’ve mentioned, I’ve pulled up the global stats from Statcounter.com for mobile browsers, and they list the top mobile browser as of April as Opera with 21.9% of mobile browser usage followed by the iPhone 17.43% and then I guess Nokia, whatever Nokia would qualify for here, at 16.32%, so maybe my comments about being surprised about the Mobile Safari aren’t exactly on point but again I’m kind of surprised at the general tech audience, this developer audience isn’t a little higher.
Louis: Hmm, yeah, that is interesting.
Brad: Did you say Opera’s number one currently for mobile?
Patrick: That’s what it says, 21.9% for Opera.
Brad: So the most popular browser nobody’s developing for anymore (laughter).
Patrick: Isn’t that the truth. That’s how the development world works.
Brad: Speaking of browsers, I actually pulled up an article that you wrote, Craig, that I really enjoyed, and I know it’s a couple weeks old but I thought it would be fun to chat about it, and the title of the article was 10 Ways Microsoft Could Make Us Love Internet Explorer Again.
Craig: Oh, and they could, couldn’t they?
Brad: They certainly could. I think you make some great points, I thought we could run through your top 10 list. So let’s just dive right into it:
No.1 Introduce a Rapid Release Schedule, so Microsoft currently has a two-year browser release schedule, so we know Internet Explorer 9 just came out, what, about almost two months now, the beginning of March I believe it was at South by Southwest.
Brad: And obviously Chrome is on some kind of speed, what is it, a six-week release schedule I think between versions.
Craig: I think it’s six minutes, isn’t it, it’s very short.
Patrick: It’s like AOL.
Craig: Yeah, I think so.
Brad: Yeah, I certainly agree with that, like Chrome is the first one that really put that in the main spotlight that you could actually have a release schedule that was that quick and still, well, they maintain their user base because they force everyone to upgrade, but it’s not really scaring off users which is what I think a lot of people thought it might have done initially.
Craig: I don’t think most users actually know it’s happening, it just occurs in the background and the next time you check about Chrome it says version 23, so nobody knows. And I think originally, I’m a little bit cynical about it, and I think Google just did it to catch up with all the other browsers, but now they’re well ahead, so they’re not even announcing it in press releases to just say, oh, we’ve got a new release, here’s a few new features, oh and by the way it’s called Chrome 11. And I think certainly Mozilla are going down that route, Opera has always had about a six month to a year release schedule, so really it’s just Microsoft, but to be fair to them they have announced IE 10 and there’s no sort of schedule yet.
Louis: Oh, we’ve already seen sort of a limited platform preview of IE 10.
Craig: We have. They haven’t announced the release date but I would suspect it’s within a year, I would hope it’s earlier than that.
Patrick: The funny thing about when I said Chrome 12.0 is I actually expected that to not be where they were close to but clearly they’re right there (laughter).
Brad: It’s coming up.
Patrick: The funny thing about automatic updates is that we talked about it on the show a few episodes ago about how there was a change that people didn’t like, and I forget what that change was, which shows you how well my memory goes.
Brad: They removed http from the URL’s, I think that was a big one they did.
Patrick: Was that it? or was it the RSS thing, was it something with — no, I don’t know, anyway so there was some change that I guess the developer community didn’t like, and so you had people finally complaining about the automatic updates, but my thought is you know what, if you love automatic updates so much and they put these features on you then, hey, you can’t complain when they throw something that you don’t really like.
Stephan: That’s weird because it doesn’t auto update for me, like I don’t have — I get a little icon where my wrench is and it tells me that it needs to update, like a little green arrow.
Stephan: Yeah, it doesn’t update, so it never updates in the background, not on Windows and not on my Mac.
Brad: Are you on the developer version I wonder?
Stephan: I don’t know; how would I know that? (Laughter)
Brad: About Chrome and see what it says I guess.
Patrick: Are you a developer?
Stephan: No, it just says Google Chrome.
Brad: The last update was definitely more noticeable because of the icon change, so I immediately saw the icon change when it happened, and I knew it was coming so then I realized it had just updated, but you’re right Craig, the last four or five releases you don’t even know they’re happening. We were on one show and I didn’t even my Chrome updated; I went to look at the version and it was completely different, I was like oh a new version came out. And that was number two was your Implement Automatic Updates, number two on the list.
Craig: And I think Microsoft obviously push updates out to people, but they do leave it up to the users as to when those updates occur, and I just think they really need to separate it out from the Windows updates because it’s a browser, it needs to be updated regularly. And I think if they can do a release every few months like Chrome, like Mozilla is hoping to do, then no one’s really going to worry too much about the fact that there are a couple of new features in there.
Brad: Number three is Give IE a Beautiful Interface. Now this one I don’t know if I necessarily agree that you said IE9 is uglier than any of its rival browsers.
Craig: Oh it is, isn’t it; it is ugly.
Brad: I don’t know if it’s ugly, I mean it may not be the sexiest thing out there, but I don’t know if I’d term it ugly (laughter).
Craig: Well, even that I’m not so sure. Yeah, it’s probably better than IE 7 and IE 8, but that’s not great. What surprised me is that Microsoft usually brings out some really attractive tools, they may not be the best, they may not be the most usable, but they usually look fantastic. And it’s almost as though with IE 9, well, let’s just make it really, really simple and not worry too much about it; when you compare it to the rest of the applications they’ve got in Windows 7 it’s really noticably different and really quite bland, and I think you can still have simplicity, without throwing in all sorts of curved edges and bells and whistles, I mean Chrome is a good example, it still looks very good and yet it’s one of the simplest browsers there is.
Louis: Yeah, I think they were going —
Craig: So you don’t agree.
Louis: Well, I do agree to some extent, I think they were trying to sort of ape what the other developers were doing in the sense of trying to minimize the amount of browser chrome out there, so Firefox 4 moved in the direction of having a very, very slim menu bar and very little space taken up, and then Chrome did the same thing, so I think they were really trying, and from what I heard if you read their press releases when they launched it, it was all about sort of putting the focus on the website and trying to have the browser stay out of the way. So to an extent I kind of understand what they’re doing, and I don’t think, I don’t know, I don’t think the end user really expects their browser to be that flashy, you know?
Craig: No, I don’t think they do, I think that’s absolutely true, but at the same time IE is still the ugliest browser out there isn’t it.
Louis: I don’t know, I don’t like Chrome, I don’t like the look of Chrome’s interface, it looks like it was made of plastic, it looks like it was designed by Fisher Price for me (laughter).
Brad: That would be a good SitePoint poll, what’s the ugliest browser out there (laughter).
Brad: Moving on, number four, The Developer Tools, now I’ll definitely agree with you here, the developer tools they’re certainly functional but they could definitely be better, they’re definitely not on par with the likes of Firebug and even Chrome for that matter.
Craig: Yeah, and there’s one I’m going to be mentioning later as well which is improved a great deal. They look very dated and they’re definitely based on the old Internet Explorer Developer toolbar which was brought out five years ago, it just looks really clunky now, and again, Microsoft is really known for their developer tools, and they do some fantastic work with that in that respect, you know, Visual Studio, it’s a fantastic piece of software and looks great, it’s just the IE developer tools just look like an afterthought.
Brad: Number five is Implement a Better Add-on System, I think this is an extremely good point the fact that basically you have to have Visual Studio to work with any type of add-ons for Internet Explorer, and I haven’t actually built any myself but I have read and heard that it is a much clunkier system for making add-ons for Internet Explorer.
Craig: Absolutely. And I think that’s the key thing isn’t it, nobody’s built them.
Brad: That’s why there aren’t many of them.
Craig : There’s very few and the ones that there are tend to be things like eBay toolbars and that kind of thing, big corporate things which are really not much better than going to the site in the first place. So I think they could go a lot further and I could understand why they’re not keen on improving it to that extent because they sort of want to make sure that the quality is maintained and also you have very deep integration with the browser, but I think they could implement an additional add-on system which use the sort of bookmark it like system that Chrome has got.
Brad: Number six; and this is as you noted is a long shot,
Craig: It’s my big one.
Brad: Do Something for the XP Users, which as most of our listeners probably know Internet Explorer 9 will not run on XP.
Craig: And it sounds as though Internet Explorer 10 won’t run on Vista.
Louis: That’s fine because nobody uses Vista.
Brad: That’s one way to phase out the operating system.
Louis: The three Vista users out there are going to be outraged at this.
Patrick: I use Vista.
Louis: Oh Patrick! And a brick phone, seriously.
Patrick: Yes, me and 13.11% of the world.
Craig: There you go it’s still 13 point, what was it, 13.11.
Craig: 1-1, see it’s still a fair few people; it’s more than Mac users for example, so it’s still a lot of people. And XP users they’re going to be around a long time, I just think it’s a shame we don’t have a viable upgrade apart from switching to another browser, and Microsoft could do that, they could say look we’re not supporting you anymore, if you want to use a modern up-to-date browser use Firefox, use Opera, use Chrome, use whatever else, but we’ve given up on it. And I think just be a little bit honest about it and just make a statement or do something, but at the moment I think XP users are just left in limbo.
Patrick: Yeah, both XP and Vista are dropping every month, usage is dropping every month according to StatCounter.com with Windows 7 obviously rising, XP as of April is at 46.57%.
Craig: Oh, that’s dropped quite a bit then, but even so it’s still half of users.
Louis: Yeah, that’s a big number.
Brad: That’s a huge number.
Patrick: Yeah, it’s dropped about 12% in a year, so dropping but still hot.
Louis: I guess there’s that, yeah.
Patrick: It’s number one so what do you say beyond that, it’s number one most used operating system period.
Brad: Number seven is Cut the Legacy Crap, which is you want to get rid of the toolbars, get rid of the confusing Internet options dialog which I don’t think have changed since version 2, compatibility view which in my mind is one of the most confusing things out there.
Louis: Yeah, that’s terrible, and when it creeps up on you unexpected, you’re developing something and it’s like what is going on here and suddenly for some reason it’s decided that it’s going to try and render your site like IE7.
Craig: Yeah, we’ve got like was it four different versions now of compatibility view, and it just gets so confusing; if we’re confused by it then your aunt at home is certainly going to be confused by it or probably doesn’t know, and I just think it’s just not necessary anymore.
Brad: I think most people out there would probably agree with that one.
Craig: Yep, let’s hope so.
Brad: Number eight, Remember That Speed is Not Everything. This one it’s a good point and certainly based on what you’re saying is that don’t substitute features just for speed.
Craig: Yeah, that’s really I mean you cannot fault IE’s speed, I mean IE9 is fantastic, that’s great, but it’s as though they said right what do we do, do we just give them automatic tab reloading on next browser restart or do we just add a little bit more speed. And it’s got so few features in IE9 now that maybe that’s what people want, but I can’t use it as my default browser because there’s just a few things in there, tab handling, that kind of thing which you just miss.
Brad: Speed is definitely a big one though; I mean I think that’s why Chrome got so popular is just because of the speed. I mean I was hooked on Firefox, I pretty much swore I would never leave it, but it just got to the point where it was so slow and immediately when I started using Chrome it was just night and day, and ultimately speed’s the reason I left Firefox for Chrome as my full time browser.
Craig: I mean Firefox did have a problem with speed, but I think all of the browsers now really they’re all very fast, they’re all good and IE9 is noticeably faster in most respects, but we’re not talking twice the speed we’re talking 10% here, 20% there, and in general Internet users you don’t tend to notice it so much.
Louis: I think maybe now that all these browsers are on board with that. There was a point in time where IE8 was slow and Firefox 3.6 was slow, and Chrome came on board and started challenging the market on speed and the other developers kind of raced to catch up and make the latest versions of Opera and Firefox and IE this fast. Maybe now that everyone’s like okay you’re right we kind of forgot about that basic functionality is what the end user wants a lot of times is just speed, and people kind of drifted away with that because they kept adding features and adding features. But now that we’ve had this kind of reset where everybody’s gone and made their browsers as fast as they can be, maybe now they can start branching out and starting to really focus on the differentiating features of the browsers now. So I have some hope to see that in IE10, we’ll probably see a little bit more focus on functionality now that they’ve got this engine that’s really fast.
Craig: Let’s hope so. It’s not much, I mean I just think it needs a few bits and pieces here and there, and especially because it doesn’t have add-ons you’re really dependent on Microsoft to actually add that functionality in, and it wouldn’t take much just to add a few options here and there which could bring it up to the same level as some of the other browsers.
Brad: Number nine is Stop the Browser BS. I love the harshness of some of these.
Louis: I absolutely love this one, this is hilarious because they come up with this list of features that basically it’s just a list of Internet Explorer’s features, and Microsoft puts out this page being like oh look at how all these browsers compare, and you’ve got all these checkmarks next to IE9 and less checkmarks next to Firefox and Chrome, but it’s basically like a test suite for IE9 because it’s just specific IE9 features like things like this one, notification when add-ons slow browser performance, now that’s an IE9 feature, that’s something specific to IE9, and expecting the other browsers to have that feature is kind of ridiculous; you could easily do the same thing and draw up a list of all Firefox 4 features and Internet Explorer 9 wouldn’t compete on that.
Craig: Absolutely. It’s just it’s almost as though they struggled to make this list, there’s a few tools, built-in developer tools, well, Firefox doesn’t have a tick but that’s because Firefox doesn’t need built-in developer tools, it’s got a few, but really it’s got so many add-ons nobody cares about that. And, I don’t know, I just think they let themselves down with pages like this and I know it’s marketing, I’m sure some people believe it, but all developers just look at it and go yeah right.
Louis: Not this specific page but there was another page I think came out when the IE9 platform preview was out, and it was something like IE9 is the most HTML5 compliant browser and they had this list of just HTML5 features, and it basically the guy here in the office, Dave, who was sitting next to me at the time he sort of turned to me and said so basically what they’re doing is they’re saying we’ve come up with this compatibility suite for IE9 and we’ve been able to determine that none of these other browsers are IE9 (laughter).
Patrick: Well, you’ve got to say they’re after developers’ hearts with features like H264 encoded HTML5 video support, when they list that as a feature I mean that’s —
Louis: Ah, don’t get me started on that, man! (laughter) You start me on H264 and it’ll be 45 minutes before we get to the next story.
Brad: Let’s wrap up this list then..
Patrick: Sorry, did you notice on this page there’s a tab Internet Explorer versus Internet Explorer?
Louis: Really? Oh, wow, yeah, there is a tab of Internet Explorer versus Internet Explorer.
Brad: Why our other browsers suck (laughter).
Patrick: Comparing IE9 to IE8 and IE7. IE7 has like nothing, it has like nothing on this list; it receives five check boxes out of like 35, 40.
Louis: I love how one of those check boxes that all of the IE’s get is easy and intuitive browsing which basically means like, what, I can click a link and it takes me to that page.
Patrick: That one is definitely opinion based.
Craig: And it’s strange, IE7 doesn’t have a compatibility mode does it, so that’s not on the list. Nope, there’s no IE7 compatibility mode in IE7.
Brad: And the final one is Bring Back Innovation. I think this is a really good point. There was certainly some innovation in Internet Explorer 9, I think one of my favorite features that was added that I hadn’t seen in another browser was the jump list, and a lot of sites have started to use them, I don’t know if anyone’s tracking stats on how often people actually click those things, but I think little features like that they are innovating but they’re minor, and you’re right, IE9 I don’t think really had a whole lot of that, that was a good example of one but beyond that it’s like no features really stood out that would even draw me in to using the browser again, you know you need that big feature that really wants to bring you back.
Craig: Yeah, and I just think that Microsoft they’re following the other vendors now which is a shame because I think in the old days they were very good at coming out with some really quite novel approaches, and let’s face it Internet Explorer had 95% of the market, and whatever you think of Microsoft’s marketing strategies they had a good browser and it was better than the competition and everyone used it.
Louis: Those were the days.
Craig: Those were the days, ah, nostalgia.
Brad: Yeah, this is a really great article, Craig, and I like some of the comments. Like one of the first comments somebody posted one word, Flock; and I love your response: and another word, discontinued (laughter). but it’s definitely a good article there’s some good comments, you should go check it out on SitePoint, we’ll have the link in the show notes.
Craig: Thank you very much.
Louis: It’s good though, I think at the end of the day we can all agree that we finally got some movement back in the browser space after a very long period of stagnation, and stuff is really moving quickly. The IE10 platform I think has I noticed there was a blog post recently saying they’ve implemented CSS3 gradients so that will mean we’ll have gradients in everything by the time IE10 comes out. And just the movement on these features, both CSS3, HTML5, and even just standard support for older stuff has been really lighting fast in recent times, so it’s good; whether or not IE ever catches up to developers hearts and minds at least they’re playing the game now.
Craig: Yeah, they’re heading in the right direction.
Louis: Alright, who wants to take the next story?
Craig: I’ll take it if you like because we’ve touched on a couple of these points before, it’s Opera Dragonfly,
Patrick: Excitement! I’m awake!
Patrick: Yeah, at this point it’s like if you’re going to launch a tool like this you’re going to be compared to Firebug, so Opera’s like you know what we’ll embrace that, Firebug, Dragonfly, like let’s just embrace it.
Craig: I think they did try previously, the beta versions were — they had everything there but it was very difficult to really get your handle on what it was trying to do most of the time, and they’ve really improved it and they’ve taken the best bits of Firebug, the best bits of the WebKit Inspector, added a few tweaks and it looks great, and certainly if you didn’t have another tool this would be absolutely fine, and I think there’s a few things in here that you would probably use in preference to the others as well. There are a few problems with it but they’re ironing those out and definitely worth a go.
Brad: I Love the design specific features like snapshots or screenshots and color pickers, in all the browsers I use for development I can install multiple add-ons or extensions to do all those different things, so it’s kind of neat to see it all kind of in one as almost like one development add-on for everything.
Louis: Yeah, that’s great. The other thing I like is the storage tab because personally I’m a Firefox user and I tend to use Firebug for development, but recently I’ve been working on a lot of HTML5 and CSS3 stuff, and when you come to do either local storage or the sort of offline Web apps cache manifest stuff you know you can’t really access that stuff via Firebug so I always had to switch back and forth to the WebKit Inspector to be able to inspect storage. And then but because I don’t really like the WebKit Inspector in general and I find its DOM Inspector’s kind of clunky and I don’t like the way it handles editing CSS properties I’d always switch back to Firebug for regular development, but maybe I’ll give Dragonfly a try and see if it can combine the best of both of those worlds and really give a tool that does everything.
Stephan: So if you haven’t noticed yet Twitter and Facebook have both killed off RSS and it looks like completely, so there’s been talk of this and Facebook has been kind of experimenting with it before, but it looks like now it’s completely gone, there is no RSS link to pages or profiles, and Twitter has even made a statement that they’re abandoning RSS for OAuth which I think is a little odd, but what do you guys think of RSS going away?
Patrick: Well, show of hands, who actually here uses RSS from Facebook or Twitter or was using it recently, anybody?
Stephan: I use it on Facebook to monitor stuff.
Brad: I do. I use it on Twitter to monitor a few accounts; I’ve used it on Facebook to build like —
Patrick: No, but are you using it now?
Brad: I mean it’s in my reader; I follow a few things.
Patrick: Well it’s interesting because I haven’t really used it very much, and like I think Jesse basically said I think a lot of people wouldn’t have noticed and then that definitely was the case with me.
Brad: Now is it actually gone or did they just remove like the public facing RSS links so the easy way to find the feed or they actually removed the feed altogether?
Stephan: They’ve removed the ability to subscribe via RSS for Facebook.
Patrick: And on Twitter I think there’s a quote here from a developer, Isaac Hepworth, who says that the RSS itself is still there but the hyperlink to it is gone and then the link element in the head tag, you know the one that generates the RSS icon in your browser if your browser supports it or allows for a feed recognition and discovery that is gone as well, but the feed link directly is technically still there.
Brad: Yeah, I mean I think this to me is a bad sign, I mean the fact that RSS is an open standard and they’re essentially kind of going away from that, it sounds like Facebook is basically pushing their developers and users to work with their own API in place of an RSS feed, so going from the days of that’s how it used to work going to an open standard like RSS and now we’re kind of — it almost feels like we’re going backwards to where all these systems are going to be closed off and the only way to interact is to interact with their API directly which is going to be proprietary API for their system. Am I wrong in that, that’s exactly what it sounds like to me?
Stephan: That’s exactly what it sounds like, and it sounds like they’re trying to force you to use, especially Twitter, to use OAuth so they can track connections and they’re probably going to claim security reasons.
Louis: Well, I kind of on the one hand I see where that’s coming from and having these sort of open standards that you could just grab and do whatever you want with is good to have, but at the same time you look at these and they are sort of specific types of data structures that contain either sort of user names and links back to people’s profiles, in the case of Twitter sort of reply data or mention data. And RSS is a format, a very general kind of format, but that wasn’t really designed to handle this stuff, right, it’s got a content tag and a description tag and enclosures for multi-media, but it kind of makes more sense for me as a developer if I was using — if I was trying to put Facebook or Twitter feeds into one of my apps or into a site I was building I would probably prefer to use the API’s and get either JSON or just XML data because it’ll have all that extra metadata specific to Facebook or Twitter, and it’ll just be a little bit easier to format and make it look right on the page than trying to hack RSS which isn’t made to deal with that kind of data.
Brad: Yeah, I think in certain instances you’re right, that certainly holds true, I still think RSS has a place in like Facebook walls or fan pages, and RSS feed is an easy way just to provide that data of wall posts, very simple, it’s not replies, it’s not discussions or comments, it’s just the items on the wall. In a place like that I think RSS still works perfectly and I don’t see why they would try to, well, I know exactly why, just like you said they want you to use their API therefore you build something for their system it’s going to work on their system specifically. So I certainly hope they don’t just kill off the feeds, it sounds like that’s definitely the direction they’re going, and I think the first step is to make it hard to find and then kind of monitor it and make sure people stop using it, and then eventually they probably will kill off the feeds altogether. At least Twitter is going with OAuth which is a standard whereas Facebook is using their own custom API which isn’t.
Stephan: They’re gonna be your new email client so don’t worry about it (laughter).
Brad: Everything’s going to be Facebook anyway in ten years (laughter).
Patrick: There you go, problem solved.
Craig: Don’t say that! (laughter) Have they given some sort of indication about how many users are actually using RSS feeds with Facebook or Twitter?
Stephan: There’s nothing in the article that says how many people are using it, I mean that’d be interesting.
Craig: I’ll bet it’s fairly low.
Louis: I’d guess it’d be pretty low because especially with Facebook users, the majority of Facebook users, I mean if they can’t find where the login page is RSS is really a stretch. But the other thing that I think for anyone for wants RSS creating a little wrapper around the API that converts it to RSS would not be terribly difficult as a challenge.
Craig: It depends on the authentication, doesn’t it, that’s the only problem, you’ve got to authenticate via the API, how would you get your authentication data via an XML feed?
Louis: But I can imagine someone creating a Web app where it just asks you to authenticate with Twitter or Facebook and via OAuth, and then from that point it just provides you with an RSS feed of your data.
Craig: Possibly, but is the demand there.
Louis: Yeah, well, I’m certainly not going to spend my weekend building it (laughter).
Louis: So the other story I had this week is a blog post on Boagworld.com, so Paul Boag’s site, he’s created a very interesting little fact sheet on Progressive Enhancement, I think it’s something he’s done as part of his Web design business, it’s sort of like a little booklet fact sheet that they provide to clients, and it’s called Where are my Rounded Corners? So it’s kind of a very simple pared down explanation of why when the client looks at their site in IE7 they don’t see rounded corners. And it really is a very clear breakdown of all the main issues that go into why you’d want to do things this way, and really clearing explaining in words that any client can understand what are the advantages of doing progressive enhancement rather than spending hours and hours trying to hack together images that allow you to have those rounded corners on every browser, so I thought this was really interesting. It’s not really — it is sort of Headscape branded, which is their Web design agency, so it’s not something you can just grab and throw it to your clients, although I guess you could and say this other agency’s put together this really useful fact sheet and it really explains everything–
Patrick: Please don’t leave me!
Louis: (Laughs) yeah, but I mean to me it explains everything so well, and it’s just these really short snippets that explain every sort of concept like what are the advantages, and it goes through them — I’ve got a list of them here in the blog post so I’ll just go through them really quickly. More time for what matters, which means if you spend all this time creating drop shadows and rounded corners that work in IE7 and IE8 that’s a lot of time you could spend, what does he say, effort is better allocated to such important elements like understanding business objectives or user testing, so things that will actually improve the performance of your site rather than just make it look the same in every old browser. He says it’s a growth audience, which means that designing for IE7 is kind of wasted effort because it’s only going to decline over time whereas browsers that do support CSS3 enhancements are going to increase over time, so you’re spending money on something that’s eventually going to be obsolete. Improved performance, because obviously if you don’t have all these little images, chunks, things are faster, we talked about this in the last panel, I think we talked about the CSS3 speed test and how it was a pretty significant change in both design time and in speed on the client side. Easier maintenance and updates, more design possibilities, and then it finishes by answering that criticism, ‘but my audience will hate it’, and he says, no, most audience will be using the latest versions of their browsers and really it’s only down to IE7 and 8 that doesn’t support these things, and those people that do see it in IE7 and 8 won’t know they’re missing anything; if you see a square button that looks good it just looks good and you don’t realize that it could also be round and shadowy.
Brad: This is really nice, and he released it under creative common licensing, so you certainly could use it.
Louis: Oh, is it creative common, I didn’t even notice that.
Brad: Yeah, you just have to give attribution of course, and for non-commercial.
Louis: Oh, non-commercial, that kind of kills it! (Laughter)
Patrick: Oh there you go! Yeah, Paul is a friend of the Podcast, been on many times and always been very nice to us. Paul, there’s your next business, man, you’ve got to sell this white label, turnkey, right, take the branding off it, sell it to agencies to give to their clients and stick their logo on it and count the money.
Brad: This is nice. I would love to see more kind of small little fact sheets like this for all sorts of different Web development, I mean I think as developers we explain the same things over and over and over to new clients, potential clients, having a nice little library of these fact sheets that look like this and are very easy to follow and understand would be extremely helpful.
Louis: Yeah, I totally agree. And it’s really, really well written which is something that I really enjoy, like there are so many people that have attempted to explain why progressive enhancement is a good idea maybe from the client’s point of view and from the agency’s point of view, but having it in a way that’s so clearly broken down and that every little thing is very, very simple, you know you could give it to absolutely anyone, non-technical people, and they’d fully understand what the logic behind it was. I’m actually working on a blog theme for my girlfriend at the moment, and I’m using some fancy CSS3 drop shadows and all this kind of stuff, and I know that at some point one of her relatives is going to look at it on IE8 and be all like — so I think may actually use this fact sheet in my personal life. So the non-commercial actually is okay for me because that’s not commercial usage. Awesome. So, that’s a wrap for the news I think, do you guys want to dive into the spotlights?
Patrick: Let’s go.
Louis: Alright, Patrick?
Patrick: And you know when I was — For people that don’t know, I was rushing to get here, I wasn’t supposed to make the show, I was on kind of a family trip and everything, seemed like fate was against me but the one thing I knew, the one thing I knew (laughter) was that if I made it I had my spotlight already picked out without even thinking about it I knew it. And so my spotlight is the new music video for Jack Sparrow by The Lonely Island featuring Michael Bolton. Now, I don’t know if any of you have seen this yet but you definitely have to check it out, very funny, very funny clip, The Lonely Island is this great funny group, their new album comes out on Tuesday actually, so by the time this show is out it will already be released and I’m a big fan and it’s a real fun clip; any of you guys seen it yet?
Brad: Yeah, I watched it, actually it’s really funny.
Louis: I haven’t seen it; I’ll check it out right after the show.
Craig: I haven’t seen it either.
Stephan: You know, Patrick, when we thought you weren’t going to make the show I was actually thinking about making this my spotlight, and making it like your spotlight in absentia.
Patrick: Ah, that’s touching, that’s touching. I have a reputation!
Brad: Oh, that’s so sweet.
Patrick: So what’s your real spotlight Stephan?
Stephan: My real spotlight is this time lapse video called The City Limits, it’s by a guy on Vimeo, his name is Dominick, it’s pretty fantastic, it took him a year to make it and it’s Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Manhattan and Chicago, and it’s time lapses of all the cities just compiled into a really nice video, a three-minute video, so I’ll put the link up, he did some good work.
Louis: I will definitely take a look at that and just feel a little homesick for a couple of minutes.
Brad: My spotlight this week is actually a Wikipedia article that I stumbled on thanks to Reddit which is a site that I enjoy. It’s basically the Wikipedia article for Unusual software bugs and I actually kind of got a kick even though it’s a little bit scary reading through some of these bugs especially if you haven’t encountered any of them, but they’re basically software bugs that are considered exceptionally difficult to understand and repair. One of the more common ones being the Heizen bug which is basically a computer bug that disappears or alters its characteristics when an attempt is made to study it. I mean these things are extremely scary sounding (laughter).
Patrick: It is just me or are half these bugs German?
Brad: There might be something behind that, I don’t know, but it basically sounds like the start of The Terminator or something, in reading up on these things it’s like the bug is present and as soon as you turn on the bug and really start diving into it, it hides, and then you think it’s gone and you turned off the bug and it comes right back.
Louis: I love these. There’s one here called the Shroeden bug, and it says — you have to hear it to believe it, “A Shroeden bug is a bug that manifests only after someone reading source code or using the program in an unusual way notices that it never should have worked in the first place at which point the program promptly stops working for everybody until fixed (laughter).
Patrick: This is out of Harry Potter.
Brad: One of the comments on Reddit mentions a bug that’s not listed, and I’m surprised that they haven’t added it yet, and I thought it was hilarious, it’s called the Bug Foot (laughter), and it’s a bug that only one person has ever seen and no one else believes them (laughter). That’s like I’ve run into the Bug Foot many times over the years.
Louis: Yeah. I think I’ve actually experienced a Shroeden bug before, like I’ve had a bug where I’m looking at the source code and being like wait, what, I’m doing this all wrong, this shouldn’t be working at all, and then it stops working (laughs). This is awesome, this is a great page.
Brad: Yeah, it’s a pretty fun read so we’ll definitely have the link in the show notes.
Louis: I love how Wikipedia has all these little weird nooks and crannies of just ridiculous —
Brad: Yeah, you never stumble upon them, they just pop up randomly, it’s a good article.
Louis: My host spotlight this week is actually a pretty boring one by contrast, it is simply Ubuntu 11.04 “Natty Narwhal”, so the latest version of Ubuntu was released a couple of weeks ago and for the first time I didn’t check it out as soon as it came out, like I usually upgrade to the beta version as soon as they’re out, this time I hadn’t, I’ve been using my Mac laptop a lot at work so I haven’t really been upgrading my home Linux machine, but then when they were setting up the audio booth here at work our sys admin installed the latest version of Ubuntu on the recording machine and it is fantastic, really, really slick. So if anyone out there is using Ubuntu but hasn’t upgraded yet I strongly recommend it, they’ve switched the main desktop shell to something called Unity which was initially developed for the Netbook edition of Ubuntu, but they’ve rolled it out to the main desktop version now and it’s really, really slick, extremely usable, huge improvements over the last version. And if you haven’t tried Ubuntu yet and you’re a Windows or a Mac user it’s worth giving it a shot, it’s pretty easy to fire up a live CD to give it a spin or even set up a dual boot if you want to use it as a secondary operating system, so that’s me.
Patrick: Alright, save us Craig!
Craig: My spotlight is another video and this time it’s if you’re into technology nostalgia this is one for you, it’s one by Andrew Tate on Andy’s Tech Experiments blog, and he previously created a video showing subsequent upgrades from I think it was MS-Dos 5 right the way through to Windows 7 going through the full upgrade path and what was kept and what was lost and how it worked, but more of interest to SitePoint users he’s now done one for Internet Explorer and it’s called We are IE, a Brief History of Internet Explorer, and he installs every version from version one, which I don’t know anybody who ever saw version one, right the way through to version 9 and he loads various websites and runs the acid test and makes it very interesting comments about the history and the look and how it works. And you can find that one Andy Tech Experiments blog, but it’s also on YouTube if you search for We Are IE.
Louis: Yeah, and we’ll link to it in the show notes as well as usual. This is terrifying.
Brad: I don’t know how that could even work without exploding.
Louis: Yeah, this is the kind of thing that just should not exist.
Patrick: Is there a warning at the end like no one was harmed or something like that (laughter) because I see PETA being all over this.
Louis: (Laughs) yeah, I’m definitely going to check that out after the show. Alright, so that’s a wrap for the SitePoint Podcast this week, do we want to quickly go around the table?
Brad: Sure, I’m Brad Williams from Webdevstudios.com, and you can find me on Twitter@williamsba.
Patrick: I’m Patrick O’Keefe of the iFroggy Network, iFroggy.com, on Twitter@ifroggy, i-f-r-o-g-g-y.
Stephan: I’m Stephan Segraves, you can find me on Twitter@ssegraves and I blog at Badice.com.
Craig: I’m Craig Buckler, you can find me on SitePoint if you want to read my ramblings, and you can also find me at optimalworks.net and on Twitter@craigbuckler.
Louis: And you can follow SitePoint on Twitter@sitepoindotcom, that’s SitePointd-o-t-c-o-m, and follow me on Twitter@rssaddict. Visit the SitePoint Podcast at SitePoint.com/podcast to leave a comment on this show or to subscribe to get every show automatically. The SitePoint Podcast is produced this week by Karn Broad and I’m Louis Simoneau, bye for now.
Theme music by Mike Mella.
Thanks for listening! Feel free to let us know how we’re doing, or to continue the discussion, using the comments field below.
Louis joined SitePoint in 2009 as a technical editor, and has since moved over into a web developer role at Flippa. He enjoys hip-hop, spicy food, and all things geeky.
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