SitePoint Podcast #65: Got IE6?
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Here are the topics covered in this episode:
- Update: Twitter Going to OAuth Affects Chinese Web Users
- Browser news #1: Google Chrome 5 out, no longer beta on Mac, but not accessible?
- Browser news #2: IE8 Growth Outpacing Chrome, IE Still Shrinking Overall Due To IE6
- Browser news #3: Safari 5 Released, with HTML5 Showcase
- The value of learning multiple web development languages
Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/65.
- Patrick: Real Time Search – Social Mention
- Stephan: Safari Extensions
- Brad: HTML5 Experiment: Visualizing the Stanley Cup
- Kevin: ShowSlow monitors your YSlow and Google Page Speed scores
Kevin: June 11th, 2010. Tons of browser news and plenty of controversy mixed in. I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #65: Got IE6?
And we have tons of browser news to get through today. It seems like all the browser news hit in the past two weeks, so we’ve got lots of stuff to talk about. A little meatier than usual, though; it seems like every single piece of browser news came with its own little bit of controversy, so we’ll dig in to all of that.
But before we do, guys, we got a response to our last episode on Twitter where, and I apologize if I’m pronouncing this incorrectly, Jarón Barends asks, “Regarding Twitter’s OAuth move,” and I think two weeks ago we said we had five weeks and counting before Twitter switched off basic authentication and switched to OAuth, he asks, “did you know the negative effect for users in censored countries?” And he pointed us at his excellent, I have to say, blog post on this subject, and to be honest this hadn’t occurred to me.
This is — did you guys read this?
Stephan: I did.
Patrick: I did. It hadn’t occurred to me either.
Kevin: Yeah. It’s kind of an issue to do with OAuth in general, and let me break it down here for our listeners, and then you guys can discuss what you think of this. But the issue here is that, whereas previously where basic authentication meant that if you wanted to use Twitter through some third party site you just gave that third party site your Twitter username and password and that third party site would then connect to Twitter on its own using your credentials to do whatever it wanted. That seems like a poor security choice and something we would want to avoid, and the OAuth move is all about getting around that so that you never give out your Twitter credentials to anyone except Twitter. If you want to grant access for a third party site to access your Twitter account, what you do is tell that third party site, “Hey, I want to give you access,” that third party site redirects you to a special page on the Twitter website that prompts you to log in to Twitter using that Twitter supplied page and then Twitter supplies the third party site with a token that grants it access to your account. So that third party site never sees your Twitter credentials.
This is a good thing, it’s pretty widely agreed, except the issue is that now in order to connect to Twitter from a third party site you need to go to the Twitter website at some point to do it, to grant it that access. And if you unfortunately find yourself in a country like China that blocks access to sites like Twitter, suddenly you can no longer use not only Twitter but any of these third party sites.
And this doesn’t just affect people in these blocked countries, I know that my partner works at a school where sites like Twitter are blocked, and I have friends whose offices block the Twitter website, and I just tell them, hey, go to sites like Hahlo, hahlo.com, which is a third party interface for Twitter, and you can just log in with your Twitter account there to use Twitter, and that one’s not blocked and they get in that way. As soon as this OAuth thing happens that’s no longer going to be an option for those people.
What do you think? Is this a huge flaw in OAuth?
Brad: I guess the big question is, is this Twitter’s responsibility or the website’s responsibility or is it the country’s responsibility? I mean can we expect every website to make exceptions because certain countries are blocking that website?
Patrick: Yeah, I don’t think that’s reasonable, I really don’t. I don’t like entitlement in general, and that just seems to be entitlement, but at the same time it is an interesting dilemma for Twitter because Twitter has in part championed itself, and has been championed by others, as this sort of bastion or conduit of free speech in countries that otherwise wouldn’t have it. And how people have access to it and can get information out there quickly in disasters, in situations where the government is censoring them, so they’ve kind of become a pet, in a way, I mean they’ve had interaction with the government tied to these sorts of cultural movements and things that they are bringing light to. So they have sort of a different responsibility, let’s say, than other websites, maybe not a responsibility but how they view themselves and their image as a part of the world I guess. So I don’t think it’s a problem with OAuth, see, this is — we’re in the U.S. and Kevin’s in Australia, and we don’t have those sorts of problems. Like we think OAuth is great because, for example, TwitPic, a very popular Twitter service that allows you to share pictures, for a long time until just very recently in the last couple months made you log in with a username and password, and there were tons of people who would say that’s insecure, why am I giving them my username and password? Now they finally made the leap to OAuth, but, and we don’t think of those other problems with other countries because we don’t have to deal with them. But it is interesting, and I don’t know if they should make an exception or if it’s just not worth doing because of their security of their system.
Kevin: You’re right, this is an issue for free speech all over the world, and Twitter made a big deal about the fact, and during the Iranian elections people were Twittering about the election fraud that they were observing and that was a huge deal, it made headlines all over the world. And if that had occurred after this switch to OAuth then the moment that the Iran government decided to clamp down and block access to Twitter that avenue of free speech would just disappear.
Like I totally agree that OAuth is way more secure and requiring third party services that want access to people’s Twitter accounts, to offer OAuth as an option makes absolute sense. But does requiring them to only use OAuth make sense? Should maybe they allow people to give OAuth as the default login method but have a “I would like to log in insecurely” option for people for whom OAuth isn’t an option?
Patrick: (laughs) I’d like to see that link: log in insecurely. That’d be a great link to have in your header, like log in secure, log in insecure. No, I think here’s the thing, I think that’s a good idea but I think there’s no right decision here, there’s just a decision. So on one hand you have that would allow people to — something like that which would allow people to login in that manner and take the risk. And then, of course, you have the other hand of Twitter where I’m sure they have support problems where people give their information to some party and then their other account gets hacked or it’s spammed with messages, and then they complain to who? Twitter. So Twitter has to deal with that. Now, is that risk, does that outweigh the benefit of maybe making an option available for people to log in with a username and password? I don’t know. I think Twitter, like I said, is a special circumstance so maybe they should do something like that and then just accept, I guess, the consequences of having some people be taken advantage of.
Kevin: Hmm. For people who are concerned that they’re going to lose their access to Twitter whether because they’re in a country that doesn’t allow it or whether they just work at an office that has clamped down on that particular service, there are work arounds; in order to log in to a third party site that needs access to your Twitter account, using OAuth you only need to get to Twitter once to do that initial login to grant the access and get that token. So if you can somehow get yourself temporary access to Twitter, whether it’s using your home computer if your office is keeping you from accessing it, once you grant that third party site access from home then you can use it at work. If you don’t easily have access to a computer that isn’t blocked then you need to start looking at some of these Internet anonymization tools that allow you to surf anonymously and break through various firewalls which may or may not be an option for you depending on how risky you like to make your Internet access.
Patrick: We’re not saying you should break into the U.S. or Australian embassies, we’re not saying that at all. (laughs)
Kevin: (laughs) No, definitely not. But, yeah, it’s a concern; it’s weird how what is hailed widely as progress, this move to OAuth, is causing problems in certain ways. And, yeah, you know if it was just a small segment of users, you know, if it was Internet Explorer users, for example, who could not use OAuth, that would be one thing.
Patrick: Oh, would it!
Kevin: Not that Internet Explorer users are a small segment, but let’s cut it down to Internet Explorer 6 users then; let’s just say IE6 couldn’t access OAuth, people would go, “Ah, you know, you take the good with the bad.” But when the bad is something that has such big ramifications for free speech in the world, yeah, it’s a concern.
Anyway, thank you for bringing that to our attention, Jarón, that was really interesting reading.
But I think it’s time to dive into the browser news, guys. Brad you’re our resident Chrome expert, we hear there’s a new version of Chrome.
Brad: Yeah, another month, another new version of Chrome, so Chrome 5 was just released at the end of May, and if you’re running Chrome you probably already have it and you may not even realize it. Like me, I forgot that Chrome auto-upgrades you when new versions come out, so they don’t actually give you the — they don’t say, “Hey, a new version!” It just downloads and installs, so all of a sudden you’re running Chrome 5 and this is what we kind of discussed on those upgrade patterns a couple shows ago, how the Chrome 3 pretty much dropped down to nothing the day that Chrome 4 was out, or within a few days of it, which is pretty interesting.
Today I was going through some of the new features of Chrome 5, and some of the cooler things are some of the HTML5 features that they’ve added in, including geolocation API’s, the app cache web sockets, and also drag and drop which Gmail now takes advantage of; so you can actually compose a new email in Gmail and you can drag files off your desktop directly into the email on Gmail and attach those files, which is really cool to see in action on a big app like that.
Kevin: Hmm-mm. So you were saying before the show that you barely even noticed, or you didn’t even notice that you got a new version of Chrome. So that auto update is definitely working.
Brad: It’s definitely, in fact, I just checked to make sure and sure enough I’m running 5 and I didn’t even realize it. So, I mean it’s working.
Kevin: I love that. I am all for that I have to say. The fact that every time the make the slightest release they upgrade the major version number is a bit — who are they trying to catch up with?
Brad: They’re going to be on Chrome 10 by the end of the year.
Kevin: I guess Internet Explorer, right?
Patrick: Well, you gotta remember, what was that stat, like ten percent of people know what a browser is? You have to think if those same people, 90 percent can probably be convinced that 10.0 anything is better than 5.0 of something else.
Kevin: Yeah, I guess so.
Patrick: AOL 10.0.
Kevin: We don’t need the, “Ooh, you must make sure to download version 3.6.2 because it’s so much better than 3.6.1,” so I applaud them having sort of real world version numbers, but the cynic in me says they’re just trying to catch up to Internet Explorer 8 as quickly as possible, and once they get there they’ll level off their version numbers.
Brad: Yeah, they’ve also increased the syncing feature so prior to this version you could synch bookmarks but now you can also sync browser preferences, your themes, your home page, your startup settings, your preferred language, and even zoom settings. So that’s kind of an interesting feature. You know, I really like what they’re doing with the sync because you know most of us have multiple computers we use and it’s such a pain that all of our browsers are, you know, we have different add-ons or extensions here and there and trying to keep everything in sync, so it looks like they’re really moving along with that, which is great.
Kevin: Yeah. Reading the announcement from Google I found it interesting, once again, not to harp on this too much, but the fluid definition of HTML5 rears its head here again. They mention I think you said geolocation as one of the HTML5 features that they added support for, and that’s just another example of one more feature being lumped in under the heading of HTML5. If you go to isgeolocationpartofhtml5.com you’ll get a really nice website that has a map on it and a big word bubble that says “NO” in it. Because, yeah, geolocation technically is a completely separate W3C specification from HTML5, and yet once again as a new web standard that just seems to be all it takes to be considered part of HTML5 these days.
But I mentioned that each of these news stories related to a new browser comes with its own bit of controversy, and this one, the Chrome 5 in addition to all of the new features it brings, is the first non-beta version for the Mac. And that seems to be leading a few Mac users to judge it a little more harshly than previous releases because, after all, Google is not stingy with its beta labels, and so you would expect once they removed that beta term that they would be pretty confident that it’s a fully formed product. And yet we have this — the Mac-cessibility network site is reporting that Google Chrome for Mac seems to go out of its way to remove accessibility features from the browser. After all, the Chrome browser is built around the same Webkit rendering engine that Safari is, and Webkit comes with a whole rich set of accessibility features specifically tooled for the Mac platform so that visually disabled people are able to access websites using the Voiceover technology that’s built into Mac OS X. And it looks like Google Chrome has basically switched off all those features, and that’s what this blog post is complaining about.
The comment thread for this post is especially illuminating because one of the developers on the Google Chrome team chimes in and says, “Look, it’s a little unfair to say that we just switched off all these features, that certainly isn’t what we did.” The issue is that the architecture of the Chrome web browser, which puts each of the tabs into its own separate process in order to improve the stability and security of the browser, that architecture choice made it really difficult for them to preserve access to those accessibility features in the rendering engine. After all, the browser process would have to communicate all of that accessibility information into the separate processes for each tab, and they have not yet been able to do that. He says they have a developer who is working on that specific issue, and they provide a bug number if you want to track their progress on that.
But what do you think guys? Is that an acceptable excuse that, you know, it was too hard and we’re still working on it when it comes to accessibility?
Stephan: Why wouldn’t it be?
Stephan: I mean, you know, if something’s … gotta break some time, right? I mean when we’re developing software I think people understand that, so sure it stinks, and I think Google maybe should have been a little bit more forthcoming with why the features were gone, but other than that I mean it’s something that they’ve got to work out. Would you rather have a fast browser that works or a slow browser that has your accessibility features that you can’t use anyway because the browser’s too slow?
Patrick: Depends on if you’re blind or not.
Kevin: Well, yeah, exactly.
Stephan: But I’m saying is it unusable. I mean had they pushed it out and it was unusable would it matter then?
Kevin: To visually impaired users I would say this browser is completely unusable, but those users would obviously then switch back to Safari where all of their features work. So I guess if it was the only browser, if there were no accessible browser available you might judge them a little more harshly. I think they probably should; if it’s understood that a web browser needs to be an accessible piece of software then the fact that Chrome is not, I think you’re right Stephan, that probably should have been highlighted as, you know, “accessibility features coming soon” or something like that. That part of it’s still in beta, please bear with us. But, yeah, I guess the fact that there is a good option sort of limits Google’s responsibility a little bit here. It’s good to know they’re working on it anyway.
Stephan: Yeah. And the fact that a developer or a person that works for Google replied to this guy’s blog post says a lot, to me, at least.
Kevin: Yeah. Yeah, replied with their open bug tracker URL, I mean you’re not going to expect Microsoft to do that any time soon I’d say, so kudos on that front.
Stephan: Or Apple, eh-hem.
Kevin: Yeah. Speaking of Microsoft, browser news number two is to do with the stats, the latest browser statistics surrounding Internet Explorer. And it’s a really interesting landscape at the moment. Looking at a story from Ars Technica, which I thought provided the best breakdown of these numbers that I could find, what we’re seeing here is that the latest browser numbers reveal Internet Explorer 8 is growing faster than Chrome, so Internet Explorer is still making great headways with their latest version. But the fact that use of older versions of Internet Explorer is shrinking even faster means that, overall, Internet Explorer use is still dropping. So I guess people on Internet Explorer 6 and 7 who are switching are making the choice of either going to Internet Explorer 8 or picking up something like Chrome which is the next fastest growing browser. And you’ve got to wonder, at Microsoft do they consider those people who are just stuck on Internet Explorer 6 to be their user base? I guess they do because they’re always talking about how they can’t break compatibility for people on old versions of Internet Explorer. But if people are abandoning your browser so quickly that even the massive growth you’re seeing in your latest version is seeing your overall user base shrinking day by day, that’s got to be kind of a depressing situation.
Brad: Yeah, you know, the one stat I would like to see surrounded by IE 8 is how many people are actually upgrading to IE 8 versus how many people are installing Windows 7 or buying a new computer that has Windows 7 on it because it’s shipping with IE 8, and I would imagine a good percentage of the IE 8 users, or people who are moving to IE 8, is because they’re all moving to Windows 7.
Kevin: So do you think someone was on a previous version of Windows they had switched to Firefox, for example, and then they get their brand new computer, they fire it up, and it’s got Internet Explorer 8 on it and they’re about to go install Firefox and in order to do that they open up Internet Explorer to go the Firefox website and they go, “Hey, this isn’t as bad as I remember it was!”
Brad: I mean it very well could be or maybe they just — they don’t know, they had Firefox, somebody installed it for them, and then they get a new computer or they upgrade and there’s Windows 8 and they don’t care, a browser’s a browser’s a browser, so they open it up and they start browsing. It would be cool if we could see, as far as the IE 8 number, if we could see the difference between that because that would really help understand what’s going on here.
Kevin: There’s an interesting story over at PC Pro. The title of the story is Microsoft man: “My job is to destroy IE6”. And then you read the story and that quote does not actually appear anywhere in the story; the actual quote in the story is from Ryan Gavin, head of the Internet Explorer Business Group, who says, “Part of my job is to get IE6 share down to zero as soon as possible,” not quite destroy IE6 there.
Brad: Give that guy a raise!
Patrick: Microsoft Man, like a superhero or something. What was that about?
Kevin: (laughs) Reading that headline I pictured someone at Microsoft whose sole job he was paid day in and day out to get people off Internet Explorer 6 by any means necessary.
Patrick: They should post a video of him on YouTube dressed as a superhero and then fighting a character that’s the IE6 logo and punching it and beating it up and kicking it on the ground.
Kevin: (laughs) You’d have to be a bit of an outsider if that was your actual job at Microsoft. But, no, it doesn’t seem like there is anyone at Microsoft whose only job is to get people off Internet Explorer 6.
Nevertheless, this story does link to an interesting ad campaign that Microsoft Australia ran recently; comparing using Internet Explorer 6 to drinking nine year old milk.
Patrick: Not quite apt.
Kevin: Looking at the ad it’s got this sort of carton, this milk carton on it that’s stamped “use by August 2001”, and the name of the brand of milk is “You wouldn’t drink nine year old milk,” and then the story says, “So why use a nine year old browser? When Internet Explorer 6 was launched in 2001 it offered cutting edge security for the time. Since then the Internet has evolved and the security features of Internet Explorer 6 have become outdated. With the latest state of the art security features, Internet Explorer 8 is designed to cope with today’s modern cyber crime; in fact, research studies prove it.” And then it goes on to cite research studies about how many malware attacks Internet Explorer 8 was able to block compared to its competitors.
And, yeah, I think you’re right, Patrick, this isn’t quite apt. Why don’t you think this makes sense?
Patrick: Because I’ll use IE6 any day before I drink nine year old milk. I would use IE6 right now if that was the choice. I’ll use it for as long as I need to not drink nine year old milk.
Kevin: (laughs) Next time on Fear Factor.
Patrick: It will become 20 year old milk before I stop using IE6.
Stephan: If the whole point of the thing is to say that IE8 can block malware, why don’t they just use some malware to update the people that are on IE6?
Kevin: Hey now.
Stephan: A virus to upgrade?
Patrick: I think this is fun and clever though. I do think it’s fun; I do think it’s clever. We’re talking about it, that’s the point.
Kevin: Yeah, it is very clever. The hole that I see in this is that the “use by August 2001”, are they saying that the Internet Explorer 6 browser was out of date in August 2001?
Stephan: It came out and it was out of date.
Brad: You know what’s interesting about this ad, and I think we had this on I want to say probably six months ago in an episode, there was another funny little ad like this that Microsoft put out, but they all seemed to be based in other countries and not the U.S.; I don’t know if I’ve seen an ad similar to this that’s this like blunt about it.
Patrick: People in the U.S. are cynical jerks, that’s why.
Brad: Maybe it is. The ads don’t seem as blunt. They certainly tell people to upgrade but they don’t seem as in your face as these type, and I guess maybe that’s just advertising in general.
Patrick: Other countries have more fun. Or Australia has more fun let’s say. It seems like it’s always in Australia; Microsoft Australia does things — if they do something wrong they overstep their bounds or they do something funny.
Kevin: Do you guys remember when Microsoft New Zealand did the theme for Windows XP? There was this unique theme for Windows XP that you could only download from the Microsoft New Zealand website.
Patrick: I don’t remember that.
Kevin: Well, I’ll be honest with you guys, I live in Australia and I had not seen this ad campaign until it came up in this story. So the impression I get is that while Microsoft USA is busy developing software, all of the international subsidiaries are sitting there going, well, what are we supposed to do? Oh, I guess we’ll do another ad campaign that no one will see.
Stephan: It just sounds — it sounds like New Zealand and Australia have kind of gone rogue and they’re doing their own thing down there.
Brad: Watch out.
Kevin: (laughs) So you mentioned why don’t they just use a bit of malware to get those Internet Explorer 6 users to upgrade against their will.
Stephan: Yeah, it proves their point and it gets the software upgraded.
Kevin: It looks like PC Pro asked our friend Ryan Gavin about that because they also quote him by saying — they say, “‘The momentum behind Windows 7 will drive a refresh cycle,’ he continued, adding that turning off support for Internet Explorer 6 in a bid to push customers towards later versions was “unacceptable.”’” So, there’s your answer, Stephan, I think Microsoft considers that unacceptable. But will Microsoft Australia consider it unacceptable, that’s the question. (laughs)
Stephan: So do they shudder to think that Chrome auto-upgrades people? Do they shudder when they see that like they’re shaking in their boots going, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe they did that?”
Kevin: Yeah, exactly.
Stephan: (laughs) I kind of like it. I don’t have to worry about it, you know, I mean.
Kevin: Yeah. So, yeah, once again this comes back to the only real problem here being the fact that Microsoft didn’t release a new browser version for, what was it, five years. And so the use by date on that carton I would actually stick in 2006 some time because, yeah, the milk that they made in 2001 it seems like they expected it to last all that time. So the fact that we’re now in 2010 I guess it only means that the milk is — it’s twice its lifetime than it should have been. So, you know, if your average carton of milk lasts a week, we’re two weeks in at the moment. And that’s one of the very good points made in the comment thread on that story.
Stephan: Or they just don’t care if you drink, you know, old milk.
Patrick: I might drink two week old milk rather than use IE6.
Kevin: Yeah? (laughs)
Patrick: There’s a big difference between two weeks and nine years, so yeah.
Kevin: I think I might too. It just gets a bit creamier, right?
Brad: When is the next live stream of the podcast? We need to get some video on.
Kevin: (laughs) Browser news number three! And this is our last big piece of browser news for the past couple of weeks is Safari 5 has been released. So we’ve got new versions of Chrome, new versions of Safari and people are still trying to get people on to the new version of Internet Explorer. But Safari 5 is out for both Mac and Windows, and this was released in conjunction with the first day of Apple’s WWDC, Worldwide Developer Conference, that is going on as we record this. And whereas the previous version, Safari 4, seemed to be very much a user focused release, they revamped the user interface, made this slick 3D looking new home page; this release, Safari 5, has got a lot of stuff for developers in it. I have to admit when I first fired it up I did not see much new from the user standpoint. Stephan have you got this new version installed?
Stephan: I actually have it installed on my Windows computer at work but not on my Mac yet because I had to reboot to install it, so.
Patrick: That sounds wrong.
Stephan: Yeah, it sounds backwards, doesn’t it?
Kevin: (laughs) But the one — the biggest user-facing feature that I can see in this new version is the new Safari Reader feature. If it detects that you’re looking at a page that has an article on it, even if it’s just the first page of that article, so if the article’s split over multiple pages, it will pop up a button in the address bar that says reader, and when you click on that it strips away, well, first of all, the current page fades into the background and it brings up a view that is just this stripped back content only view of the article. So the navigation bars are gone, the ads are gone, and all you see is the content, and it even goes ahead and auto downloads the subsequent pages of the article and tacks them onto the bottom of this stripped down view. It is from a user’s standpoint I’d say it is a really impressive feature if it works on the sites that you visit. I have to say its record on detecting sites with articles in them is a little spotty; I couldn’t get it, for example, to detect articles on sitepoint.com or on several other sites that I visit. But the New York Times apparently worked for you Stephan?
Stephan: Yep, yep, it’ll pull up the full article if it’s paged and show you the article, and it’s slick, slick interface.
Brad: Advertisers are going to love this.
Patrick: Yeah, the next feature Safari’s launching in Safari 6 is the ability to make sure content writers make no money ever in the history of time. That will be the next act to make sure they can’t make any money at all. No, I don’t know, I mean how far away is this from like default ad blocking?
Stephan: What I was going to say was that there’s already stuff that already does this, like Instapaper and Read It Later, where you never even look at the article, it just clicks a button and it goes to this thing and it’s just the text of the article.
Patrick: So I don’t know every web service in the world, thanks Stephan! I’m just kidding, no.
Stephan: No, but I’m just saying things like this already exist on — an example is on Twitter half the time I don’t click on people’s links to stories and stuff, I just send it to Instapaper and I read it later. And so I don’t look at any of the ads or anything, I just read the article.
Patrick: Yeah, for me there’s a question of separation between browser and add-on let’s say, or browser and service, like obviously everyone knows if you want to know Firefox has an ad blocking plug-in that is very popular, multiple ones. But it’s not default, right, and there’s sort of a separation there between those two maybe thoughts and how they go about doing that. I don’t know, the reader feature seems okay, but it just seems really weird for me to see it, I mean what’s the limit like if it goes to forum posts, if it identifies any large body of text, let’s say; can it automatically separate that from any site, add all the pages together even if it’s a 10,000 word article that’s broken up over ten pages that took a hundred hours to write and thousands of dollars in resources, tens of thousands of dollars of resources from the publication, and does it eliminate the ad? I see that it fades, so they still do visit the page, maybe they don’t visit all the pages, —
Kevin: They do.
Patrick: — but it looks like they still have to visit the page. No, but I mean the ads for a page like clicking ten pages in a row, let’s say.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah. Reading the specification, what the browser does in the background is it does full page requests for all of those other pages. So it does register ad impressions, but the user will never see those ads.
Patrick: See, that’s screwing with the system. I mean that’s really messing with how all this is supposed to work. And part of it, I mean Apple, we talked about this before, and how much they really care about, you know, everyone else, let’s say. But, I don’t’ know, you know, it’s such a weird thing for the new inflated ad numbers but never show those ads for the sake of user freedom? And of course most of the people in the world are users, they’re not writers. So of course most people would say, oh, great feature, I love this! But then there’s a small percentage of us that try to make a living writing content and putting it online, and this just makes it that much harder. Should Apple care? I don’t know, whatever, but it still gives me pause.
Stephan: But it’s also that you still have to go to one page, like you still have to go to at least the front page of an article. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, Patrick, but what I’m saying is that you still have to visit the page to use the reader. I’m not going to go around personally and start clicking on this thing every news site I come upon because it’s going to be a pain because I can’t — to go browse somewhere else I gotta click out of the reader again. So they’ve built it so that you can’t just browse the Internet through the reader and strip out the ads.
Patrick: Yeah, that’s true. It is a weird thing; it could be a gateway.
Patrick: Yeah, I mean I won’t be shocked if that happened just like it happens with top bars or framed pages like the DiggBar, people will make that sort of thing —
Brad: There’s a market. Make it a little app or an add-on for five bucks a pop to drop it on your website, breaks you out of this.
Kevin: Sounds like a WordPress plug-in Brad.
Kevin: To be clear, the links in the story still do work, so if you’re reading a story and you see a link that you want to follow you click it and the reader view goes away and then it follows that link. So it’s not completely breaking your ability to browse from that story. But, yeah, you’re right, I kind of feel the same way as you, Patrick, there’s kind of a division of church and state between what is possible with add-ons and what is provided by default with browsers. I mean Apple has repeatedly in the past few months shown that they understand the value of advertising to subsidize free content. They are investing in this whole new ad platform for their apps on iPhones and iPads to be released later this month. I think the new iAd platform goes live July 1st, they’ve just announced. And their primary reason for doing that they say is so that people who are making free and inexpensive apps for their devices can get paid and can make money. And that’s what they’re doing with one hand, and with the other they are possibly contributing to the destruction of the ad landscape on the Web.
Stephan: Hey, but to make up for it though they added Bing search, so.
Kevin: (laughs) Yes.
Patrick: Yeah, and you can now use the HTML5 tag
<ruby>. Whoo, hoo!
Stephan: Yes, yes.
Kevin: (laughs) But, you know, controversy aside, I have to applaud them for trying something new because every time a new browser comes out like this, especially a niche browser like Safari, they are really upfront about the fact that they understand that Safari is a small player in the browser market and that they don’t lead the pack. Certainly they have a really great technology platform, and the fact that the Webkit rendering engine that’s at the heart of Safari basically powers mobile web browsers, every single mobile web browser of note out there, means that the technology platform is really great. But as a desktop browser Safari is way behind the pack. So it would be tempting for them to just sort of sit back and just, you know, copycat other people’s features as required. But trying something brand new here with this reader feature I have to give them credit for that, and I would not be surprised to see this feature copied in other browsers because it is such a great feature for users. But, yeah, web advertisers are going to have to adapt; certainly the value for those ad impressions for subsequent pages of multipage articles has just dropped a great deal if users embrace this feature. You may not be seeing ads on page twos and threes anymore just because people won’t be seeing them if this feature catches on.
Stephan: I’d like to see — I guess I need to try this out and see how it works with those ads that are embedded in links, you know where you hover over the links and it pops up like a little window or something. I want to — I should see how that handles —
Kevin: Looking at — because I’m looking at the article about this new browser release on Ars Technica, and the reader feature detects the article on Ars Technica, and the article itself at the very top of the article has one of these right floated feature images, sort of the image that represents the article, and that is stripped out by the reader.
Patrick: Well, you know, one day if this is popular down the road we can all sign up for Apple’s ad platform that will have ads on these reader pages so that we can all participate in their platform.
Kevin: (laughs) There you go, you found the endgame. Apple will be serving their own ads soon enough.
Alright. But that isn’t the only controversy around Safari 5, and there’s this other controversy to do with how Apple is promoting its new HTML5 standard support. In addition to releasing the browser they’ve also released this new page on the Apple website, it’s the HTML5 showcase showing off features of HTML5, once again this is in the broadest definition of HTML5 that you can think of, but features that are supported by the new Safari browser. And when this first came out it seemed like they were going– and to some extent they are, they’re saying, look, this is what you can do with web standards, you don’t need Flash to do this stuff. Is that the message you guys got from this?
Brad: Yeah, I mean I think that’s overall the point of it is just to show, because obviously Apple is not going to use Flash on the iPhone and iPad devices, and so now they’re kind of trying to back it up with some demos to say look what we can do, look what we’re striving to use HTML5 which should ultimately they would love to replace Flash.
Kevin: Yeah. So if you go to apple.com/html5, that’s the address of this showcase, but if you go there in any browser except Safari then when you click on one of those examples it will say sorry you need Safari to view these examples. And on a page where the title is HTML5 and web standards, this seems like — this seems really counter to the message they’re trying to get out there that the benefit of web standards is that you develop it using these standards and it works everywhere, but sorry, you actually need Safari to see these demos.
This is what’s got web developers all over the Web in outcry. You know, gotta give credit to Apple for getting the message of web standards out there, but this is not the way to do it I have to say. It’s a fine line, I mean obviously they did this to promote their new browser release, and so if people were coming here using Chrome and going, oh yeah, HTML5 is pretty cool, I am happy with my browser choice, you know, Apple wouldn’t be getting much bang for its marketing buck here. But if they’re — they’re trying to serve two masters here; they’re trying to promote web standards and they’re also trying to promote their browser. I think they need to pick one.
Brad: What was it during the Flash controversy where Steve Jobs said that he supports the open web and HTML5 and I mean, like you said, this is not the open web, this is Apple pushing Safari on you and trying to make people download it. I think it’s in bad taste to be honest.
Patrick: On one hand, you know what I thought of when I saw this, and I don’t know what country it was, it might’ve been Microsoft Australia, but it was some country other than the U.S.
Patrick: And I’m dead serious when I say that. I think it was Microsoft Australia, but I don’t know, where they had — it was to promote IE 7 or 8, to get people to download it or something like that, and it was —
Kevin: I think you’re right actually.
Patrick: — and it was giving away cash. It wasn’t promoting web standards. And there was an outcry because they made people use the browser or at least the user string, and so, you know, there was an outcry and they relented allowing people from all browsers to view and win the cash. Now on one hand I didn’t have a problem with that because Microsoft was promoting their browser. So I feel a similar way here except that Apple isn’t giving away cash, they’re talking about web standards and how open everything is. And it does seem counterintuitive to say, okay, you have to view it in this. And it is kind of weird and I don’t know why they felt it was necessary to do that, I mean they had to make a conscious decision, right, to actually do this. So that’s why it strikes me as strange.
Stephan: You’re open. You’re open to use Safari to view those things that’s…
Kevin: If you go to the bottom of the page there’s a link for developers, which takes you to the Safari Developer Center, which has another way to get at all of these exact same demos; it takes you to developer.apple.com/safaridemos, and it’s the exact same list of demos but this time they’ll let any browser in. So it really is they just took this group of demos they already had and put a new Safari-only wrapper around them on purpose.
Patrick: Does it not support Firefox, the latest version of Firefox?
Kevin: It depends on the demo.
Patrick: Okay, because I’m 0 for 3 so far.
Stephan: If there’s anything 3D in it, it probably won’t work.
Kevin: Yeah, exactly. So I’ve heard that like two out of the eight demos work well in Safari, for example, uh, work well in Firefox.
Patrick: So far I’m on zero; I’m on 0 for 6, so let’s see.
Kevin: But yeah, they need to do this page that says here’s the demos, click through them and see how they work in your browser, and here’s the compatibility table that shows you what you can expect. And it should show Safari supports all of them whereas Chrome supports most of them and Firefox supports some of them; that’s how you promote your browser. You don’t put up a “You must have Safari to view these web standards examples.”
Patrick: Literally none of the demos work for me. I’m just saying. It’s Firefox 3.6.3, I’m on the page, opened each demo, it’s actually more than eight, I think it’s around 13 if you go to a second page; not a single one works, I don’t know, but there you go.
So enough said about Safari, I think, and that brings our massive browser news countdown for this week to an end. We do have a few other stories, though, to look at. Stephan this is something you pointed out a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to come back to it because I think it really is an interesting story, and the blog post is called What I Wish a Ruby Programmer Had Told Me One Year Ago. Why did this catch your eye?
Stephan: I don’t know, because I’ve kind of been out of development for a while, you know, pure development where that’s all I’m doing, so I was just reading this article and it was like this is kind of me, but I haven’t picked up Ruby or Python, you know, I know Python, but I haven’t picked up Ruby. And so I was just reading through this and it kind of struck me that he’s talking about how these languages, or how Ruby’s so beautiful that it’s evil.
Kevin: (laughs) It’s insidious.
Stephan: It’s insidious, you know, it just gets under your skin. So it’s kind of like it’s one of those things that if you’re not a developer or you were a developer at one point and you want to get back into it I think it’s just a really cool look at the language itself, and one guy’s outside look at getting into Ruby development.
Kevin: When I read this article I was afraid that it was going to be another one of those, you know, I tried PHP and it sucked, and I tried Python and it kind of sucked, and then I finally tried Ruby and it was the second coming of languages and it changed my life, and if you’re not using Ruby you’re crazy. And it wasn’t one of those. The message that I took away from this article was really just that if you, as a professional web developer, allow yourself to fall into a comfort zone of using any one language to the exclusion of all others, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.
He comes away by saying PHP is not a bad language, but once I looked at Ruby I decided that for most things I prefer Ruby, PHP is just not the language for me. And that as a professional web developer you should allow yourself to be exposed to those other options so that when a better tool comes along for a particular job you’re aware of it rather than continuing working with whatever you’re used to. And I think that’s a valuable message.
Stephan: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s like don’t get stuck in a rut of one language and just that’s all you know. Because, you know, one day PHP may stop being developed on, you know, something like that, and you’re gonna be like, well, I don’t know anything else and so do I go work at Burger King? You know, I think it’s always good to keep your mind going with something new. So it’s a good article to people who were worried about that, so.
Kevin: Yeah. So this particular article it turns out that for a certain class of developers who think and breathe code and who love elegant code, Ruby is a great language. But for other people for whom they’re just learning their very first programming language or programming is just something else they do on top of design, for example, languages like PHP are a lot more straightforward and easier to understand and make sense of, and for those people they’d want to choose PHP a lot of the time. But in every case the more options you can expose yourself to the better.
Patrick: This is pretty cool. I viewed a couple of the links, checked out the video, Strongbad email, I don’t know if they’re embedding that, if they should be embedding that or not, but as an aside it was cool to see how smooth it was without Flash and it’s interesting to think of maybe Apple as ‘the man’ and now they’re sticking it to the man, I don’t know.
Kevin: (laughs) Well, it’s weird to hear an ad firm sticking it to the man.
Patrick: That’s what Apple’s done to us.
Stephan: Up is down, down is up.
Kevin: Yeah, so I guess the next step is for them to develop a library that makes Safari’s reader feature only display the ads on the page.
Patrick: Adobe should do this. Adobe should buy them right now.
That’s incredible. (laughs) Every single step in that is worthy of a massive open source project, and yet they’ve managed to do it all. They really, really want their ads to work on the iPad.
Patrick: Who is the ad firm?
Kevin: The ad firm is —
Patrick: I see at the bottom it’s copyright RevShock, that’s why I wasn’t sure.
Kevin: Yeah. Yeah, that’s them, RevShock.
Brad: I mean if you’re the first ad agency that comes out and can promote this as a service I mean imagine the new business that they’re going to get from this alone. I mean so this would really put them at the top tier of their competitors.
Patrick: Their Twitter page is apparently is @RevShockads, they have 251 followers, so that makes this even more amazing that they’re that small and coming up with this. But if they can pull it off then they could have a lot of people eating out of their hand perhaps.
Stephan: I’d like to see Steve Jobs’ face when he’s sitting at Starbucks or something on his iPad and he comes across—
Patrick: This means war!
Stephan: And he’s like “Are you kidding me?” (laughs)
Kevin: Well, what this shows — what this shows is that all of the stuff that people say you need Flash to do well— Well, maybe not all of it, but a lot of the stuff that people believe you need Flash to do well actually can be done well using web standards. And if an automated tool can convert these things into watchable Flash movies, well, watchable web standards ads, imagine what you could do if you were coding for the web standards from scratch; the kind of performance and slickness you could get out of it. So to some extent this is making Apple’s point for them, but for those people who work at ad firms and who for their entire careers for the past ten years have designed ads in Flash, this is the people they’re trying to rescue here with this.
Patrick: I mean I just thought of this as I was looking at this, but put aside ads for a second and think about all the video sites that are out there that maybe aren’t where they want to be as far as HTML5 or whatever standard they want to get to for the iPad, and how something like this could instantly make them compatible while they work on that solution. And every, you know, rich media sites in general, like how does this thing translate to Flash games I wonder. And those sites and all the sites that do rely on Flash it’s I mean a big deal beyond ads if it works well.
Kevin: Hmm-mm. Definitely something to keep our eye on. At the moment it’s just a preview, they anticipate releasing the tool soon and they say at the moment it supports a subset of Flash 8 features. So it’s got a ways to go to be a complete Flash replacement, but certainly for the 90 percent case especially for advertisers this is a really impressive tool that’s going to change the game quite a bit I think.
Let’s get to our spotlight guys. We’ve run a bit long so let’s blow through these so that we can let our listeners get back to their days.
Patrick what have you got for us?
Patrick: Listeners have nothing better to do than listen to us, okay. No, I’m just kidding. No, my spotlight is called Social Mention, it’s socialmention.com, and I was turned on to it by Derek Brown at the Shift Conference in Greenville that I was at recently. Basically what it does is it searches some, I would say 60, 70 odd social sites, everything from what you’d expect, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, to Google Blog search or Google Buzz mentions, Google News, and you can search for your brand or you can search for a term and it’ll search all of these sources for you in a pretty quick manner. And one thing that impressed me is their real time buzz widget. Now basically what that is, is you can embed on your site, think the Twitter badge for mentions that they give you on twitter.com or any mentions of a specific term you can display on your site. This is the same except it is for all these different platforms; you can have Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, FriendFeed, Digg mentions all on one page if you so choose. And it’s really powerful, fast loading, it works as it should, and I actually emailed the developer because Facebook wasn’t in the buzz widget and I wanted it to be; his name is John Cianciullo, hopefully I’m pronouncing that right, @jonnyjon on Twitter, and he got back to me within two days and added Facebook to the widget. That impressed me and it seems like it’s a really valuable person for anyone who wants to monitor a term or a brand in any social media context.
Kevin: Cool. Stephan what have you got?
Stephan: I have something called Safari Extensions, and since Apple’s kind of put the extensions part in there, into Safari 5, and not really made it fully supported yet, they don’t have a gallery of all the extensions out, so there’s a guy named Jonas Wisser, I think is how you say his last name, who put together a tumbler site called Safari Extensions, and it’s got a bunch of extensions that I guess he’s compiling as he goes, and the address is safariextensions.tumblr.com.
Kevin: Yeah, very nice. There are some nice ones in there already. And people are finding it rather easy to port extensions over from other browsers I found, so a lot of the really impressive extensions you know from other browsers are appearing on this Tumblog very quickly.
Brad what have you got?
Brad: In the spirit of all of our HTML5 talk I have a pretty cool HTML5 demo that’s called Visualizing the Stanley Cup. And basically it has all the teams, all the hockey teams across the top, and then as you hover over each team it highlights on the grid below which are all the years from 1927 up until 2009, and then it highlights the year that that particular team has gone to the Stanley Cup. And then the color of the arrow is actually based on whether they won or lost. So it’s pretty neat to actually hover over all the different teams and you can see who’s been pretty dominant, and then you can also see, you know, there’s like three teams that have been once and lost, so you really gotta feel bad for those fans. But it really puts the game in perspective; I’d love to see this for all the different sports, you know, baseball and football and soccer and everything. So it’s a pretty neat HTML5 demo.
Kevin: Tampa Bay Lightning have only been once. They have won though and they were only founded in 1992. Way to go Tampa Bay Lightning.
My pick is ShowSlow, which is a site that for a while now has provided statistics about the performance of various websites. But they’ve released a new feature that lets you tell them to monitor your own website and send you updates about the performance of your site. This is especially important now that it has been revealed that Google is factoring in the performance of your site when ranking your site. So if your site is slow then your site is gonna lose search engine ranking, and so it’s especially important to monitor this stuff. And if you’re running your site on a shared hosting service you want to be aware of this. So even if you don’t make any changes to your site for several months it would be good to know if your web hosting service sneakily added a whole bunch more sites to the same server and negatively impacted your site’s performance. So showslow.com is where you go to check this out; there’s a write-up on this on ajaxian.com that alerted me to this new feature, so very, very cool feature. If the performance of your site is not something you’re used to actively monitoring it’s even more important now than ever.
And that brings us to the end of our show. So thanks once again guys. Let’s go around the table.
Brad: I’m Brad Williams from WebDev Studios, and you can find me on Twitter @williamsba.
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