JavaScript
Article
By Alex Walker

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby… Not.

By Alex Walker

As fun as it is to pontificate about microformats, structured markup and the semantic web, in the past week two item have brought home to me how far the leading edge of web thinking is ahead of ‘Joe in the street’.

The first was an article by Dave Siegel at XML.com.

The Web Is Ruined and I ruined it. Some people say I’ve ruined the Web, and to them it’s true. Web pages can’t be seen as easily by search engines and those with low-end machines have a hard time getting much out of my site. On my personal site, I don’t even put ALT tags just to send a message to those surfing without images. My life is visual. I love museums. How would you like to visit the Louvre with images turned off?

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Dave is one of the web design’s true pioneers and his ‘Creating Killer Web Sites‘ was one of the early bibles of web technique. To relate him to the current web landscape, if Tantek Celik is ‘Mr. Box Model Hack‘, then Dave Siegel was ‘Sir. Table & Spacer Gif‘.

The article is a very interesting but slightly depressing read, not because Dave is championing spacer GIFs, but because he actually goes on to admit the problems he is getting us into, and for the fact that he is writing this article way back in 1997!

Yes, that’s right, almost a decade ago the inventor of ‘The Single Pixel GIF Trick‘ was warning us all ‘don’t compromise your structure for some presentational voodoo‘. He was on our side (the structured markup side) before we even had a side.

Until then, we’re going to go through another round of hacks where we put everything into databases and serve pages from there. It won’t help the search engines at all. It will cost millions of dollars. It will all be totally unnecessary. Don’t look at me. Look at Netscape. They break the rules; I just do what needs to be done. If I have ruined the Web, I apologize. It was my intention all along. Many people like me have put design and content ahead of structure, and now we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Netscape has blocked the way, but they may be coming around. Site designers unite. Fight for presentation and structure. If we win, our future will be so bright, we’ll have to wear shades.

Impressive vision from David but a depressing outcome as we sit here 2006.

The week was then neatly bookended when I noticed a new ’rounded corners technique’ getting momentum on some on the social networking hubs — Spiffy Corners with a neat tagline ‘No Images. No Javascript. No fluff.’

As the name might imply, Greg J’s Spiffy Corners borrows a fair amount from Alessandro Fulciniti’s ‘Nifty Corners‘ (which he freely acknowledged) in using layers of styled <b> tags to build up a soft corner. The key difference is while Alessandro’s <b> tags only exist when the JavaScript says they do (so removal is trivial), Spiffy Corners takes the approach of hard-coding them permanently into the markup. The markup is something like this.

 
  <div>
<b class="spiffy">
<b class="spiffy1"><b></b></b>
<b class="spiffy2"><b></b></b>
<b class="spiffy3"></b>
<b class="spiffy4"></b>
<b class="spiffy5"></b>
</b> <div class="spiffy_content">
<!-- Your Content Goes Here -->
</div>
<b class="spiffy">
<b class="spiffy5"></b>
<b class="spiffy4"></b>
<b class="spiffy3"></b>
<b class="spiffy2"><b></b></b>
<b class="spiffy1"><b></b></b>
</b>
</div> 

Now I’ve got nothing against Greg or Spiffy Corners, and he’s clearly put a lot of work into building and promoting the site. The slightly disheartening part from my own point of view is that so many people seemed to see this as a solution to their perceived problems — at last check over 2000 ‘shovels’ on one well-known social bookmarking site.

While I can understand that JavaScript may not be the solution for everyone, I have to admit I don’t really understand the problem that this is addressing.

  • What’s wrong with images? At least you can turn em off.
  • How can this save bandwidth? CSS, Javascript and images all cache after the first download. <b> tags can’t, so every new page bleeds a little more.
  • What about when we want larger arcs? Do we add a new class every time we want the curve to be 1 pixel bigger?

And make no mistake, this isn’t aimed at the Frontpage 98 crowd either. You need to at least be comfortable with HTML to get this working . It certainly seems to me some of the central concepts of the whole web standards shebang still haven’t truly made to the collective web consciousness.

Ah Dave, where to now?


To Greg’s great credit, he’s digested a lot of the discussion (here and elsewhere) contributed to it and come back with a bigger and better corner generator based on the Thrashbox method. You can check out Spiffybox for yourself here. Nice work, Greg.

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