From time to time you can see websites displaying the lable "Best
viewed with any browser".
Is it really necessary to stress this fact?
Isn't that a matter of course? Did you ever encounter a website that would not
display properly - at least with a reasonably up-to-date
Doesn't that mean to advertise with compatibility to the stone ages of
Or is it even the showing-off of some unteachable puristic
wise guys who are trying to prove their claim of elitist expertise?
The slogan of ideology driven public domain maniacs whose penetrant call
for altruism would finally bring the web's progress to a harsh stop?
Well, in some cases this may even contain a microscopic spark of truth but
I will try to clarify what's my view on this topic.
Obviously the lable "best viewed with any browser" is ironically
imitating the corresponding lables with wich Microsoft and Netscape - at the
hightime of their battle for control over the web - were campaigning (or let
others campaign) to use their respective browsers.
But in the end the battle wasn't decided by the more
feature fat, resource wasting (on both sides - manufacturers and user)
browser. Microsoft's market domination on the operating system sector
finally lead them to a similar position for web browsers as they were
bundeling their internet explorer with Windows. In the long run Netscape
could not compete with the titan from Redmond and gave up. At least it
looked like it to many people when Netscape released the browser's source
code to the public. This was the start of what is now known as the
project2. The market share
of Mozilla among the web browser is considerable lower than microsoft's
internet explorer but still worth noting and probably representing the
amount of people whose distrust in Microsoft surmounts the pain of installing
Now those "Best viewed / experienced with ..." lables have vanished
from the websites as the battle seems over and they could not establish
themselves as a trademark for a more intense web experience but resulted in
loads of hate mails to the webmaster from the opposite party.
Well, wouldn't it be logical to remove
the "any browser" lables too? I think (surprise!): no.
But then - what should "Best viewed with any browser"
stand for (besides the obvious)?
In short: It means not to enjoin on anyone surfing the web what browser to
use in which configuration.
This means more then just objecting to the efforts of
several companies to gain a monopoly position in order to control the further
development of the web: There is such a multitude of security and privacy
threats in the web that it is simply a must to give every means to the
responsible user to protect himself from these flaws.
Being in charge of a website you can achieve this by
obeying the following rules:
Ok now, enough of this Cassandra style nagging. I hope you enjoy surfing the
web anyway and if you're interested to learn more about "Best viewed
with any browser" you should visit the
The web pages should be as browser independent as possible (that is
"best viewed with any browser"), thus giving the viewer the
freedom choose the browser that suits his personal feelings and needs
towards security and features most. He can then avoid browsers with
undesired security flaws or use browsers with features he doesn't want
There are more good reasons to support the diversity of browsers used in
the web: For competitory reasons the browser manufacturers will probably
have a higher motivation to remove errors and security flaws from their
products as soon as possible. Moreover it becomes less effective (and thus
less attractive) to abuse weaknesses of a browser when less people are
using that specific browser. On the other hand a dominating market
leader will always be the natural number one target for any attack.
A web page that is compatible with as many browser as possible inevitably
has to rely on global, manufacturer independent standards. The
specifications of which are usually better discussed and checked than the
proprietary solution of one single manufacturer. Therefor those public
standards have the tendency to be more reliable and secure and
remaining problems are more likely to be discovered and better understood
so that they can be avoided more easily.
Another important principle is to use only techniques that are
substantially necessary to represent the intended content of the web
page. Especially the usage of so called active content like ActiveX,
as all those techniques inherit (unintended by their originators of
course) considerable risks for privacy and security. They can be used to
spy out, change or delete data or to create profiles tracking what the
user is doing while cruising the web. In most browsers you have the
choice to switch off these techniques and from a privacy / security
point of view it is a very good idea to do so. That's why your web page
should not force any visitor to activate one of these elements.|
like tickers, buttons changing the look while the mouse pointer is
hovering over them, etc. and admittedly it may even help to boost the
ergonomy of your website (it is startingly seldom used in this way
though). But you have really to consider very carefully whether the
if it loses som of its appeal (for example take care that all menues
remain visible and usable). But alone the permanent presence of
something. In this spirit you should refrain from using anything that
is of no substantial necessity to provide your content.
A big problem in this context araises from the fact
that many authors of web pages are not even aware of the techniques
contained in their web pages as many programs that help you write
websites are including the formentioned techniques without warning,
taht the unsuspecting author is very likely to use many of the ready-made
neat effects without any clue concerning the possible impact (see also
Powered by vi).
At last I want to go into one more aspect that, up to now, did not
recieve the public reception it deserves and is usually even missing
in the frequent articles about "safer surfing": plugins.
Plugins are programs that enhance your browsers abilities to display
content offered in the web. Most common examples are probably Acrobat
Reader, Macromadia's Flash and Real Audio. To plugins applies the same
as to the techniques mentioned in the paragraph above: Don't use what
you don't need. Regrettably most browsers come already with an impressive
collection of plugins in their basic intallation in order not expose
itself to the accusation that some web page did not work with it, that
someone might miss one stamp size movie or some sqeaky sound. But who
knows which plugin is secretly sending UIDs (uniquie identifiers) to its
manufacturer that make your computer and your surfing destinations
uniquely identifieable? Who does really know what hidden features (and
flaws) are contained in the various plugins? Would you expect that for
example viewing a malformed PDF document with the Acrobat Reader could
perhapes lead to the execution of malicious code on your computer? (Just
to be precise - I'm not aware of such a currently known issue in Acrobat
Reader, but this is a very typical and frequent security flaw in software
that is used on the web). So you should definitely think twice whether
you need to use the newest maximega plugin of blastyourbonesmedia.com be
it as author or as visitor of web pages. Again the slogan holds: Less is
1You did? Great - then
we're already in pairs! ;-)
2I'm not liable for the content of external web