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Re: Single Browser Intranets (was: Web Accessibility Myths)

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 19:43:23 -0400 (EDT)
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>
cc: ann@webgeek.com, kynn-hwg@idyllmtn.com, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.20.9910241937280.31967-100000@tux.w3.org>
Part of the problem is people who are not interested in solving the problems.

As Webmaster at RMIT (The largest university in Australia, with about 40 000
students, and suspected to be the largets website in Australia at the time) I
had a fairly simple approach. Content needs to be provided in a form that the
students can use. For us this meant that lynx had to be supported, among
other browsers.

Systems support was provided for some software used by some departments, and
not at all for other vital software.

So when I had to teach administrative officers from the HR department (total
computing background: Brief introduction to word-processing) or graphic
design students or anyone else about web publishing the message was
simple. There are plenty of things you can do that work across
browsers. Before you move beyond them, figure out why and ask how it is
done. It turned out that the things that were wanted were nearly always
extremely simple to do accessibly, and it was worth providing answers for the
problems. Itis not perfect, but it solved a lot of problems.

(Policy is not actually a big interest of mine)



On Sun, 24 Oct 1999, Scott Luebking wrote:

  Hi, Charles
  Part of the problem related to supporting multiple browsers is that
  there is very little technology available which makes this very easy
  with little effort.  (Supporting multiple of anything usually requires
  working at an abstract level that many people, including programmers,
  have little experience.  Look at the problems of software portability
  between versions of UNIX, multiple types of graphics devices, etc.)
  A user model that I try to keep in mind is an associate sociology
  professor who is interested in using the web for her class.  She has
  minimal web background.  If you tell her that she needs to support
  multiple browsers for her class of 100 students, how do you think she'll
  respond?  Her focus is on subject material and class preparation.  Now,
  tell her the various challenges of supporting multiple browsers, like
  she'll probably have to hand-code each page so that it looks right for
  each browser.  (Most page editors do a poor job supporting multiple
  browsers.)  Also, any time she makes a change, she'll have to check the
  page in each browser.  Sociologists at MIT might be more technically
  motivated or have great technical support from the university, but it's
  not true for many campuses.  Do you think she wants to read computer
  manuals or sociology journals?  Do you believe she is very worried about
  interoperability for her class?  The reality is she probably tells her
  students that they all have to use a particular browser.
  I'm sorry to contradict you, but you are not looking at the underlying
  values of W3C.  It's an organization whose focus is the web.  People are
  much more likely to go that extra step, at least for appearance sake.
  What would people think of a web organization whose web pages don't look
  With regards to supporting multiple browsers in a company, my suspicion
  is that most companies would look at the cost and benefits of this type
  of arrangement.  While a company may use multiple operating systems,
  they are probably sectioned off since there is probably little need for
  interoperability for most employees.  For example, web servers might be
  UNIX, but most employees have a windows machine on their desk.  System
  administrators might have to manage multiple operting systems, but
  probably handle this with multiple displays on their desks or using
  Your comment about letting an employee choose software is kind of
  interesting.  Many companies do decide what browser will be used.  I
  have to admit I never heard of an employee quitting his job just because
  the company chose a browser he didn't like.
  Your comment about a company's employees developing misunderstandings
  about the web seems not very relevant to many companies.  How many of
  them are that concerned about this issue that they are willing to take
  on any additional costs?
  > Although I agree that W3C is not a typical organisation in general, I think
  > we make a good model for the question, and even more so for an educational
  > than a traditionally corporate setting. We represent a diverse group of
  > people who have a large amount of common purpose (like people studying a
  > particular course, or developing software) but also a variety of individual
  > requiremetns that aren't shared (some people work on graphics, some on
  > transport protocols, some on marketing, just as students study a range of
  > courses, and corporations expect engineers to work on engineering,
  > administrative staff to keep the organisation running smoothly, marketing
  > staff to promote the product to the world). In addition, we model the
  > corporate situation where there is a single language throughout the
  > corporation (in W3C's case US ENglish is the official language) but many of
  > our employees speak other languges (for example many of the team in Japan
  > speak Japanese, and there are a number of french speakers, german speakers,
  > etc).
  > W3C is not typical, but partly only becuase we are small.
  > Universities, COlleges and Coroporations have some important things in common
  > with us:
  > 1. Although we are working broadly on the same thing, we have different
  > needs. Some of us work on graphics, some on transport protocols, some on
  > marketing.
  > 2. We are distributed worldwide. We have one official language (US
  > English) but employees often use another language in their everyday life and
  > work.
  > 3. We have a range of different backgrounds, and are used to different
  > tools (and computers and operating systems). Some staff take up new software
  > daily, others are reluctant to change from the tool they used three years
  > ago.
  > 4. Our systems team does not support all the software people use, but people
  > are prepared to read the manual to be able to use a piece of software they
  > like if it is unsupported. 
  > (The level of support I have seen at colleges does not justify relying on
  > their supported software, but that is probably just bad personal experience.)
  > We have some important differences
  > 1. We are vendor-neutral. Although we develop our own browser and our own
  > authoring tool (Amaya is both) we do not force people to use them as part of
  > a corporate culture-buidling exercise. 
  > That is a legitimate reason for having a single-browser intranet at Lotus, or
  > at Opera, or at Citec (who make Doczilla), or at Netscape. It does not apply
  > to educational institutions.
  > 2. Interoperability is a stated goal. That is true of some businesses, and
  > not of others.
  > In summary, I am not saying that it is always a bad idea to have
  > single-browser intranets, just that there are very strong reasons not to in
  > most cases. I think education institutions are one of the cases where it is
  > extremely unwise except in certain very narrowly defined circumstances.
  > Just my 2 bits worth
  > Charles McCN

--Charles McCathieNevile            mailto:charles@w3.org
phone: +1 617 258 0992   http://www.w3.org/People/Charles
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative    http://www.w3.org/WAI
MIT/LCS  -  545 Technology sq., Cambridge MA, 02139,  USA
Received on Sunday, 24 October 1999 19:43:30 UTC

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