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CSS usefulness and browser sniffing (was lots of other stuff)

From: John T. Whelan <whelan@physics.utah.edu>
Date: Fri, 7 Aug 1998 21:19:16 -0600
Message-Id: <199808080319.VAA31425@einstein.physics.utah.edu>
To: www-html@w3.org
Mike Meyer writes (just when we'd gotten the cross-posting to
www-style to end):

>Given the current state of CSS implementations, CSS isn't usable in a
>real application. If you require (the illusion of) that level of
>control of the presentation, then you have no choice but to do some
>kind of browser sniffing. Whether you then spit out CSS or
>browser-specific HTML is immaterial.

	Although you should really be asking yourself if you *need*
that much physical formatting.  Good HTML should degrade gracefully,
so I say write pages which take adantage of CSS to make the
presentation nice, but are still legible without it.  The more such
pages are out there, the greater the pressure on browser makers to
support CSS.  Unfortunately, using a browser with crappy CSS support
makes it hard to figure out if you've got a CSS construct which
*should* work.

>You also missed *my* favorite reason for disliking UA negotiation - it
>tends to leave the very capable but non-mainstream browsers with the
>lowest-common-denominator pages. For instance, inline JPEG, PNG and
>and PostScript were all done well before Navigator did them. However,
>if you do a UA negotation without a fairly complete database, those
>advanced browsers are liable to get the low-quality version.

	I think the way to deal with this is to make the
non-supporting browsers the case you test for.  For instance, if I've
got a page with equivalent TABLE and PRE versions of a table, I'll
give the PRE to anyone with /lynx/i in their UA string, and the TABLE
to everyone else, instead of only sending the TABLE to users whose UA
matches /zil/.  That way the more sophisticated HTML structure is the
default, and for instance a blind user browsing with a screen reader
may be able to gather the information from the table structure.  (Of
course, this particular problem might be better solved by a good
TABLE-to-PRE conversion CGI.)
					John T. Whelan
					whelan@iname.com
					http://www.slack.net/~whelan/
Received on Friday, 7 August 1998 23:18:58 GMT

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