Re: rant rant rant (was: Re: Issue 4: Text-Indent and DIV)

I completely agree with Todd's and Peter's points.  It took me
less than a day to learn the basics of CSS1 (although I'm still
learning the subtleties) and understand the examples that
were available from the W3C.

BUT it took me two and a half weeks to test CSS1 on the three
CSS "enabled" platforms that I have access to.  Each new example
that I tried seemed to uncover new landmines.

Inconsistencies were unearthed in the very first (very simple)
style sheet I created.

(If I could discover these problems so easily after only an
initial cursory reading of the CSS1 spec, I can't imagine
that the browser vendor was really unaware of the problems.
I'm thinking of Navigator here, mainly, since their product
is released and therefore has much more of a burden of
responsibility.  Netscape *must* document their inconsistencies,
and their list of CSS1 "known issues" is only an initial stab.)

(Similarly, while I accept from Chris Wilson that he can
either document IE 4.0 PP2's CSS1 shortcomings or fix the holes,
there is a much higher documentation burden when IE 4 does ship.)

It only took me a week to reach the (perhaps hasty?) conclusion that
the current CSS implementations are completely mired in terrible
inconsistencies, and that no sane Web designer would seriously be
able to sell a client on CSS1's possibilities this year (without
proposing to create three versions of the site: the CSS1 version
for IE 4, the CSS1 version for Nav 4, and the non-CSS version for
every other browser; not a very compelling development scenario)...

(...barring a hugely overhauled new upgrade from Navigator
containing a virus that seeks out and destroys the 4.x versions
currently in use, and the simultaneous miraculous appearance
of a bug-free final version of IE 4.0 before the middle of a
year that ends in 8.)

[But don't get me wrong: I'd rather see no version of IE this year
than a broken version.]

For the chapter on Style Sheets in the HTML 4.0 book that I'm
co-writing and will appear in October from Sybex, we've had to
document the unfortunate implementations and warn people that
extensive testing is necessary before publishing pages that
use CSS1.

Todd Fahrner <fahrner@pobox.com> wrote:
> I'll throw my hat in the ring and say that sloppy CSS implementations 
> are far worse than none at all from the POV of a commercial "extranet"
> development shop.

I agree.  I tried to make that point when I first came here ten days
ago.  The IE 3.x and Nav 4.x support of CSS1 -- to have a released
browser with so many broken CSS1 misfeatures -- has done far more
to hurt CSS1's chances of becoming established as a general Web
practice than would have been done if these browsers had contained
no support for CSS1 at all.

> Have you all noticed that CSS-P appears to be getting more engineering
> attention than CSS1? The CSS-P spec isn't even finished yet, but all the
> current browser promo efforts seem to dwell on the wonders of "absolute
> positioning" and z-order, while CSS1 gets short schrift (sp?) as, uh,
> fancy font stuff, unfortunately lacking fonts. Is it any wonder that
> such non-videophilic niceties as indents and leading are broken?

Cynical but true.  Although CSS1 is not quite getting short
shrift [1]: both Navigator 4 and IE 4 claim that CSS is an essential
ingredient of their dynamic HTML strategy.  So CSS1 benefits from
that second-hand hype and is very much alive (if neglected compared
to CSS-P).  I hold out great hope for CSS1 (at the very least out of
respect for the elegance of its design).

> Peter's question remains, though: what to do besides getting mad?

Advocacy.  This forum is a first step.  Then we hit
comp.infosystem.www.authoring.stylesheets (poor propagation,
though -- it hasn't even been newgrouped on Netcom yet).  Letters
to Microsoft and Netscape.  Articles in C|Net and HotWired and
Ziff-Davis.  Web pages such as Todd's scripting solution.  Workarounds
like the default HTML 4.0 style sheet project proposed here.  Safe
style sheets that look good on all of the platforms (paying
meticulous attention to avoid the cross-implementation
inconsistencies), so that people will see a CSS1 Web page and
say, "Wow, how did they do that?" and be encouraged to learn CSS1.
More CSS1 tutorials and test pages and examples.  Book mentions.
In short: Advocacy.

Documentation of the inconsistencies is the important first step.
If we can prod vendors to get fixed implementations out there,
and convince them to tell people that the old versions had "serious
CSS1 bugs and everyone should upgrade or else disable style sheets"
then we might get somewhere with CSS1 soon.  Otherwise, CSS1's
adoption will be glacial.


[1] A "shrift" is a confession or absolution; related to a
    shriving and a shriver (the priest who hears a confession;
    (See Chaucer's "The Pardoner's Tale") A "short shrift" was a
    perfunctory absolution before someone was put to death.
    See Shakespeare's King Richard III [2]

P.S. And while I'm ranting, I'm also annoyed at the bounce
     messages from prasprem@minyos.its.rmit.edu.au every time
     I post www-style.  No response from a complaint to the
     postmaster, of course.  ("Can't create output: Error 0": Ggrrrrr.
     Add some quota or nuke the account already.)  Can this
     account be unsubscribed?
E. Stephen Mack <estephen@emf.net>    http://www.emf.net/~estephen/