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Mars Report:

Yahoo’s Ajax/DHTML User Interface Library Apparently Fails Its Own Test

Published May 17th, 2006

Yahoo Blocked
I have been among the developers and observers who have praised Yahoo for the technical strength of their recently launched User Interface Library. In my tests for the Ajax/DHTML Scorecard project in March, Yahoo’s library was a clear “A” in its cross-browser credentials, and I was very impressed with Yahoo’s development team, which published clear and exacting browser standards for their library.

According to Yahoo’s own Graded Browser Support table, Safari is an A-graded browser, meaning it achieves the highest level of support possible with the Yahoo interface library. Clearly, the thought that went into this table is impressive, and the authors conclude the explanation that precedes the table itself with an appropriate quote from Tim Berners-Lee on the importance of cross-browser support:

“Anyone who slaps a ‘this page is best viewed with Browser X’ label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.”

It is therefore highly disappointing and disillusioning to discover tonight that Yahoo has released a preview of its new, Ajax-enabled home page with support only for Internet Explorer 6.0 and Firefox 1.5. The only logic one can use to justify such a move is based on a totally PC-centric viewpoint, which argues that only Windows users are worth troubling with, since they comprise the vast majority of potential viewers. But this is precisely the viewpoint that must cease if Web 2.0 is to become the fertile melting ground for truly cross-platform interdependence that it wants to be. It’s simply not the viewpoint of any company that really cares about Berners-Lee’s vision or about the millions of users on platforms other than the virus- and malware-riddled mess that is Microsoft Windows today.

Web 2.0 sites should be built to open standards, and any catering to specific browser extensions should be avoided. If proprietary extensions are utilized, they should have no effect on the site’s core functionality, and should not be even noticed by users of other browsers. For example, I’ve employed a harmless extension to the HTML text input field that Apple developed in order to beautify search forms in Safari. It’s nice for Safari users, but has no impact on IE users or on Firefox users on any platform.

From my experience working with Ajax and DHTML in 2006, I am certain that Internet Explorer was the hardest browser for Yahoo to support in terms of time and resources. No doubt the rollout of this new home page had to wait until it worked well enough in IE. What boggles my mind is that if you can support Firefox, there’s no earthly reason why you shouldn’t also be able to support Opera 9.0 and WebKit (Safari). (OK, you might have to make a few very minor tweaks, but nothing too challenging for a reasonably skilled CSS/JavaScript guru.)

Does this mean that the Yahoo Interface Library isn’t as truly cross-browser as Yahoo claims? Does it mean that Yahoo is blatantly disregarding its own graded browser support standards?

In answer to the first question, “Who knows?” All I know is, the new site doesn’t work in Safari or Opera. And that’s just plain wrong. Using a modern JavaScript library, it’s much easier to build an Ajax/DHTML Web 2.0 site that supports Firefox, Opera, and Safari, all of which have A+ compliance with w3c standard, and then figure out what hacks you need to use to get the site to work in IE 6.0. To do the work backwards starting with IE 6.0 simply exaggerates that browser’s importance to the future of the web. If Yahoo used their own JavaScript library to build their new home page, it doesn’t speak very highly of that toolkit’s abilities.

In answer to the second question, the answer is clearly, “Yes!” Yahoo has blatantly disregarded its own published standards for browser support in 2006.

Yahoo, I’m extremely disappointed, and I’m sure others will be, too. If nothing else, this will push back to a much lower priority my plan to rebuild a number of the Ajax/DHTML functions of Musings from Mars using Yahoo’s library… simply for comparison purposes. Now, I’m definitely going to make Dojo the next library on my list… especially now that they have that spiffy new home page design, which I can actually use in Safari. (Imagine that!)

Yahoo Hp

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