Where Software Updates Become Itchy

Browser updates are just the tip of the iceberg, but causing problems nonetheless

My wife has been asking me for some time now to fix her computer. And usually this is not a problem and the issue is easily targeted and fixed with a curse and a few flicks of the keys. But this time it is not that. I can deal with computers that do not work, that display error messages, but actually, this time, there is nothing wrong with her computer. There is something wrong with the software, or, worse, the sites she visits in combination with the software she uses. And actually, it sadly proves my point I have been trying to make for the last couple of years.

And that point is that HTML is an too old technology, JavaScript allows too many mistakes to be made, and all the different browsers handle code all differently. And while we upgrade our computers and devices to have the best, the most wonderful and the most gorgeous, we still support and actively use the most insecure piece of coding that ever has been made.

It is also the point I tried to make last week, more or less, when I wrote what perfection would be, and it is not the devices we use, it is what you do and the content you consume using these devices.

So, recently I have updated my wife’s computer to run Windows 8. I have been using it now since its launch on all the computers I have, for security reasons and the increase of speed it delivers. After a while I also upgraded my wife’s laptop, and she got really handy with it within an hour and continued working as she ever did before.

But slight things were ‘off’. I expected the basic issues; the little changes made to how everything worked. But it was not that. It were mostly the websites that she used. And not small obscure ones, but especially eBay and Facebook. The errors she encountered were easily targeted and for someone with knowledge, easy to work around. But for someone who simply uses a computer, doesn’t know what makes websites tick, it can make the experience extremely bothersome.

One of the things, for example, was that when she had bookmarked a site within eBay, and her sign-in session had expired, eBay did not assume to reset the sign-in session and ask her to sign in again, but assumed in the bookmark that she was still signed in, but when the browser requested the data, the server could not deliver because she was not signed in. The problem was, because the check if she was signed in did not happen before anything else, eBay doesn’t deliver a sign out functionality anymore. It is a stupid little thing, but more and more, this is starting to happen.

Or just like the part that Facebook seems to be forgetting what photos are deleted or not, and even re-show photos after they have been deleted. Now, Facebook has been known for not deleting the photos once you had deleted them from your profile, but late last year, they did agree to start doing it. Well, it doesn’t seem to be functional yet.

But what I also see a lot is the issues with IE 10. And I know the issues are not with IE 10 itself, but with sites that do not make themselves completely compatible. Sure, it is a pain to work with all these different browsers. I understand that. But that is the responsibility for us web developers. We cannot have the attitude to ‘not support’ this or that browser. This is one of the things I hate about the web development world right now, it is the IE/NetScape war all over again, but now there are a couple of extra players. And even one platform goes to another version of it’s own platform.

But there is now something weird going on. Sure, we web developers have the responsibility to make things compatible. But do the browser-manufacturers have the responsibility to make it work completely the same? Itchy. You might be easy to be say ‘no’, because that would stop innovation, no? But if we take a look at other media, it is a straight answer; yes. If you want to produce televisions, you have to make sure it delivers content that match certain standards. If Apple is going to release their Apple TV this year, but it will not, for example, support 1080p, it will simply not work, no matter how many Apple logos they will slap onto it.

If you would be a GPS manufacturer that doesn’t support the current GPS standard, chances are you will not have a lot of services to deliver.

But there are also examples of worlds that are completely in the other spectrum; print for example. If you print, and do not really understand color systems, bleeds and paper, chances are your results will not be what you expected. And with every printer, the results might be completely different. It took me years to really get fully experienced in just delivering data correctly for print each and every time. And one printer is different than the other.

But not everyone is printing. That is more something that professionals do as an intermediary for their clients, so they don’t have to. But surfing the web is something that is open to everyone. Just like watching TV. There has to be some sort of pure guidelines for content, and manufacturer of the browsing software.

And we cannot expect things to stop working with a new version, simply because we ran an update as a user. At one part we are told to update often, to keep our computer secure, but when it comes to seeing sites not work anymore, which is why we use the systems and devices in the first place, what do you think will happen? Even I am worrying sometimes with new updates, and I have run them a lot and try to do them constantly.

So with this, I do put the blame with manufacturers. I love IE 10, it is a very solid, fast browser. But, the fact that some things do not work – which are not related to the Do-Not-Track functionality – simply makes it still my second favorite browser to use. But examples like the ones of eBay and Facebook mentioned above simply should not happen. These are stupid mistakes, that these sites should test upon. Yes, there is another new browser on the block, and it already is used a lot, better deal with it. You owe it to your users and customers.

And in the end, it will make your site simply a more solid production anyway.


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