- Web Components punch list – “Considerations for web component and custom control design: If your control has the stuff below covered, excellent! If not then please implement it before shouting to the world about it being the next big thing.” by Steve Faulkner
- Brum Tech Scene – On Monday, Stuart Langridge launched a series of interviews and conversations with interesting people doing interesting things in the Birmingham tech community. First is Simon Jenner, Head of Oxygen Startups and co-founder of Silicon Canal. He videoed me, too; coming soon.
- Who is “Joe Developer”? asks @johnfoliot. The background is the “living standards” vs “W3C snapshot” holy war. It’s a good question.
- What next for HTML? – now HTML5 is a W3C Proposed Recommendation, how should the language be further developed? Put your questions to editor Robin Berjon for an HTML5 Doctor interview
- The URL mess on the competing standards for defining how URLs work, by Larry Masinter
- Chromium: Web Application Manifest implementation chugs along (@marcosc & I wrote an explainer)
- All You Need To Know About Vertical-Align – “vertical-align can be a real scumbag sometimes. I set myself the target to clarify the behavior once and for all”
- Opera Mini to be pre-installed on all upcoming Micromax Android devices available in India, Russia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal
- Getting Started with Sass by Laura Kalbag
- iOS 8 and iPhone 6 for web developers and designers: next evolution for Safari and native webapps – they kept it quiet, but there’s a new phone and OS from FruitCo. Maximiliano Firtman does some testing so you don’t have to.
- Life Changed Much? – “Occasionally, new technology changes lives. But mostly it doesn’t.” by Tim Bray
I was lucky enough to visit Berlin very briefly for the Extensible Web Summit. It was organised, it seems, by members of W3C (but was not an officially branded W3C) and hosted by Beuth University, Berlin. Lunch was provided by Google, beers afterwards by Yandex (although I missed those as I’d taken the inexplicable decision to fly back straight after rather than hobnob with the great, the good, and Chaals.) Thanks to all organisations.
This isn’t a record of the day; the event notes were crowd-scribed. It’s my preliminary thoughts about the concept of the “extensible web”.
As far as I can deduce – because the term “extensible web” wasn’t actually defined on the day – it’s about giving/ exposing primitives so developers can extend various parts of the platform. (Read The Extensible Web Manifesto for a longer description and statement of intent.)
In the current world, we wait for something like Appcache to be specified, then implemented and then scoffed at. This can take a long time, and we might not get what we want; Hixie told me “The appcache API is another big mistake. It’s the best example of not understanding the problem before designing a solution … Appcache works great if you want to do what it was designed for, but it turns out most people want to do something different enough that appcache feels horrible to them”.
But while it’s good to explain magic, I feel we need to be careful about using the word “magic” pejoratively. A lot of the success of the Web was that simple HTML tags (<a>, <input>) made magic happen. You write <img src=”vomiting-otter.jpg”> and a vomiting otter appears; you don’t need to worry about how it gets there over the network, its caching, its format, etc. Similar with <input> – you just code a reasonably obvious word in angle brackets and it works.
As Steve Faulkner notes, a lot of the success of accessibility on the Web is/was that simple HTML elements makes accessibility happen.
Service Workers, and the spec that I’ve been closer to, <picture>, are great examples of listening to developers (partnership). Service Worker came out of a meeting between Opera, Mozilla, Google, BBC, Financial Times etc and was specified by Google, Mozilla and Samsung (and many others). <picture> came about because developers demanded it, even when the browser vendors and standards bodies didn’t care.
How can developers make their voices heard? It’s true that browser vendors are OBSESSED with solving developer’s problems. If we don’t, you’ll make native apps, and then browsers disappear, we default on our mortgages, our partners leave us for Apple employees and our hamsters starve. None of us want this to happen. So we try to listen.
Then there is the question of how developers can participate. The bravery barrier to entry for many of the mailing lists is already too high – I periodically get emails from people asking me to propose a feature or ask a question on a list as a proxy because lists are scary places.
W3C has set up a Specification forum where you can ask questions about specs/ propose a feature. Read around it to see if anyone else has a similar proposal, and if appropriate, add comments to that before you set up a new thread. Use Mozilla’s guidelines WebAPI Design Guidelines and please remember that use-cases are much better than a fully-worked out proposed syntax.
I’m enthused about the Extensible Web manifesto and the progress we’ve already made, eg baking popular jQuery-like syntax into browser engines via the Selectors API, getting our hands on the network with Service Worker, and the heady new world of Web Components. We need to ensure that all devs who want to can participate by allowing ease of collaboration, courteous discourse. And it would be perilous to forget that the declarative web reduces the barrier to entry and enhances accessibility.
- A feature history of the modern Web Platform When and where selected new Web-platform features were first specified, post-HTML4 and post-CSS2.1, by @zcorpan (Opera’s Simon Pieters)
- Grid by Example – simple usage examples for the CSS3 Grid Layout Module, by Rachel Andrew.
- How a new HTML element will make the Web faster (arstechnica). First article about <picture> in the wider tech press?
- Now that <picture> is almost there, RICG is turning its attention to Use Cases and Requirements for Element Queries.
- “our own inability to make accessibility engaging, interesting or even exciting to people outside our field” – mail to WebAIM mailing list. I entirely agree.
- OS Battle – Porn by the Platform – “11% of Pornhub desktop users arrive using Apple’s Mac OSX while Net Applications reports that only 6.64% of desktop computers currently run OSX.” (No naughty images, but maybe NSFW if your boss is silly.)
- Responsive Web Design podcast: Capital One’s redesign – “We saw within the first two months an 8 percent increase in product conversion on mobile devices and 17 percent on tablets.”
- Opera chums become members of Chromium Security Group – the first external company to be accepted.
- Making the web “just work” with any input: Mouse, Touch, and Pointer Events- Imagine a crazy world in which developers didn’t have modality-specific code just to listen to input!
- Notes on notes (of smart people) about web components by the Henry Kissinger of Accessibility diplomacy, Steve Faulkner. (Read Jeremy and Alexs’ articles, too.)
- Improving Smashing Magazine’s Performance: A Case Study. good stuff. But it makes me long for a “fuck off with your massive webfonts” setting on mobile phones. I just want the words.
- Changing The Shapes with Sara Soueidan – The Web Ahead podcast. (transcript)
- HTML Semantics with Bruce Lawson – I didn’t know The Web Ahead published transcripts (yay Jen Simmons!) so here’s the transcript of the edition I appeared on.
- Firefox Add-on Enables Web Development Across Browsers and Devices – I haven’t tried it yet, but anything that makes devs’ lives easier is good, and earns Nyman and Heilmann a big snog each from me (which is probably why they wrote it.)
- PDFy – “anybody can instantly upload and share a PDF. PDFy is free, ad-free, and non-commercial. All public PDFs mirrored to the Internet Archive for preservation.”
- Why you need to care about HTTPS by Tom Morris. Content-only sites matter too; for example, if you use Comcast Wi-Fi, they inject ads into the pages being returned from the server.
- Why Google is Hurrying the Web to Kill SHA-1. (Opera plans to adopt same behaviour.)
A Boy And His Atom: The World’s Smallest Movie, made by moving individual atoms at IBM, magnified 100 million times.
Here’s the eulogy I delivered at my Dad’s funeral last Thursday.
Jeff Lawson, or (“Grandpa Fifi” as my kids called him, as when they were little they couldn’t pronounce “Jeffrey”) was born on D-day to Jim and Elsie. He spent his first few years with his brother Colin up in the North East for a while. One of his earliest memories was of running away from home, and getting on a bus to go and live with his Auntie, who spanked him and immediately put him back on the return bus. When his father retired, the four of them moved way down south to Southampton where he mostly lost his Geordie accent, although it returned after a few on the rare occasions when he’d had too many glasses of beer.
As a teenager in Southampton he developed a love of music, also shared with his younger brother Colin, and won a twist competition at the hop in the early 60s. In your order of service, you’ll see photograph of him and Colin’s wife Barbara shaking their booties at Jeff’ 60th birthday party.
He was the first Lawson male for generations not be a coal miner, and moved to London to join the civil service. After some time being generally groovy (see the photos in your Order of Service), he met Anthea and they married, honeymooning by being posted by the Civil Service to Aden, South Yemen, where I was born precisely 8 months to the day after the wedding. (They told their parents that I was premature).
On returning to the UK, they lived in Hastings where Guy was born, and then they moved to Birmingham where he and Anthea brought us up. Times were hard, so family meals were supplemented with home-grown vegetables that were planted in Party 7 beer cans, empty 7 pint beer cans that spontaneously appeared in the kitchen over the weekend.
Guy remembers that, when he would walk us home from the bus stop where we’d meet him after work, he’d always discover a stash of sweets hidden in the undergrowth somewhere by a mysterious person known as the Magic Man, whose identity is still unknown to this day.
We remember his proud acquisition of a music centre in the 1970s, where he would listen to ELO, Abba and Alma Cogan through headphones and “sing” along.
His singing style was unique – he never believed changing pitch was as important as maintaining a high decibel count. He nevertheless never tired of telling his family that some young girl had once told him he had a lovely voice. And so he had – when he wasn’t singing.
An example of his non-singing voice was when he had to go to a training course in Edinburgh, and he recorded a series of stories about an Octopus named Oscar on his cassette player for them to listen to every night before bed during his absence.
Jeff worked for many years for the Civil Service as a Welfare Officer – a kind of staff counsellor – along with John who later became his next-door neighbour. In his spare time he used to enjoy music, gardening and amateur dramatics, as well as brewing foul-tasting but strong beer.
Tim, a schoolfriend of ours, recalls “Saturday afternoon, I’d peddled to your house to find you and your dad sat in the back garden “testing” the home brew. I remember it getting very giggly. I think we had about 3 or 4 pints each. Guy had to go to bed after 2 pints”. On his way home, Tim was arrested for being drunk in charge of a bicycle. Two other friends of mine crashed their bicycles into a steel gate on a building site – there was no fence around it, just a free-standing gate.
In the late 80s, Jeff separated from Anthea and moved to London, settling in Eltham with his new partner, Big Bruce (so named because I’m “little Bruce”) and his dog Digger of which he was exceptionally fond.
Jeff found life as a Civil Servant dis-spiriting, although he loved the Royal Parks that he helped administer. So, as soon as he could, aged 50, he retired and the last 20 years of his life were full of activity – caring for his mother, Elsie, who moved in with him, holidays (lots of holidays!), acting and directing at the Bob Hope Theatre, listening to children read at a local school, judging gardens and volunteering to use his counselling skills at Stepping Stones, a support service for those with life-limiting illnesses at Greenwich & Bexley Hospice. Ann from Stepping Stones wrote to us saying “we have so many wonderful memories of him over many years working together – in his easter bonnet and dressed up for Christmas and yet so sensitive and compassionate with all our users.”
Four years ago, the day after his mother’s funeral here, Jeff had heart surgery to replace a valve. Once he’d recovered from that, he took us all to a large villa in France where we spent a lovely summer holiday – although the restaurant meals meant he couldn’t indulge his love on elaborate and detailed menu planning.
He remained healthy for most of his retirement – as recently as Christmas he was at our house with Anthea and her new husband for Xmas dinner, and – although he was suffering from leg pain that made it difficult for him to walk – treated the family to a weekend at Centreparcs in June for his 70th birthday. After his admission to hospital, he was still texting Guy and me to arrange to visit Centreparcs again at Easter next year “when I’m better”.
His death was sudden – he’d been discharged from hospital. We were on holiday at the time, at a place he recommended, and using a map he’d sketched for us. We didn’t cut the holiday short; he’d have hated us to, especially as Dalyan was special to him.
We’re comforted by the fact that it was sudden, swift and at home; he was a private man who hated to be seen frail and would have hated to “become a burden” as he would have put it.
We remember him with love, and are grateful that you are all here to do that with us.
See you, Fifi.
- Chromium: <picture> nearly ready for the debutate’s ball – so coming soon in Opera, Chrome and Firefox too. Yay.
- Apple’s formal objection to reintroducing longdesc to HTML. Among accessibility consultants, opinion is divided. Patrick Lauke and Steve Faulkner tend to agree with Apple; John Foliot and Shelley Powers don’t. I agree with Steve.
- Whither Pointer Events? Browsers, Developers and Pointer Events Meeting Notes – Blink: “If we had Apple on board with PE, we’d still be on board too. The equation has shifted for us.” So Pointer Events wither?
- Google’s retreat on Pointer Events makes life harder for web developers. Yup.
- goog Prefixed Features – Blink-dev discussion about an API
googVendor Prefix which only works some of the time in Chrome (1% of Chrome starts, randomly, according to Tab Atkins.)
- Fortune 500 firms in 1955 vs. 2014; 89% are gone, and we’re all better off because of that dynamic ‘creative destruction’ – 89% of 1955 Fortune 500 companies are gone. This is why the Web & codecs should never be in the hands of one company.
- Opera: Second quarter 2014 presentation (PDF) – 100 million Android users (most in India, followed by China, Indonesia, Russia and Mexico), 4 million iOS (up 30% year on year), Opera Mini now default on Microsoft’s feature & Asha phones, pre-installed on all Micromax Android devices (India)
- Opera Mini for Android delays large downloads until you’re on WiFi – ” Opera Mini detects if you are downloading a file that is larger than 15MB, then asks if you want to download it now or wait until you are on WiFi. Later, when you get to your favorite coffee spot and connect to WiFi, Opera Mini will resume the download and notify you when it’s all done.”
- 10 Questions: Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera – Fortune magazine. “We at Opera want to help ensure that this industry is not dominated by a few large players. We want to secure the industry by being an independent player.”
- Fibonacci Flexbox Composer
- 0.25% of page views click on the Twitter or Facebook share buttons on Web pages says Luke Wroblewski. Is it worth the potential performance hit of such buttons?
- Preloading and deferred loading of scripts and other resources – @Hixie writes an email longer than War and Peace
- Most smartphone users download zero apps per month. Once you have social media, Spotfify, Skype, maps and a fart app, what more do you need?
- A Magna Carta for the web – Timbo’s TED talk to celebrate 25 years of the Web.
- A failed experiment: How LG screwed up its webOS acquisition – “LG had a policy in place to reward managers with bonuses or even promotions if their features were part of the final product. The result was a constant feature bloat, as everyone tried to add on one more thing.”
- The <picture> Tag Is Coming – what happened when Reddit users heard about responsive images. lulz. and omg.
The BBC reports that Sex education should start at seven, Lib Dems say.
Of course 7 year old kids should get sex education at school; puberty is from 8 years old for girls, 9 for boys.
The whole point of education is to prepare kids for life, so you have to tell them about stuff first (hint: that’s what “prepare” means.)
Sex education results in fewer sexually transmitted diseases and fewer unwanted pregnancies. This is not only good for the people involved, but is better for the whole nation – which makes it excellent public policy.
However, “parents will retain the right to pull children under 15 out of sex education lessons” according to the Daily Mail. Why? Do we let them take kids out of Maths or Geography classes?
There should be no opt-out from parents trying to foist their religion or sexual hangups onto their children. Education > indoctrination.
Standards ‘n’ all that jazz
- HTTPS as a ranking signal – Secure sites to be ranked better in Google search results. Related Mozilla discussion: Switch generic icon to negative feedback for non-https sites. As I recently had to get a new credit card sent to me after inadvertently buying a ticket for Sagrada Familia over non-secure HTTP (on the official site), I like the Firefox idea.
- After 5 – “As we approach the point at which HTML5 will become a Recommendation, it is time to think about how HTML would best be handled next.” by Robin Berjon of W3C
- W3C Workshop on the Web of Things – Workshop report
- The Viking & The Lumberjack celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act’s 20th/24th/25th Anniversary
- Apple objects to an HTML extension for longdesc. In March 2011 I wrote “if I read any more about bloody longdesc in #html5 I’m gonna set fire to my scrotum”. Bloody longdeZzzc.
- Understanding SVG Coordinate Systems & Transformations (Part 3) – Establishing New Viewports by @SaraSoueidan is (er) egg-cellent.
- User-agent string changes for Internet Explorer 11 – the fun continues.
- Looking for a Job? How’s Your COBOL? – “salaries for COBOL programmers are going up. The salary for top talent can reach six figures”
- Slug Solos – “Some guitarists’ solo faces look like they’ve just realised they’re holding giant slug creatures”.
- Meanwhile, on Craigslist, “You Farted During “Boyhood”“
French joke corner
Heard about the French chef who killed himself? He lost the huile d’olive.
“Coders and hackers, ready to change the world, and the hackathon is the perfect place. But things don’t always go as planned…” by @ourmaninjapan
I really enjoy Brian Patten’s love poetry; he writes of joy and sadness and how the two can mingle, while never using words that you wouldn’t hear in an everyday conversation. He’s the only living poet whose works I regularly raid for my song lyrics. So when my battered old copy of his Love Poems fell apart, I invested in a shiny copy of his new Collected Love Poems.
Curiously, in a volume called “Collected Poems”, one of them is missing. It was in “Love Poems”, substantially revised from a previously published version, and revised for the better. But I can only assume Patten was still dissatisfied and so dropped it.
Because I’m talking online to some people about his poems (and who have bought his newest book on my recommendation), I’m copying the poem here so they have the text. Brian – if you want me to remove it, I will. But I think you’re mistaken; it’s a lovely piece. (And, sorry, but I stole the blue dress image for an unrecorded song called “The girl in the room”.)
The fruitful lady of dawn
She walks across the room and opens the skylight
thinking: “perhaps a bird will drop in
and teach me how to sing.”
She cannot speak easily of what she feels
nor can she fathom out
whose dawn her heart belongs in.
Among the men she knows
she knows few
who understand her freedom.
Baffled by her love and by
how she withdraws her love,
she remains an enigma,
and under the skylight
puts on her red dress calling it a blue one.
She approaches breakfast as she would a lover -
She is alive,
and one of her body’s commonest needs
I have made holy.
Standards and tech
- reference for whether changing any given CSS property triggers layout, paint or composite by Paul Lewis
- The Web Manifest specification – HTML5 Doctor article by me and Mozilla’s Magical Mr Marcos. It’s an important spec, and a brilliantly witty article full of poetry and erudition.
- Let’s Talk About RTL – a useful guide to making sites with Arabic, Persian and Hebrew text by Ahmad Alfy
- W3C Web Payments – an overview Manu’s actually responding to the Bad Voltage podcast discussion, but even outside that context, this is an excellent overview of the initiative. Scroll down for more comments from Stuart Langridge and yours truly, too.
- filing bugs – Steve “Bogan” Faulkner’s shit is solid in this article about how to file browser bugs
- Understanding SVG Coordinate Systems & Transformations (Part 2) – The transform Attribute by Sara “no sleep til I’ve explained EVERYTHING” Soueidan
- How we make RWD sites load fast as heck by Scott Jehl. Long, detailed, excellent read.
- The Accessibility Tree: A Training Guide – “a single comprehensive explanation of what these layers of accessibility are, and how developers can recognize them during the process of development”
- An Alphabet of Accessibility Issues – a human, humane listing of people not disabilities by @kirabug
- From the Department of “No shit, Sherlock”, The Majority Of Today’s App Businesses Are Not Sustainable
- Why the Security of USB Is Fundamentally Broken – “These problems can’t be patched. We’re exploiting the very way that USB is designed.”
- Animals Sitting on Capybaras – you’ll never guess what this is about.
- New law in Russia: bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with the mass media regulator (BBC)
- Blasphemy in the Digital Age – Mapping the cases in Pakistan where people have been accused to have committed ‘blasphemy’ on the Internet.
Lonely hearts’ corner
Readers who are single may find this 80s dating video helpful. Invite me to the wedding, please.
News is just in from Microsoft that Internet Explorer on Windows Phone 8.1 Update will support legacy webkit-prefixed features.
Now, obviously I can’t speak for Microsoft or the IE team (Bill Gates despises me since I beat him in a nude limbo competition at Patrick Lauke’s birthday disco a few years back) but this brings a wry smile to my little face. It fell to me to write the blog post announcing that Opera was going to support some -webkit- prefixed CSS and be hated by the Internet for the 2.6 seconds it takes before someone more evil pops up.
Those in the know could guess this was coming. At a CSS Working Group meeting in February 2012 (search the minutes for “Vendor Prefixes”) this exchange took place:
tantek [Firefox]: At this point we’re trying to figure out which and how many webkit prefix properties to actually implement support for in Mozilla … Currently we have zero. Zero is no longer an option for us.
Florian [Opera], Sylvain [Microsoft]: Zero is not an option for us anymore either.
The reason that IE are doing it now, and we did it then, is simple. WebKit browsers, like other browsers, shipped experimental CSS with a prefix. When the CSS property was considered stable, all browsers apart from WebKit removed support for the prefixed version. WebKit browsers, however, did not remove the prefixed version, supporting it in parallel with the unprefixed syntax so that sites that had been made before the “standardising” of the property would not break.
Moreover, lazy developers only tested on WebKit browsers, so didn’t even add the -ms- prefix for Microsoft, -moz- prefix for Firefox or -o- prefix for Opera, so those browsers got a markedly worse experience.
At Opera, we did what we could with a relatively small team to contact site owners and developers and ask them to change it, but there were simply too many to deal with. It was much more effective simply to “support” those -webkit- prefixes that were the analogue of things we already supported; for example, we simply aliased -webkit-border-radius to border-radius.
Magically, lots of iPhone-only sites looked a lot better in Opera. As you can see from the screenshot comparisons in the IE blogpost, the same happens for them. It’s difficult to argue for ideological purity when a simple aliasing makes the user experience so demonstrably better – and one thing I’ve learned at Opera is most users don’t care two hoots for ideology if their favourite site works better in another browser.
It’s tempting to blame the mess on lazy developers, and they are without doubt at fault for enjoying the advantages of the Web without respecting its core principle of cross-browser compatibility. But some of the blame lies with WebKit developers, and (to a lesser extent) with the CSS Working Group for blessing vendor prefixes (though of course, browser makers just did this sort of crap anyway: scrollbar-face-color lurked around for years in IE without a prefix).
I’m very glad that the Blink rendering engine (which Opera, my employer, now uses) has abandoned vendor prefixes (and Firefox appears to have done the same.)
But, as managers around the world like to say when laying staff off because of bad management decisions, “we are where we are”. Legacy -webkit- prefixes hide in the dim recesses of sites used every day, and users deserve good experiences.
So good luck to the IE team; I’d do the same, because I’ve done the same. But I stand by my poetic words of 1 September 2012:
Vendor prefixes are like skidmarks on the underwear of web standards: sometimes unavoidable, but best washed and rinsed out as soon as possible.