It’s been a while; since the last Reading List! Since then, Vadim Makeev and I recorded episode 6 of The F-Word, our podcast, on Mozilla layoffs, modals and focus, AVIF, AdBlock Plus lawsuit. We also chatted with co-inventor of CSS, Håkon Wium Lie, and Brian Kardell of Igalia about the health of the web ecosystem. Anyway, enough about me. Here’s what I’ve been reading about the web since the last mail.
Wikipedia Matters (PDF, 48pp) – “a randomized field experiment to
test whether additional content on Wikipedia pages about cities affects tourists’ choices of overnight visits. Our treatment of adding information to Wikipedia increases overnight stays in treated cities compared to non-treated cities”
Mozilla is hiring again after laying off 25% of their staff. It’s interesting to speculate on the new strategy; vacancies include a Strategic Finance Manager running mergers and acquisition, and a Head of Mobile who *must* be in USA, not Asia/ Africa where the action is.
Top 4 Dying Programming Languages of 2020 – “Don’t learn these 4 languages”. Eh? Learn them! You’ll be in demand when those systems need tweaking. I was offered loads of money because I know COBOL & Fortran. So the cool kids don’t talk about them, but they run Business.
we are beautiful – “Our photographer takes photos of volunteers and processes these photos to produce 3D models of their genitals and other body parts. These 3D models are freely available for viewing .. so that you may print them on your own 3D printer”
Intent to Prototype: Customizable <select> Element – “This feature introduces a customizable select HTMLElement, with the working name of <selectmenu>. The element will offer authors full control over its appearance without requiring them to rewrite the model and controller logic underpinning its function.” Exciting work from the Microsoft Edge team.
AVIF has landed – by Jank Architect – AVIF (pronounced [əˈ vif]) is a new image format that seriously outperforms JPG and PNG. Thanks to <picture>, you can use it now for performance wins.
RFC8890: The Internet is for End Users “when there is a conflict between the interests of end users of the Internet and other parties, IETF decisions should favor end users”. The author of this RFC, Mark Nottingham, blogs about why it is necessary to state this.
Algorithmic Colonization of Africa “Not only is Western-developed AI unfit for African problems, the West’s algorithmic invasion simultaneously impoverishes development of local products while also leaving the continent dependent on Western software & infrastructure.”
Enabling Custom Control UI – Interesting doc on potential standard to allow styling any arbitrary part of a native form control, add arbitrary content into any part of a native control while retaining native accessibility & browser behaviours.
Mobile devices are too expensive for billions of people — and it’s keeping them offline – Nearly 2.5 billion people live in countries where the cost of the cheapest available smartphone is a quarter or more of the average monthly income. This is equal to the share of monthly income the average European household spends on housing and utilities. In Sierra Leone, the average person needs to save six months’ salary to buy the cheapest available smartphone. In India, home to 18% of the world, the price of the cheapest smartphone from leading operator Jio was 206% of average monthly income.
If you don’t know the name Igalia, you’ve still certainly used their code. Igalia is “an open source consultancy specialized in the development of innovative projects and solutions”, which tells you very little, but they’ve been involved in adding many features to the open-source browsers (which is now all browsers) such as MathML and CSS Grid.
One of their new initiatives is very exciting, called Open Prioritisation (I refuse to mis-spell it with a “z”). The successful campaign to support Yoav Weiss adding the <picture> element and friends to Blink and WebKit showed that web developers would contribute towards crowdfunding new browser features, so Igalia are running an experiment to get the diverse interests and needs of the web develoment community to prioritise which new features should be added to the web platform.
They’ve identified some possible new features that are “shovel-ready”—that is, they’re fully specified and ready to be worked on, and the Powers That Be who decide what gets upstreamed and shipped are supportive of their inclusion. Igalia says,
Igalia is offering 6 possible items which we could do to improve the commons with open community support, as well as what that would cost. All you need to do is pledge to the ‘pledged collective’ stating that if we ran such a campaign you’re likely to contribute some dollars. If one of these reaches its goal in pledges, we will announce that and begin the second stage. The second stage is about actually running the funding campaign as a collective investment.
I think this is a brilliant idea and will be pledging some of my pounds (if they are worth anything after Brexit). Can I humbly suggest that you consider doing so, too? If you can’t, don’t fret (these are uncertain times) but please spread the word. Or if your employer has some sort of Corporate Social Responsibility program, perhaps you might ask them to contribute? After all, the web is a common resource and could use some nurturing by the businesses it enables.
If you’d like to know more, Uncle Brian Kardell explains in a short video. Or (shameless plug!) you can hear Brian discuss it with Vadim Makeev and me in the fifth episode of our podcast, The F-Word (transcript available, naturally). All the information on the potential features, some FAQs and no photos of Brian are to be found on Igalia’s Open Prioritization page.
The F-word Episode 5 – Wow, a sonic double whammy! Not only did Taylor Swift release Folklore, but Episode 5 of @fword_dev is just out. Vadim and I invited the George Clooney of web standards, Brian Kardell, to tell us about the Open Prioritization experiment, Igalia, MathML and the Web commons.
ARIA Grid As an Anti-Pattern – Uncle Aadrdian points out more more bad advice in the ARIA Authoring Practices note. Is there a good, trustworthy alternative to ARIA Authoring Practices guide that devs can copy/ paste from?
Web Accessibility Checklist – I updated my massive Web Accessibility checklist to include turning off smooth scroll if use prefers reduced motion and to warn against some bits of the ARIA authoring practices, and to trust Uncle Adrian instead
Google: Mobile-first Indexing – “we’ve begun experiments to make our index mobile-first … our algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to rank pages … If you have a responsive site…you shouldn’t have to change anything.”
Yesterday I asked “What’s the most up-to-date info on aria-live regions (and
Should be fine, support is good for live regions. Not sure about output, though … Oh, you’re adding the p _with_ the other XHR content? That will have mixed results in my experience.
I’ve seen some failed announcements with live-regions on VoiceOver, especially with iframes. (Announcement of the title seems to kill any pending live content).output has surprisingly good support but (IIRC) is not live by default on at least one browser (IE, I think).
We need a universally recognised icon/image/logo for "works offline".
Like the PWA or HTML5 logo. We need to be able to signal to visitors that our URLs are always available.
To the consumer, the terms Progressive Web App or Service Worker are meaningless. So I applied my legendary branding, PR and design skills to come up with something that will really resonate with a web user: the fact that this app works online, offline – anywhere.
So the new logo is a riff on the HTML5 logo, because this is purely web technologies. It has the shield, a wifi symbol on one side and a crossed out wifi symbol on the other, and a happy smile below to show that it’s happy both on and offline. Above it is the acronym “wank” which, of course, stands for “Works anywhere—no kidding!”
Take it to use on your sites. I give the fruits of my labour and creativity free, as a gift to humanity.
Me me me corner: The F-word episode 4 in which Vadim Makeev and I discuss Apple’s game of monopoly, form slappers, where’s Houdini, browser bugs and Web compat, chicken-killin’ Mike Taylor, and I make another Great Joke.
Thought Leadership o’the Week: Platform Adjacency Theory by Alex Russell. There’s a lot to get my head around in this article, so I don’t know what I think yet. But I’ll probably end up agreeing with him, because he’s always bloody right about everything (except fashion).
July’s CSS News – Wooo! Flexbox Gaps, Aspect Ratio Unit, Native Masonry Support, Subgrid in Chrome, prefers-reduced-data, :marker. Auntie Rachel has all the latest CSS news!
A/B Street – “Ever been stuck in traffic on a bus, wondering why is there legal street parking instead of a dedicated bus lane? A/B Street is a game exploring how small changes to a city affect the movement of drivers, cyclists, transit users, and pedestrians.”
I’ve been working on a client project and one of the tasks was remediating some data tables. As I began researching the subject, it became obvious that most of the practical, tested advice comes from my old mates Steve Faulkner and Adrian Roselli.
I’ve collated them here so they’re in one place when I need to do this again, and in case you’re doing similar. But all the glory belongs with them. Buy them a beer when you next see them.
Meaningful connectivity – Alliance for Affordable Internet pushes for its new standard: “We have meaningful connectivity when we can use the internet every day using an appropriate device with enough data and a fast connection.”
Google blew a ten-year lead – “something happened at Google. I’m not sure what. But they stopped innovating on cloud software. Docs and Sheets haven’t changed in a decade. Google Drive remains impossible to navigate. Sharing is complicated.”
SVGuitar – library to create beautiful SVG guitar chord charts directly in the browser
Machine learning-generated Peanuts comics and an interesting rumination on what Art is: “In some ways, the model represents the disembodied essence of the Peanuts aesthetic, but do I have Charles Shulz soul? For many obvious reasons, I do not – this model knows nothing of the motivations, desires and intentions behind Charles Shulz and his works.”