Yesterday, Slashdot ran an article entitled Web Designers Ignoring Standards and Support IE Only. The article got a fair number of replies, though I haven't yet bothered.

Here's the bottom line for me: Web developers are not paid to be idealists. We're paid to be efficient.

If 99% of one's intended audience already uses IE on Windows, there no compelling reason to make sure the users of other browsers enjoy the same "uplevel" experience. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know I'm a cross-platform proponent. I use two Macs at home, one with Classic and one with OS X (including X11 on top of Darwin) and at work I use Mozilla for email (against company policy; what a rebel!) and most of my browsing. I'm not saying that one should condone sites that are unusable in other browsers, just that there's no reason to waste time making sure all the functionality in IE is there for other minority browser users. People shouldn't expect web hackers brought up on the Visual Studio IDE to have the skills to write perfect code, nor should they expect companies to have the money to hire only the people that take it on themselves to make this sort of code.

And the answer that people should use Flash and Java to get fancy functionality into their pages just drives me crazy. Using proprietary third-party plug-ins, regardless of their seemingly ubiquitous nature (Can I have a spell check?!!), is an even worse cop out. You think iCab supports Flash? (I'm not sure, personally) How about Links or Lynx? Any way you slice it, you're going to be missing someone. And how many of these self-righteous posters check their code even on Opera? You can stick Mozilla in a microwave, but that don't make you a biscuit.

Like it or not, the web is [currently] Microsoft's on the client side. Programmers aren't paid to be political; they're [usually] paid to be efficient and to provide the "most" products to an efficiently maximized cross-section of their company's clients. Web standards are a great but often esoteric place to maximize cross-platform usefulness, but even .innerHtml started out as a non-standard property.

Anyhow, enough rambling. You wanna provide everyone the same experience? Use html 3.2 (kinda like this blog). You want to provide fancy thick functionality in a thin client? Use dhtml. If you want your dhtml to provide political commentary, make it work perfectly in every browser. If you want to get your job done and make the boss happy, make sure it at least works on Windows in IE.

(As a side note, I usually run rush jobs through the latest versions of Windows IE and Mozilla on Mac and Windows. I use IE to make sure the boss and our clients are happy, and I use Mozilla to make sure that, if the minority browser client will meet me half-way, they too can have access "as intended". Then, when applicable, I make a dummy html 3.2 page for everyone else. Just 2¢.)