Saturday, February 05, 2005

The web app business would be great if it weren't for the clients. Linux World is reporting that the current IBM move to Linux desktops is now being hampered by internal web applications coded explicitly for Internet Explorer. The guys over at WebStandards.org are having fun wagging their fingers at Big Blue. I know how this happened. The same thing happens with customers when it gets down to talking about UI features during a project. Time and time again I hear, "This application just has to work in IE. We don't need cross browser compatibility.". Then I have to launch into a long protracted discussion about why web standards and why browser compatibility are important. The smart clients eventually get it. The others pay me later when they need to port the app to work on multiple browsers because their boss tried to bring up the app at their vacation house using an old version of AOL and the UI broke. Once I was working with a third party helping them integrate into a demonstration portal for a large UNIX system vendor. They were puzzled why we dropped them from the demo when we found out their app only worked on IE. Hello! The customer can't run IE. They can't even install it on their systems! This kind of cluelessness pops up when clients want us to get too fancy with the web UI. They want to use complicated client-side technologies and they don't understand the implications. Of course we try to educate them but they always forget. Flash, Java Applets, client-side XML parsing are all great technologies but downright difficult to do cross platform. Especially with low budgets and very tight deadlines. That's why I prefer the open web standards approach. It's not hard to build compelling, dynamic UIs with clean compatible code. Now what I'm curious to find out is if IBM will make another critical mistake. Let's see if they port their web apps to work under Mozilla.

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