Tuesday, August 16, 2011


The discussion on this article on Slashdot caught my attention. The article is complaining about the direction that Firefox development is taking, and many comments go along those lines. I won't discuss those comments and I won't discuss said development policies further than saying that one has every right to argue against those decisions in a civilized manner.
What pisses me off is people arguing in large numbers for web developers to drop Firefox support because of the new rapid-release cycle. I've noticed a pattern of people complaining that dealing with bug reports and generally supporting their web applications running on a large number of Firefox versions is painful and will cause them to drop Firefox support altogether.
Let me first say that this is a precise illustration of some of the many reasons for which I hate web developers, web programmers, Web 2.0 proponents and all the other web-*. With a few exceptions of course.
Furthermore, let me say that if your so-called application wasn't a monstrous, attack-prone, inefficient, poorly-documented, hastily-written-on-the-back-of-a-napkin-over-dunch, non-standards-compliant, unclear-specification-bending, latest-buzzstuff-incorporating, user-agent-string-dependent piece of spaghetti-code seasoned to taste with data, metadata and metacode, then maybe it would display OK and function OK in all reasonably recent versions of all mainstream web-browsers. I've worked (not a pleasure believe me!) with what I'm told are crappy CMS platforms and even those function reasonably well even in IE6, let alone Firefox, Chrome, Opera and that thing that Macs are using.
Now, even if your application isn't a monstrous, inefficient, undocumented, poorly-designed, badly written piece of html-css-js-xml-php-sql-jpeg-mashed-potatoes, that's still no excuse for being plain lazy with customer support.
But why so much venom? Why do I care? Because I'm forced to work with products that exhibit the above-mentioned characteristics on a regular basis, and that's costing me time and energy. I don't generally hate people who write bad applications, and I can always write applications that run on my PC if I don't like the ones that are around - at least theoretically I have that freedom, but I can't do that with someone else's web applications. It's when I'm forced to use some kid's late-night, inebriated brain-vomit that he calls a web platform, that I get pissed off, and I want to use this opportunity to say: I sincerely hate you. At the same time, I fully understand that somebody has to collect my garbage and somebody has to unclog my sewer, so you've got all my respect and thank God you're not programming critical infrastructure, I hope.
Getting back to the matter, I remember when I was a kid I came across a code sample from Microsoft on how to "sign"-or-something your ActiveX control that you wrote in Visual Basic so that Internet Explorer wouldn't warn the user that an ActiveX control is going to execute from the web page they're visiting, with the default IE settings at least. Yeah. ActiveX controls were IE's non-standards-compliant way of providing a 'rich web experience' or whatever it was called back then, and many businesses developed 'web applications' around said technology. Sadly ActiveX controls are not web applications, they're normal applications that contain normal machine code that's directly executable by the processor of the client computer and has access to all normal operating system functions, i.e. it is not sandboxed within the browser. Needless to say, that code can in principle do anything its writer wants with your machine. So yeah, go ahead and not support Firefox, and while you're at it complain that it's fat and slow, but remember that it's Mozilla who played an important part in promoting compliance to open web standards and distancing the web from the state described above. At least give them some credit for that, or just go ahead and implement your web application in platform-independent, not-quite-ActiveX Flash or Java or something and shut up.
Oh, and a late Happy 20th Birthday, Web, and a Happy 30th Birthday, PC. May you survive all this crap for decades to come and continue to bring us entertainment and prosperity.