The CSS Working Group, the W3C, the browser vendors and the Open Web
need you, and I really mean you ALL. The following
article is written by Daniel Glazman, co-chairman of the CSS Working
Group; the part until "This must not happen" represents an official discussion of the CSS Working
Group. Members of the Group
behind that discussion include Adobe, Apple, Disruptive Innovations,
Google, HP, Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera and the World Wide Web
Consortium (W3C). The second part of the article is strictly mine.
Not so long ago, IE6 was the over-dominant browser on the Web.
Technically, the Web was full of works-only-in-IE6 web sites
and the other browsers, the users were crying. IE6 is dead, this time
is gone, and all browsers vendors including Microsoft itself rejoice.
Gone? Not entirely... IE6 is gone, the problem is back.
WebKit, the rendering engine at the heart of Safari and Chrome,
living in iPhones, iPads and Android devices, is now the over-dominant
browser on the mobile Web and technically, the mobile Web is full of works-only-in-WebKit
web sites while other browsers and their users are crying. Many sites
are sniffing the browser's User-Agent string and filtering out
non-WebKit browsers. As in the past with IE6, it's not a question of
innovation but a question of hardware market dominance and software
bundled with hardware. But there is an aspect of the problem we did
not have during the IE6 era: these web sites are also WebKit-specific
because they use only "experimental" CSS properties prefixed with
-webkit-* and not their Mozilla, Microsoft or Opera counterparts.
So even if the browser sniffing goes away, web sites will remain
broken for non-WebKit browsers...
In many if not most cases, the
WebKit-specific web sites are using do have
-o-* equivalents. Gradients, Transforms, Transitions,
Animations, border-radius, all interoperable enough to be
browser-agnostic. Their web authors need only a few minutes to make
the site compatible with Mozilla, Microsoft or Opera. But they never
Without your help, without a strong reaction, this can lead to one
thing only and we're dangerously not far from there: other browsers
will start supporting/implementing themselves the
prefix, turning one single implementation into a new world-wide
standard. It will turn a market share into a de facto
standard, a single implementation into a world-wide monopoly. Again.
It will kill our standardization process. That's not a question of if,
that's a question of when.
Let me be very clear: this is NOT hypothetical and I'm not
discussing here something that could happen. All browser
vendors let us
officially know it WILL happen, and rather sooner than later because
they have, I quote, "no other option". Let me also state
very clearly that is NOT a lack of innovation on these browser
vendors' side, in particular when they DO support a feature but with
their own prefix, following here the Working Group's rules.
THIS MUST NOT HAPPEN.
This situation happened in the past with IE6, when browsers were
desktop-only, and it took ten long years to recover. With billions of
mobile browsers today, the Web may not recover at all.
Vendor prefixes have not failed. They are a bit suboptimal but they
also very clearly preserved Web Authors from chaos. We can certainly
make vendor prefixes work better but we can only do that if vendor
prefixes remain VENDOR prefixes.
I am asking all the Web Authors community to stop designing web sites
for WebKit only, in particular when adding support for other browsers
is only a matter of adding a few extra prefixed CSS properties.
I am asking all the Web Authors community to remove immediately and
stop implementing WebKit-based browser sniffing in web sites. You own
such a web site? Show your support for the Open Web and remove that
browser sniffing immediately after you finish reading this call for
I am asking the Web Design and Web Users community to stop
recommending web sites that require one single browser while they
could be open to multiple ones. Don't link them, mention them only to
let the community know they fail serving the Open Web. Don't feed the
trolls; blacklist them, whatever is the coolness of the service they provide.
I am asking the Web Authors community to update their online services
to support the other browsers if these other browsers offer a level of
CSS support they did not offer in the past. Do that NOW! Very little
effort, big effect.
I am asking the whole Web community, all Users, to ping Web Authors
and complain if their web sites work only for one rendering engine
while it could work for many. Help us evangelize these Web sites to
make sure the Architecture of the Web remains safe for all, remains
based on consensual and open Web Standards, because browser vendors
implementing the prefix(es) of other browser vendor(s) can only lead
to a chaos of the IE6 magnitude. We did it in the past for works-only-in-IE6
web sites and we did it well, now is the time to do it again for works-only-in-WebKit
I am also asking the browser vendors behind WebKit, namely Apple and
Google, to submit as soon as possible to the CSS Working Group
complete technical proposals for the proprietary CSS-like properties
they have let the whole world use in iOS and Android devices, harming
the Open Web. An example of such a property is
Please note the Apple representative to the CSS WG said he'll look at the possibility to have proposals submitted for a list of such properties. If these properties are so well
implemented and so useful to the mobile Web, they became de facto
standards ; let's turn them as soon as possible into de jure
standards through W3C standardization. I am also calling Apple and
Google to remove support
for the "experimental" versions of a property when the final one is implemented and shipped. We, and that we
represents the whole Web Industry, cannot let the architecture of the
Web become unsafe and unreliable keeping forever
vendor prefixes that should be gone. That is harmful and this is your responsibility, because you could provide mandatory software updates to your users. The Open Web does
not have to suffer of such a decision.
So please all express your opinion, help the Open Web and tweet or
blog that you don't want to see this happen. Some of you already
started, after reading the minutes of the CSS Working Group
face-to-face meeting in Paris. Let Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera know
this is the wrong way to go even if we understand perfectly both the
diagnosis and their proposed solution. If browser vendors standardize the Web, it's really owned by Users and Authors and now is the time to let browser vendors remember it
better. YOUR VOICE DOES MATTER.
I am finally asking you to relay that call for help. For that reason,
comments are closed on this article. Use your blog, your twitter
account, Facebook, Google+, whatever. But do it.
Jeffrey, Eric, Molly, Lea and all our friends of the Web Designers'
community and/or Web Standards' community: please help us. Now.
If you're a journalist, I'm immediately open to interviews on this
topic (please note I'm based in Europe).