Feeds

UK Govt screws browser choice

Bureaucrats play the numbers game

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A firestorm is brewing over proposals issued by the UK's IT advisory body over which browsers the public sector should support. Taxpayers will be forced to change their browsing habits and computer setup to accommodate the guidelines, say web standards experts.

The Central Office of Information quietly published its consultation document on Friday, containing a proposal that public sector websites may snub browsers with a low market share. The CoI suggests that web designers need not test against browsers with a share of less than two per cent. The bureaucrats recommend that designers place an advisory notice asking users to switch to a "supported" browser.

But it's not the arbitrary figure, apparently plucked out of the air, that has enraged professionals - but the entire approach. The Web Standards Project's Bruce Lawson called it "entirely back-to-front", arguing that designers should code for the web, not individual browsers. Designers should conform to commonly agreed basic standards, rather than browser idiosyncrasies he said. Amongst other projects, the WSP designs the Acid2 and Acid3 compatibility tests for browsers.

"The guidelines should be advocating a specific development methodology: they should recommend designing to Web Standards," he wrote. "Costs will be driven down, even if testing is performed across more browsers, because there will be fewer inconsistencies and less recoding to fix inconsistencies."

Lawson laments that a public sector only just emerging from the "IE only" mindset will actually spend more time developing than it needs to.

"Are we back to the bad old days when webmasters strove for pixel-perfect rendering, even on governmental sites which are largely content-driven rather than design-dependant?"

The guidelines recommend that browsers with less than two per cent share, which leaves Opera, and other browsers in the cold.

"Opera is requesting the UK government to code for the web, and ensure people have a choice when it comes to which browser they want to use," said a company spokesperson.

Oddly, the bureaucrats fails to follow their own logic, with the requirement that Linux should be supported - even though it "fails" the two per cent test. The most popular browser on Linux, Firefox, amassed just 153 visits to the COI site in July, compared to 19,777 from Internet Explorer.

(By the same COI figures, IE accounted for 83.25 per cent of traffic, followed by Firefox on Windows with 8.68 per cent, Safari with 3.99 per cent, and Firefox for Mac with 2.53 per cent.)

And it's particularly harsh on Opera, which not only fails the "disability concession" granted to Linux, but because its popularity is underestimated. Because Opera can masquerade as "Internet Explorer" or "Firefox", web server logs fail to reflect its true usage.

British and European users have until October 17 to respond: the guidelines and form can be found here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
Admins! Never mind POODLE, there're NEW OpenSSL bugs to splat
Four new patches for open-source crypto libraries
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.