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Mozilla devs plotting to put a stake in <blink> tag – at last

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Mozilla developers are considering dropping support for the <blink> tag from future versions of the Firefox browser, in a move that would see the web rid of the scourge of blinking text once and for all.

Firefox's Gecko HTML rendering engine is currently the only one to support the blinking effect, which usability expert Jakob Nielsen once described as "simply evil."

Internet Explorer has never supported it, and while Opera once did, it lost support when it switched its rendering engine to WebKit in February. (Opera has since switched again to Google's new Blink engine – which, ironically perhaps, doesn't support <blink> either.)

The proposal to drop blink support from Gecko was first raised by Mozilla developer Masayuki Nakano in a post to the project's Bugzilla bug database last week. Since no other browsers support the dubious feature, Masayuki wrote, there is no reason to keep supporting it in Gecko.

"Additionally, in these days, blink is not major feature due to its [accessibility] issue," he wrote, referring to the problems that blinking text can cause for people with epilepsy and certain cognitive disabilities. "Finally, our implementation is not beautiful."

The latter is not much surprise. According to early Netscape developer Lou Montulli, the <blink> tag was conceived as a gag, and its original implementation was whipped together by a Netscape engineer overnight after a night of drinking at a local Mountain View, California, watering hole.

Despite its ethanol-fueled origins – and despite never having been part of the formal HTML spec – support for the tag somehow made it into Netscape 1.0 and has persisted in browsers of that lineage to this day, including the current version of Firefox.

Masayuki's proposal to give the tag the boot from future versions didn't meet with much resistance from the other developers on the Gecko bug base. About the only issue raised was whether to also drop support for text-decoration: blink,which is technically still part of the CSS 2.1 specification.

As Masayuki points out, however, the CSS 2.1 spec does allow browsers to simply ignore text-decoration: blink and not blink the text in order to comply with accessibility guidelines. This looks to be the direction the Gecko group is now leaning towards.

If the group can agree on a definite plan of action, support for blinking text will likely be removed starting with Firefox 23, which is due to ship in early August. ®

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