John Gruber is [talking about the web becoming the dominant application deployment platform] over at Daring Fireball. He rightly points out the (severe) usability implications of web-based apps, and goes on to opine that these implications don’t matter—web applications are becoming dominant *despite* these implications—and that web apps are easier for an organisation to maintain. No rollout procedures. And he’s right. However, rarely for Gruber, he’s wrong further down: > Most email web apps (e.g. Gmail and Yahoo Mail) run on any computer > with IE, Safari, or any Mozilla-derived browser. Most weblog web apps > (e.g. Blogger, Movable Type, WordPress, and Textpattern) run in every > browser I’ve ever tried. These apps are effectively usable from any > Internet-connected computer in the world…There are certainly > exceptions — banking sites come to mind — but for the most part, web > apps are being built to run in any modern browser, not just IE. >
That’s true for apps that are on the web, true. And those are the apps
that home users will use—Gmail or Yahoo Mail to read their email,
WordPress or Blogger to write their weblog. Even banking sites are
getting better. The issue here is corporate apps; real bought software.
A high proportion of enterprise-class applications now come with a web
front end as well as or instead of a native client. And you know what?
Damn nearly all the ones I’ve seen are IE-only. I rail against this
every time we look at an application at my company. I always, always
ask the sales team whether the front-end is cross-browser. And most of
the time it isn’t. Corporate users don’t use Gmail (well, they do, but
they do it in their lunch hour or while the boss isn’t looking). IE’s
blatant incompatibility, and enterprise developers’ coding for that
incompatibility, locks corporate desktops as surely into Windows as
Microsoft Office does. I freely admit that there are some things that IE
does which other browsers do not: I’ve been advocating switching to
Firefox (or previous incarnations) at work for well over a year now, but
we can’t do it until we get seamless authentication where the user
isn’t asked for a username or password when accessing our intranet.
Those things, however, while critical, won’t solve the problem if they
document.all, but we could
also try and detect IE-style CSS or IE-style
HTML —and switch in the extension’s changes if
that’s the case. Still wouldn’t solve my seamless authentication
problem, but it’d be a neat way of getting Firefox to support the sites
that it doesn’t currently support without polluting the browser itself.