Written in November 2003. Will not be updated, though I will probably write another piece on this very interesting subject.
Let's go through his assertions:
<font> tags since early 2000 (yes! even in commercial projects!), and
I've solved my share of CSS bugs.
But the times of tag soup are gone.
For years I've felt that the majority of these noscript browsers are actually search engine spiders. These high numbers usually come from large stat farms like TheCounter whose browser detection methodologies I've always distrusted.
Finally, the reported noscript figures at TheCounter have remained stable for years:
|May 2003||13 %|
|May 2002||12 %|
|May 2001||12 %|
|May 2000||17 %|
These figures don't show a clear upward trend of noscript browser market share.
Here Nitot snaps back to the right track. This is a very perceptive remark, browser incompatibility problems aside. In fact I have recently reached the same conclusion.
Nowadays CSS has become good enough to handle most of the presentational side of websites. Are mouseovers presentational? You bet. And DHTML? Most of the time. What do we use to code them? CSS. Simple, efficient. CSS can't do sliding layers, but we've got to get rid of them anyway. If you want animations, use Flash.
The new style of standards compatible coding lays heavy emphasis on the structure of XHTML document. These documents contain information that should be presented "semantically correct" and in an accessible way. So in the end it's all about delivering information.
However, merely delivering the information is not enough. Users should be allowed to sift through the material and to compare files. On their own XHTML and CSS offer only two ways of sifting and comparing: by including all the information the user wants in one long sequential page, or by linking to relevant other files.
Don't underestimate these two functions: they always work. They'll keep a site accessible at all times. They are "need to have" functionalities.
Nonetheless large amounts of information cry for a way to be searched and sifted in a user friendly way. This is a "nice to have" functionality that XHTML/CSS can't deliver, except through endless reloads from the server.
Wouldn't it be great if a large majority of the audience (89%, according to Nitot) would get a better, more usable way of sifting and searching, for instance by silently loading small XML files with the necessary data, to be read and presented in the user's main search menu as they come in?
A site should be accessible to any device. That does not mean, however, that its usability should be limited to what the lowest common denominator of user agents can handle.
Way back in 1999, when CSS began to become reliable, many of us did not use it because our sites had to work perfectly in Netscape 3. Back then, "accessible" meant "looking exactly the same in all (major) browsers". Out went CSS, in came nested tables.
Evidently, PPK can't stand this perspective and holds on to his field of expertise. It's human, and even very common among web developers who hold on to their old habits."
What shall we do with the W3C DOM?, I asked only a year ago. Hardly an old habit. I'm still searching for an answer, too, so it's not becoming an old habit in a hurry, either. I think my Usable forms script is a step in the right direction, but the work has hardly started yet.
All this is vague, I know, but I don't quite know what I'm looking for myself. I'm still searching. That's human, and even very common among web developers who are looking for new ways of making websites.
In the mean time I would like him either to soften his tone a bit, or not to write about my projects at all.