So, yes… I hate Netscape 4 with a passion. But, just for the hell of it (I get bored, okay?), I started up Classic and fired up my copy of Netscape Communicator. I guess you could say I was curious how a lot of today’s sites hold up in the archaic browser. Not surprisingly, most sites I tried looked like trash (even sites that are from groups that use the “IT MUST LOOK THE SAME” argument against standards-based markup). Some sites were just simple, and yet still useful, in NS4… by design. To blow my own trumpet, my site was still very useable (although I did notice I haven’t incorporated my Old Browser Education script into this very section of the site). Many other design sites I frequent held up fairly well. Then, there were the others… and they surprised me.
First up we have one of my favorite sites of late—MikeIndustries, from Mike Davidson (of ESPN.com fame). Now, know this is not an attack on Mike’s site or his practices. I’m just noting what I experienced as a bored man online using a very out of date user agent. I first tried the base URL (mikeindustries.com), forgetting that my bookmark is for /blog/. I saw some graphics, even some graphical text that looked like links. But, alas, nothing happened. I couldn’t do anything. Luckily, I realised that Mike’s blog is at /blog/, so I just typed that in the location field. Well, the blog section somewhat resembled what happens when you view my site in IE5.0/WIN… the content is there, but lordy… the graphics sure get confused. But what do you expect: I’m using a browser from the mid-90s.
Next up was the site of local designer Blake Scarbrough (whose design ethic I aspire to). I love Blake’s site, especially his articles on standards relevancy. Well, I’m not entirely certain how straight-forward markup could possibly do it, but Blake’s site effectively did what I only wish I could do: it killed Netscape. Literally. The browser crashed on every attempt to load his site. I’m not sure how, I’m not sure why, and to be honest, I really don’t care. Good riddance!
So what am I saying with all of this? Do I think Mike needs to revamp his site to be pretty in Netscape? Does Blake need to worry about his site’s violent ways with a browser-wars-era user agent? Absolutely not (although Mike might want to think about addressing the “linkless” main page of the site). Why not? Because, unlike some other user agent out there, there is no plausible reason why someone HAS to use Netscape 4! Seriously. Netscape 4 isn’t required for a certain screen-reader. Netscape 4 isn’t the only browser available for any given platform (computer or otherwise). Even people running “classic” Mac OS can run Internet Explorer 5 or version 1.2 of Mozilla (possibly even a few builds of the Mozilla-based Netscape). With the numbers of NS4 users shrinking every day, I’m somewhat glad there are great sites out there that don’t work at all in Netscape 4. They serve as a constant reminder to users of the archelon of browsers that they are using out-dated software, and that they are doing so by choice.