The problem with monopoly

by Charles Miller on October 11, 2002

I've been making tweaks to the look of my weblog ever since I put it up, gradually adding the various bits and pieces required to make it work. (For example, until this morning it didn't contain any reference to my real name, which confused at least one reader, and could possibly get me in trouble with the (ISC)2 code of ethics1). As I go, I've been testing it with all the browsers I have lying around: Chimera, Galeon, an obselete beta of OmniWeb, lynx, Internet Explorer 5 for Mac, and Internet Explorer 5.5 for Windows. It seems happy with all of them, although IE5 Mac refuses to display the title graphic.

That is, until a friend looked at the page in Internet Explorer 6, and asked why it was the text on the right hand side kept vanishing?

I found a machine in the office that had IE6 installed, and easily replicated the problem. Now I don't pretend that my site even comes close to validating as correct HTML, but that's no excuse for a browser to be so flaky as to have things randomly appearing and disappearing as you scroll up and down the page.

This isn't the first time I've had problems like this with Internet Explorer and CSS. Not by a long way. In a normal competetive environment, a browser that behaved so flakily the moment you tried to do anything complicated would lose market-share to its more able competitors, and be forced to improve its rendering. However, once a product attains the near-monopoly position that IE has, a reality distortion field comes into effect. It's no longer IE's fault that my page doesn't display correctly, it's my fault for writing a page that triggers one of IE's bugs.

This is not a good state of affairs.

1 While it doesn't appear on that page, in order to enrol for my CISSP exam, I had to sign a form stating that I had never gone by any alias online that wasn't identified with my real identity.

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