Basic Browser Requirements?

From: Eric Armstrong (
Date: Fri Aug 11 2000 - 14:10:34 PDT

I've been giving some thought to our basic browser
requirements. Basically, I'm not sure we're on the
right track. (If the problems I perceive don't exist,
I hope someone will 'splain it to small words.)

At the moment, we have accepted as "given" that we will
allow the archived to be browsed with NS4.0/MSIE4.0.
I'm not sure that's wise. Here's why:

  * They offer a lower level of functionality that that
    offered by 6.0/XML-based versions.

  * They are not customizable or programmable.
    We want the system to evolve -- we want people developing
    more and better clients, all of which use the underlying
    system as a base, so it becomes a standard for information

  * We say, on the one hand, that we want to deliver raw
    XML to the clients, so they can do the processing locally.
    On the other hand, we plan to implement the view-manipulation
    logic on the server side. But I don't see how we can do
    both, unless we have two virtually-identical systems.
    That's a maintenance headache.

  * Peformance will, in a word, suck.
    Zwicki proved that to me. I can't get to it from inside
    Sun's firewall. So I got to it from my 38.8 modem at
    home. *That* performance was terrible. If we implement
    OHS this way, it will be regarded as a somewhat interesting
    toy -- not as a usable application.

In return for saddling ourselves with the reduced functionality
those clients represent, what do we get? More access by more
people? Maybe. And maybe not. Thoughts on that subject:
  * As already mentioned, performance will limit those who
    access the system anyway.

  * If we were talking about a software package that cost
    several hundred dollars, that had to be acquired on a CD,
    then yes, we could expect that users would be slow to
    upgrade. But we live in Internet time, nowadays. If these
    browsers are what they are cracked up to be, they will
    effectively replace their predecessors in 12-18 months --
    time during which we will be doing most of our
    development anyway.

  * In the early stages of this system, we really want the
    "early adopters" -- people who like trying new technologies,
    who are relatively tolerant of flaws. We really do NOT
    want people with high expectations for flawless execution
    and rapid performance at the outset. People who are using
    the new browsers fit that bill perfectly. Our user base
    can grow right along with acceptance of those browsers,
    our application will help push that acceptance curve.

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