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Fragmented Development

Browsers Don't Matter

Web development is entirely reliant on browsers to display web sites. Without browsers, the large majority of the Internet would cease to be useful – or functional for that matter. So how is it that browsers don't matter?

Each browser has at it's core a layout engine, and this layout engine actually determines what the page displays. While we have dozens of browsers to accommodate, most of them share layout engines. Safari, Konqueror, and Chrome all use Webkit (originally KTHML); Firefox, Camino, and SeaMonkey are all Gecko browsers.

The majority of the layout engines render content according to the W3 standards, and should render your page in a similar fashion. There are very few browser-specific bugs these days, and most of them are pretty obscure.

They have a saying about generalizations, and this one is no exception. Out of all the layout engines, one still remains a thorn in the side of most developers: Trident, the layout engine of Internet Explorer, in use since IE4. I'm not sure if they've actually beaten Trident into shape for IE8 or created a new engine, but it doesn't behave like old Trident. In fact, Trident doesn't always behave like Trident, depending on what version of Internet Explorer you're testing. Each version has their own bugs, some of them show-stoppers, like IE6 's problem with fixed positioning and lack of alpha channel support in PNG images.

Even without IE8, the development landscape is much better than what it was years ago. Instead of checking your page against every major browser available, you can develop a standards-compliant page and make sure it displays correctly in a Webkit-based browser and a Gecko-based browser. Sure, you still have to run it by every version of IE in use, but we're one step closer to forgetting the pain of browser inconsistencies and CSS hacks.

Tags: css html browser

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