|Interactive Business Systems.|
It may come as a surprise to some that, in early 2001, there is still a considerable number of people using Netscape 3.x as their preferred browser. This can be interpreted in many ways: perhaps as a tribute to the robustness of that browser; perhaps as an indication of the size of the "late majority" (Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm) that resists change.
In any case, the web-site designer must be aware of this fact and plan accordingly. In practice, this means either
The rest of this document attempts to summarize the key differences between Netscape 3 and 4, and what (if anything) the site designer can do about it. The document is divided up into general functional areas; pointers and links to detailed information are provided as appropriate.
This is very much a "work in progress" that reflects my experience with designing web-based tools from Netscape 1.0 on, plus additional input from other IBS staff. Any and all feedback or information is welcome. Please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
II. Style Sheets
Style sheets (sometimes known as cascading style sheets, or CSS) are new in Netscape 4. While style sheets are very useful as a way to provide consistent text formatting (with less work), one of the main uses of the CSS capability is to provide margin control of pages and images, and absolute positioning of text and graphic elements within a page.
All of this is non-existent in Netscape 3. There is a slight amount of page margin control available to the Netscape 3 site designer via a kludge: putting a page inside a one-frame frameset. But otherwise, we're stuck. (As an aside, note that there are many flaws in the implementation of style sheets in all of the gen4 browsers -- so CSS in gen4 isn't all roses, either. For details, see www.oreilly.com/catalog/css/.)
Frames were first introduced in Netscape 3. They work quite well, although the implementation is somewhat clunkier than the gen4 browser frame support. The most important limitation: frame borders have a fixed size; they can not be made "invisible", or given different sizes or colors. The result (of framesets viewed in Netscape 3) may appear ugly to many eyes, but at least it works.
Nonetheless, the relevant limitation here for Netscape 3 is the lack of <LAYER> support. LAYERs are what Netscape 4 uses to implement the seemingly-dynamic action of many "DHTML" features, such as the cascading hierarchical menus at www.webreference.com/dhtml/hiermenus/.
Issues about table tag support. Background images/colors?
(Anyone know what Netscape 6 thinks?)
String.substr() Extract a substring, easier than String.substring() Screen Info about the actual screen display Window.resizeBy() resizing an existing window
VII. Specific HTML tags
VIII. Plug-in issues
Appendix A: Links and References
- Webmonkey has a very simple browser comparision chart that covers all browsers, at: hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/reference/browser_chart/.