On Netscape Navigator 4.x and the Zen Garden
A reader asks:
I was looking at the (beautiful) designs in the Zen Garden a moment ago and thought I’d throw Netscape Navigator 4.8 at them. Nothing! (So far as I can tell) The textual content was all there, of course, but not an iota of style.
Is there any prospect of getting a version of the Zen Garden page to ‘inline’ the styles so we can see how ‘backwards compatible’ they are?
(I have sites where a significant number of the visitors are locked in to NN4 and other old browsers…)
A responsible designer considers his/her audience. If a big chunk of your users run older browsers, you’d better make sure you’re giving them something to look at.
In the case of the Zen Garden,
@import prevents NN4 from trying anything foolish. It thinks it knows CSS, but it just can’t keep up. So I (unabashedly, and unapologetically) serve up an unformatted XHTML document to NN4.
Well, I happened to have the Garden files loaded in front of me when that e-mail came in, and wouldn’t you know, I got curious myself.
Here’s what you do: load a design, any design. In the URL, you’ll see ‘cssfile=/0xx/0xx.css’ plus some other junk. Change ‘cssfile’ to ‘nn4’, and the style will then be pulled by a
<link> as well as an
It’s not pretty. You’ll notice some of the designs won’t even start to apply themselves - NN4 chokes on the Box Model Hack, so its CSS engine seems to die when it encounters an instance of it. Don’t even bother trying any of this in a standard-compliant browser, it’ll load the same stylesheet twice and really make a mess of things.
I’m always sorry to hear about anyone stuck supporting this relic; sometimes I’m forced to as well. As Zeldman points out in DWWS, transitional layouts are still very necessary in real-world situations. Netscape Navigator 4.x is Mostly Dead, but if we learned anything from the Princess Bride, it’s that Mostly Dead also means Partly Alive.
Despite mainstream sites and their continued misguided efforts at being ‘backward-compatible’, the consolation is that NN4 usage is at all-time lows and rapidly fading. According to Upsdell, current usage is hovering around 1% and shrinking, down from 3% a year ago. If that’s not insignificant, I don’t know what is.