Whitehouse.gov Analysis

A few notes on the new whitehouse.gov website as I did for the campaign sites after about 5 minutes of sniffing around:

  • Running Microsoft-IIS 6.0 and ASP.NET 2.0.50727. The Bush administration ran Apache on what I think was some sort of Unix. Data is gzip’d.
  • Whitehouse.gov is using Akamai as a CDN and for DNS service.
  • Using jQuery 1.2.6 (someone should let them know 1.3 is out). Also using several plugins including jQuery UI, jcarousel, Thickbox. Also using swfobject.
  • Pages tentatively validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional! I’m shocked by this. I’ve checked several pages all with the same result.
  • Using WebTrends for analytics. Bush Administration also did.
  • IE Conditional Stylesheets and a print stylesheet.
  • RSS feeds are actually Atom feeds.
  • The website is setting two cookies that I can see WT_FPC and ASP.NET_SessionId which expire at the end of the session which is not prohibited in federal government as per OMB Guidance for Implementing the Privacy Provisions of the E-Government Act of 2002 (using Google Cache for that link since I can’t find it anywhere else, our government should really keep those in a more permanent location).

I should note that this is quite different in architecture than the Obama campaign site which ran PWS/PHP, no notable JS library, feed, and Google Analytics.

Update [1/20/2009 @ 9:00 PM EST]:

Firefox Myths?

Someone looking for their 5 minutes of fame (obviously not worth 15 minutes) decided to post some Firefox Myths. It’s an interesting read, though has a few oddball statements, that really don’t make sense.

“Firefox has lower System Requirements than Internet Explorer”

The author omits that the “system requirements” don’t make the product usable. It’s just the lowest tested environment where the product runs. Windows XP can run on a 233 MHz CPU with 64 MB RAM. It doesn’t include a warning that you’ll throw it against a wall for the poor performance. To use any modern browser you going to need more than the minimum specs. Just ask any gamer how accurate the “minimum specs” are.

“Firefox is faster than Internet Explorer”

“Faster” can refer to many things (boot, css rendering, html rendering, large file rendering, UI responsiveness, etc. etc.). Assuming boot time, yes IE is faster considering it boots on startup. I don’t think anyone has calculated what IE would take if it didn’t integrate into the OS. My bet would be Opera is the fastest on Windows.

“Firefox is a secure Web Browser”

This is literally the first time I’ve heard that argument. The closest I’ve heard is “more secure”. Nothing more than a “Hello World” program is secure. Every product has vulnerabilities no matter how good the programmer, and no matter how good the audit on the source code. The question is how easy to detect and utilize are the vulnerabilities. I’d say since you can trick an IE user into trusting an ActiveX object (you can’t do that in Firefox since it won’t use ActiveX), there’s an advantage right there. Social Engineering is a form of hacking. You don’t have to know how to program to hack. The closest Firefox has is Extensions, though they seem to be mainly limited to more advanced users, who tend to be a bit more cautious.

“Firefox is a Solution to Spyware”

See above.

“Firefox is Bug Free”

Ok, I admit I literally laughed at this one. I can’t imagine anyone with any computing experience possibly making this claim. So I’d say the author made this one up. As the author points out it’s impossible for software to be bug free.

“Firefox was the first Web Browser to offer Tabbed Browsing”

Again something I doubt is really said, especially considering as Asa Notes:

In September of 2001, Dave Hyatt added a tabbed browsing mode to Mozilla. This feature was release in Mozilla 0.9.5 in October of 2001

Yes that’s right. Mozilla (SeaMonkey) had tabs before Firefox was even on the radar. He also notes Netcaptor as being first.

“Firefox fully Supports W3C Standards”

Again not likely anyone really says that. Anyone who cares enough to even know what W3C Standards are knows how poorly implemented they are. Interestingly the author omits that IE doesn’t fair to well in most categories of the site the author choose to reference. The author also misreads the statistics:

Feature MSIE 6 Firefox 1.0 Firefox 1.5
XHTML 1.0 changes 58% 100% 100%
XHTML 1.1 changes 39% 24% 24%

Notice the word “changes” as the stats author defines it (“not covered in the sections above”). The results are cumulative. You can achieve 100% XHTML 1.1 but still be pretty much nowhere because your XHTML 1.0 is so low. 100% XHTML 1.0 and 24% XHTML 1.1 (Firefox) is more usable than 58% XHTML 1.0 and 39% XHTML 1.1 (IE) for most (if not all) real purposes. Now to be fair to everyone the author notes “Percentages only concern the features tested by this resource”. I’m not sure if there is a more through analysis than that. If someone knows of one, please leave a comment.

“Firefox works with every Web Page”

This is the topic I have a fair amount of experience with, considering I implemented the reporting tool, and work with the data a bit. Of course the author managed to pull a percentage (15% incompatible) out of it’s proper context to make the percentage appear to be something static, when in reality, the source the author quotes states:

If Mozilla and the other non-Microsoft browser outfits hold their own or gain share, the 15% of Web sites that aren’t completely compatible with non-Microsoft browsers will come under pressure to design their sites to open Net standards. That way, Microsoft won’t be able to control how content is presented on the Web.

I personally can’t vouch for the accuracy of that number to begin with, so I’ll take it as truth with a grain of salt. I can’t imagine how someone could even make such a number without testing each website on the internet manually (since you can’t tell compatibility by machine since expected output isn’t a quantitative term. You’d need some revolutionary AI to do a task like that). Then you’d most likely need to factor in a site’s relevance. A 12 year olds GeoCities website shouldn’t have the same weight as Google for example (considering each to be 1 website). It’s actually an interesting statement. I’d love to know how WebSideStory (who came up with the stat) actually calculated it. If anyone from WebSideStory is reading, and would be willing to email me a bit more on the topic, I’d love to get a better understanding of the number.

Summary

Overall it was an entertaining read, though I’d question how many really are “myths” and how many are made up “myths” so the author had content to write about. Most of them are highly technical, and anyone who would even mention them would know how ridiculous they are. It’s like a Chief believing that Extra Virgin Olive Oil has to be pressed by virgin women (for those wondering EVOO is actually the first press, regardless of the history of the person who actually does the press).

XHTML FAQ

A grreat FAQ on XHTML is available, and I encourage all fellow web developers to read up. I found a few interesting things:

First read this:

strong>Why is it allowed to send XHTML 1.0 documents as text/html?

XHTML is an XML format; this means that strictly speaking it should be sent with an XML-related media type (application/xhtml+xml, application/xml, or text/xml). However XHTML 1.0 was carefully designed so that with care it would also work on legacy HTML user agents as well. If you follow some simple guidelines, you can get many XHTML 1.0 documents to work in legacy browsers. However, legacy browsers only understand the media type text/html, so you have to use that media type if you send XHTML 1.0 documents to them. But be well aware, sending XHTML documents to browsers as text/html means that those browsers see the documents as HTML documents, not XHTML documents.

Then read this:

Why is it disallowed to send XHTML 1.1 documents as text/html?

XHTML 1.1 is pure XML, and only intended to be XML. It cannot reliably be sent to legacy browsers. Therefore XHTML 1.1 documents must be sent with an XML-related media type, such as application/xhtml+xml.

Now in the source of that webpage, I see:

< ?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
< !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN"
      "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd">
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
</html>

but Mozilla says:

Type:  text/html

Does anyone taste dogfood? Will the net ever move to towards xml? Not even the W3C feels it’s safe to move.

I don’t think we will ever see websites that say:

Type:  application/xhtml+xml

On a sidenote: Does anyone know what versions of Internet Explorer support this trick? Is it 5.0+? Or just 6.0?

Mozilla 1.5 Out / Website

Mozilla 1.5 is out! IMHO a great release. Rock solid. Firebird 0.7 is also out.

I’ve got to bring up a few things about what will be the new Mozilla.org website soon. Why is this being done in XHTML? Why loose that portion of an audience, that is potentially going to switch? The easiest group to get switching is people with older browsers. These people are going to see a rather crummy page. XHTML is great, don’t get me wrong. But there is a time and a place. On a website that needs 100% compatibility to entice people to switch, having an XHTML isn’t a wise idea.

I must admit, I absolutely love the design. And I also must say, I wouldn’t mind having that Nice “M” logo as the icon for Mozilla. That’s a nice version of it. Very nice.

I’m not a fan of going to XHTML on this website. I’m of the belief that it will deter the easiest crowd to persuade to move. The older browser guys. Netscape 4 is still rather widely distributed in corporations. It’s not an extinct browser like some infer. It’s still on quite a few computers. They are the most likely candidates to switch. We should embrace them.

The only way I see it working is if there is a redirect for non-xhtml browsers to the old design. Perhaps prompt them to upgrade to see the new site.

Again, I absolutely love the design. One of the best page designs I’ve seen in a long time.

Were going to CSS, HTML or XHTML

Ok, I’ve gottin quite a few emails, and a few comments on this. I’m going to turn the site a bit more CSS savvy, hence degrading the “experience” a bit more in older browsers. Mainly Netscape 4. Why? Because the page size is to big. I won’t do away with tables 100%. But will greatly reduce my dependency, and the amount of table related HTML being used. The page size on the homepage is just way to big. I think most would agree.

Some stats for the curious…
Continue reading

Porting to XHTML

I’m strongly thinking about porting this blog back into XHTML (same design, new code). Granted I loose you “older browser” fellows.

So my questions are as follows:

1. To go Xhtml or not?

2. If stay with HTML 4.01… how to make the page smaller, keep it valid, and retain all contents and formatting.

3. Just post less on the home page, so the page size is smaller?

4. Leave as is?

Please comment by the comments link below or email if you prefer.