I’m a web guy. Have been since I was first introduced into the wonderful world of HTML and CSS. I employ several sites on my server- some personal, others professional. I am also the web master behind the CS Department at WSU. I hope to go into web design professionally “when I grow up”. In the mean time, I am a strong advocate of web standards, including, but not limited to, markup, layout, control, accessibility, functionality and usability. Putting up a web page is much more than just publishing content, or providing some service.So what does this have to do with Slashdot? Well, a lot actually. First, try visiting the W3 HTML validator page and validating http://www.slashdot.org. Here, I’ll save you the trouble. Click on this link here.
What’s that? ’403 Forbidden’? But why? What is so secret about validating the Slashdot HTML code? Easy, it contains more errors then the actions of George W. Bush on a bad day.
Slashdot started in September of 1997, and used the HTML 3.2 specification for its markup. Not much later, the W3C changed the HTML specification to 4.0, and the standards for design were being deprecated by XHTML and CSS. Slashdot did not update the code to fit the new spec. In fact, the HTML 3.2 code that the Slashdot team designed contained a minimum of 100 errors.
It wasn’t until 2003, when alistapart published an article about reworking the Slashdot HTML to comply with the latest standards. They even provided a prototype page. The article argued that by keeping the invalid HTML 3.2 code, Slashdot was paying much more in bandwidth costs than was necessary. If Slashdot would change their markup to XHTML and CSS, they could save literally thousands, and the page would render much faster as the page would be 60% lighter and browsers cache the CSS.
The article was even posted on Slashdot, and made a number of waves. People came out of the woodwork to comment. Good luck reading them all. The general census was Slashdot needs to update it’s code. Mainly, Slashcode, the code behind Slashdot. Eventually, although unknown as exactly when, Slashdot updated their page to the HTML 4.01 spec, and moved a great deal of the presentation to CSS. All of this interesting from a site that preaches web standards, accessibility and usability. Yet, for 6 years, the Slashdot team refused to do anything about it. Can we say hypocrisy?
So they’ve updated their code, and now it contains no errors, and only 30 warnings. Yet, the functionality, design, and usability of the site still have a long way to go. For example, why, after almost 10 years, are they still using the same layout with the same ugly green? Why are they still putting bandwidth intensive GIFs on each post? Why is the search bar at the very bottom of the page (did you even know a search existed?)? Why does so much circularity exist on the page? For example, there are 3 ways to login on the main page.
Yes, it is the lack of standards that keep me from reading Slashdot. Sure, I could syndicate their feed in a newsreader, and never deal with the horrible markup. But it is the combination of hypocrisy and ignorance that keep me personally from visiting. I could go into great length about the quality of published content also, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, 1997 called, and they want their design back.