Tragedy: Commercial developer reports 35% of coding time spent on IE/FireFox incompatibilities

Asynchronous Javascript and XML programming -- otherwise known as AJAX -- may be bringing an entire new level of interactivity to today's Web applications (often bringing otherwise lifeless user interfaces to life). But it's also apparently wreaking havoc on developer productivity.

Asynchronous Javascript and XML programming -- otherwise known as AJAX -- may be bringing an entire new level of interactivity to today's Web applications (often bringing otherwise lifeless user interfaces to life). But it's also apparently wreaking havoc on developer productivity. While at the Enterprise 2.0 conference today, I interviewed Tim Hamilton who heads up business development for OpenTeams (see my last post on what they do) and after the interview was over, we ended up talking about how well the OpenTeams UI supports both FireFox and IE and it was like a dark cloud suddenly flew overhead.

Prior to AJAX's trendy arrival on the developer scene, differences in implementations of DHTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) between Internet Explorer and FireFox were already a source of indigestion for Web developers. But now, according to Hamilton, with XHTML in the mix, things have gotten markedly worse. Hamilton reported that his developers have to jump through some pretty serious hoops -- "hacks" in his words -- to get new features working in Internet Explorer 6 the same way they work in FireFox. "Business logic," Hamilton said, "is pretty easy to break out in a way that the same code works across platforms. But the minute you have CSS, DHTML, Javascript, and XHTML, things go downhill."

Hamilton reported that once you've been through it a few times, then you know better how to implement the hacks. But, even with that skillset on tap, I asked Hamilton to give me an estimate of how many developer resources are squandered dealing with browser incompatibilities and he estimated 35 percent. 35 percent!! That's an amazing drain on developer resources if you ask me (one that's entirely resolvable). Could you imagine if, in any other business where there are supposedly standards, 35 percent of the industry's productivity simply disappeared down the incompatibility drain? Imagine for example, if telemarketing operators had to switch headgear on every phone call because calls to Verizon-based customers required different headgear than calls to QWest or AT&T-based customers. Or if truckers had to switch fuel systems everytime they crossed a state line. It would be unacceptable.

It's no wonder developers love runtimes like Adobe's Flash for developing rich Internet applications (RIAs). Developers can work with a single codebase works across all browsers and Adobe is a single throat to choke if it doesn't work. But in the case of IE vs. FireFox (not to mention Safari and Opera), there are four separate throats to go after.

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All