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Addressing Backward Compatibility

Q1:CSS and scripting seem so browser dependent. How can a developer be assured that the resulting site will be backward compatible?
A1: Most of the scripting additions to Cascading Style Sheets via DHTML are not currently supported by anything but Microsoft's Internet Explorer version 4 and up. Even users of Internet Explorer can't necessarily count on things working out the way you planned because its implementation of the new CSS/DHTML approach is sometimes a bit spotty.

Although Netscape has implemented some of these features, and Microsoft will doubtless clear up the bugs in future versions of IE, you still must take into consideration the many people who are using earlier browsers.

If you design a Web site that uses absolute positioning, for example, especially if that positioning alters the natural order in which elements appear in the HTML document itself, then users of Web browsers that don't recognize the structure you're assigning will find your pages to be a confusing jumble. Aside from simply not using these technologies, two approaches have been used to handle this sort of problem.

The first is to simply throw up your hands and put a note on the page that it's "enhanced" for a particular brand and version of Web browser. Usually, a link to either Netscape or Microsoft is included along with that note so that people who don't have the necessary software can get it.

Most people, however, faced with the prospect of either moving on and ignoring the page or downloading and installing a new Web browser, will probably just give up on that Web site. The larger and more complex Web browsers get, the less likely people are to put up with the long download and installation times unless they have some really compelling reason.

The other approach is to create different versions of the same Web site, each of which is compatible with different versions and brands of popular Web browsers. Although creating different versions can be a lot of extra work for the Web designer, it's the only real solution that covers all the bases.

→ For more information on using JavaScript to detect browser versions, see "Using JavaScript,"



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