Monday 13 February 2006

Yahoo! Developers: Setting a Standard for the New Professionalism

In an article published Monday, February 13, 2006, Yahoo! Senior Web Developer Nate Koechley outlines the Yahoo! concept of Graded Browser Support.

The approach is a work of art so beautiful and sensible it literally made me weep for joy. In light of ongoing discussion regarding a new professionalism for Web designers and developers, it’s clear that the approach that Koechley outlines is not only logical and simple, but also profoundly practical.

One of the most powerful aspects of the document is it approaches the entire challenge of browser support for sites from an enlightened point of view. Instead of calling out any given browser as problematic and focusing on how to manage it, Koechley points to the nature of the Web and its evolution, encouraging us to work within that context:

“Expecting two users using different browser software to have an identical experience fails to embrace or acknowledge the heterogeneous essence of the Web. In fact, requiring the same experience for all users creates a barrier to participation. Availability and accessibility of content should be our key priority.”

The report goes on to describe Yahoo!’s definition of browser support, how it approaches “grading” browsers, and outlining a very practical means of addressing quality assurance. Along with the article is a grid that shows grades of support common browsers receive.

That all Web designers and developers seeking to solve difficult browser support concerns should read this article should go without saying.

Putting similar policies and processes in place for any design and development environment, large or small, would be a monumental step forward for not only the cause of Web standards, but improving the quality of the Web itself.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 23:32 | Comments (41)

Comments (41)

  1. Interesting, but given that Opera uses the same rendering engine and technologies across all platforms, you have to wonder why Yahoo grades them differently? There are a few technologies, such as voice, which are only available on Windows, but they aren’t exactly in common use on Yahoo properties.

    And where are the Linux browsers?

  2. It’s really good to see Yahoo! taking standards seriously, particularly in contrast to Google’s apparent lack of interest.

    Openly publishing concepts and best practices can only be a good thing, after all isn’t achieving web standards all about learning from each other?

  3. Hey Molly,

    Wow, thanks for the fantastic coverage. It feels great to finally speak to these issues publicly.

    I’ll be blogging about this more prominently soon (watch the and my personal blog). It got a bit lost today with all the other stuff we released. Thanks for pulling it out of the haystack.

    I look forward to helping spread this approach in the coming weeks and months, and truly hope it can help nudge the practice of web development forward. It’s worked very well for us internally, and just *feels right* as an approach.

    Thanks again for your very kind words, and for helping me spread mine.

  4. At long last, one of the founding precepts of the internet is coming back: Be strict in what you send, be tolerant on what you accept.

    Quite an uphill battle though: so many web sites still designed with assumptions on my choice of browsers, the size of my display and event the size I like to give to my windows…

  5. I agree with Richard, that the grid has a bit strange Opera support. I think that putting Opera, Netscape & Mozilla on Win2000 on the X-grade is a point of a view, counting the number of users with Win2000, though i understand that some sacrifices should be made. Reminds me a bit of Microsoft, if you forgive me the comparisson =O).
    Nate – thumbs up, for being open about what you are doing, hope “the others” will follow your example, going to check your & yahoo’s UI blogs =O)
    Nice ideas, good thoughts and a _long_ way to go.
    Good luck, Nate ! =O)

  6. Was this article a foreshadow of the new Yahoo homepage being released?

  7. The weird part about Opera isn’t the X-grade on some platforms – after all, X-graded apparently just means “We don’t test for this browser, but we assume it to be just as capable as the A-graded ones, and we won’t treat it differently”.

    No, the weird part about Opera is that the very same version (8.5) is A-graded on Win XP, but *C-graded* on Mac 10.0 – 10.3. Why not X-graded?

  8. Hey, it’s a browser support matrix. Now I have something to which I can point the next time an audience says “Huh?”.

  9. Wait, we’re praising the same company that created Yahoo Shopping cart? Has anyone else ever had to create a site with this disaster? It has power under the hood, but creating valid code is like pulling teeth — only to hand build your template, be told it doesn’t work with PHP, and then find out that that they’ll put junk invalid javascript outside your html anyhow and destroy the whole mess.

    …and looking at yahoo’s front page, I’d say they may very well have an interest in standards, but are a few steps short of knowing how to do it right. We bash google for it’s coding habits, but it’s back end shows promise for semantics, whereas needs to give some divs back.

    While I’ll agree that browsing should not offer identical experiences regarding the browser itself (everything from features to the UI), the code it displays should offer an identical experience… if not, what standards are we promoting?

  10. Yep – these are all important factors for the web-dev/web design crowd to consider…and it’s refreshing to see Yahoo take a lead on this (who’d have thought it eh?!)

    Google need to step up with a similar line of thinking (and sharing of info) or they’re going to start to look worse than they already do.

    Where was Camino on that list of browsers though? (IMO – the best of Mac browsers at the moment).

    Stuart: Well said! :)

  11. While it seems a little dated, the BBC browser suppport matrix at is another good example with a world-wide audience.

  12. It’s funny seeing something so old get published out to the real world. That chart gets updated every quarter and it’s highly useful as a point of reference when developing.

    Let it be knownst: ie5 is a grade C browser: That means to presentation, and no behavior. Got it?!!

  13. That’s a really great strategy. I’m sure it will always stay at the back of my mind any time I need to think about ‘browser support’. It’s a strategy I’ve been trying to follow ever since I read ‘To Hell With Bad Browsers’ on A List Apart (

    I think it’s interesting that X-grade browsers get the same content as A-grade browsers. I guess the idea is to hope for the best. However, and I’m sure Yahoo! developers are aware of this, you also need to assume the worst. This means detecting the functionality of a browser (ie. if (document.getElementById) {} ), and making sure things degrade properly if the JavaScript isn’t supported. This way, X-grade browsers could either get A-grade or C-grade content, depending on what is supported.

    Anyway, from a Quality Assurance point of view, the X-grade concept makes perfect sense. With limited testing resources, this is a great way to ensure quality for the most people possible. And it’s a really, really nice way for us to be able to code for Firefox/IE6 and not feel bad. :)

  14. John A. Bilicki III said:

    >>>This grid (at least in regards to the PC platform) is a joke. There are no “A-grade” browsers if we’re talking about current standards.

  15. John A. Bilicki III said [and my reply was cut off]:

    —This grid (at least in regards to the PC platform) is a joke. There are no “A-grade” browsers if we’re talking about current standards.—

    I think you’ve missed the point (by a few miles -_^). It’s not a grading of the browsers from a quality point of view – it’s a grading of the level of support that *they*, Yahoo, want to give each browser.

    But I’m still curious about the reasoning behind grading Opera 8.5 as both A and C, depending on platform?

  16. For the past few months, I have been going through a rather lengthy interview process with Yahoo for a User Interface Design position. I had an opportunity to meet with some developers on the Yahoo Sports team. I was trying to get a feel for their committment to Web Standards. It’s odd, it’s such a huge company, I didn’t get the sense that there is an over-arching policy on the matter. One of the developers that I met seemed personally committed, but otherwise there was no apparent directive from above requiring him to pursue Web Standards.

    I came away with the impression that if you go to work for Yahoo, the question of whether or not you will be supported if you attempt to code to Standards is very dependent on what little pocket of the company you end up in. Maybe Dustin can refute or confirm this?

  17. @Sally: I think you’re spot on there – as it would be with any large organization. I’ve seen this at AOL and the BBC as well. Remind me to tell you a story about just that issue at SXSW.

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  19. My bet is that Yahoo wont be around for more than 5 years! Mark my words!

  20. Ashley: Marked, and placed in the freezer, so you can thaw them and eat them in five years.

    Yahoo is doing a great job lately, they are definitely focusing on the right things and their support for standards is very encouraging.

  21. That matrix is p.o.s. Where’s Linux?

  22. Pingback: Yahoo! launches UI library and Design Patterns | Muffin Research Labs

  23. Should be interesting to watch Ashley eat here words in 4 years 11 months and 12 days!

  24. Molly, I want to hear your story about issues with large organizations. I’ve got a few of my own to share. See you at SxSW.

  25. Google doesn’t adopt standards because it might represent an increment in bandwidth usage (remember the guy that said that Google would save a couple hundreds of Gigabytes a day by removing whitepace??). Heck, I bet adding a character to the source might represent about half a gig a day.

    @John A.
    I agree… Firefox ‘B’, IE6 ‘C’, IE5.5 ‘D’.
    Browsers that pass the Acid2 test… ‘A’.

  26. Oh, this is rich. Firefox gets grade A support? Then why am I *still* required to use IE to use Yahoo Music? Here’s what it tells me when I try to listen to my Yahoo station:

    Sorry, we do not support Netscape on the Windows platform.
    Error Code 25 – 0

    I’ve emailed them about this oversight a couple times now, but as far as I can tell they don’t care. So I agree that that browser support chart is crap; pure marketing nonsense.

  27. Sorry, we do not support Netscape on the Windows platform.
    Error Code 25 – 0

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  31. Where was Camino on that list of browsers though? (IMO – the best of Mac browsers at the moment

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