Hurt Squirrels
Browser Blinders
1/31/2004 6:03 PM

I've been on the Internet a long time. I've been here since before there was a World Wide Web. I've seen it grow and change and stretch. I've seen Microsoft stampede in, late in the game, in their 500-pound gorilla way. And that's when things changed...for the worst, mostly.

In The Beginning, the WWW was developed as a way to exchange information regardless of the software one was using. Mac, Unix and PC users could access the same pages equally. There was a set of standards that programmers followed to ensure this. One day, Microsoft decided to create their own set of standards and touted them as features that their browser had that others didn't. Pretty soon, we saw web sites with "Optimized for Internet Explorer!" slapped across them. It added very little and created a poor mindset.

More and more people flocked to the Internet, content to use the browser that was already installed on their computers. Eventually, the U.S. Department of Justice had some issues with that, but that's a rant for another time. Needless to say, Internet Explorer became to number one browser. The legions of amateur webmasters tested their web sites with IE (the ones that bothered to test them at all, that is), saw that all was well and never looked back. Many were unaware other browsers even existed. Or simply didn't care. And some of those amateurs became professionals.

I know from personal experience that it's just not that difficult to create a web site that is standards compliant. Doing so ensures that it's accessible to most, if not all, browsers. Hello? More accessible = more visitors! Don't you WANT people to view your site? I'm looking at you, businesses.

Which brings me to the point of this rant. Bank of America allows you to access your account through their web site, but with one caveat: you must use Internet Explorer or Netscape. I use Opera, which means I had the door slammed in my face. Sure, I could use IE; it's still on my computer, gathering dust. But I shouldn't have to.

I sent an email to their customer service, asking if they could, perchance, fix their web site. Pretty please? The first response I got completely skirted the issue. Despite the fact I clearly pointed out I was having problems with Opera, the replier assumed I was having a problem with an older version of IE and should visit Microsoft's web site for a patch.

Uh, no. I sent another email pointing out their error and expressing disbelief that I trust my money with these people.

The second response said that Opera was unsupported and I should upgrade to IE or Netscape due to security. Upgrade.

Uh, no. I replied that I had already upgraded to Opera, a browser that was more secure than IE. I also added that it would take only a few minor changes to their script to support Opera (and other browsers) and if this is beyond the capabilities of their web staff, I would gladly volunteer my services to assist them. I'm still waiting to hear back from them.

In the mean time, I've discovered a way around their little "security" blocks. Bank of America is The Man and I am sticking it to him.

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