Jump to main navigation, main content

Archived entry | Matt Wilcox .net

It's time we got browsers to stop supporting vendor prefixes

Vendor prefixes are seriously harming the web. Actually, they are not - the sheer amount of improper use of vendor prefixes on production public sites are. Incompetent web developers are. They’re sowing the seeds of years of hurt.

Until very recently I was an ardent supporter of vendor prefixes. I’ve changed my mind on this.

The web is a huge success because of it’s low barrier to entry. It is incredibly easy to start building websites, but much harder to master it. And there are a lot of people on the lower parts of the scale who build commercial websites. Of course many do it badly. To the point that multiple vendors are going to start supporting -webkit- prefixes. That, by the way, is god-awful bad.

So, I think it’s time we took the new toys out of the hands of those not experienced or educated enough to use them properly. Too many developers have been shown to be irresponsible, they’re hurting the web. Not the people that grok web standards, I mean the learners. The *mis*-use of features.

Lock the gun in a gun cabinet, because the kids have managed to figure out the safety switch. Silo experimental properties into developer builds of browsers instead of ‘protecting’ them with a prefix; keep public builds of browsers free of unfinished CSS features. It’s the only way to stop ignorant developers using these features irresponsibly on production sites.

Of course, this is a browser issue much more than a Standards issue. There’s nothing wrong with vendor prefixes in and of themselves. Personally I’m inclined to prefer letting incompetent developers shoot themselves in the foot and deal with the consequences - but if vendors allow that then they fear they’ll lose market share. So it’s not going to happen.

I’ve said this to the www-list, though I fear there’s going to be no support from vedors to drop vendor prefixes. Shiny new features your browser does that other’s don’t means your market share grows. It’s the problem of mixing Open with Business.

Beyond making sure you use vendor prefixes properly, here’s stuff we can do to help…

Now here’s a solution to the vendor prefix issue I like a lot! Props to @felipc


skip to comment form
  1. Stephen Greig posted 10min, 8sec after the entry and said:

    I'm not sure taking their toys away from them will benefit the web. It's this experimentation that is helping to push the web forward - sure, it's sometimes implemented badly but I believe we just need to continue to educate about these features, not take them away. The awareness that's been generated this morning is step one. Step two is making that extra effort in the CSS articles we write, ensuring we don't assume TOO much knowledge in our reader and providing a gentle reminder to include ALL vendor prefixes, not just -webkit-!

  2. Matt Wilcox posted 13min, 54sec after the entry and said:

    I actually agree with you. It's the argument that led me to keep supporting vendor prefixes so long.

    Thing is, the harm being caused by this is now unmanageable, and no amount of attempted fixes has worked. And the education one is what I used to push, hard. It hasn't worked. Too many people don't bother.

  3. Stephen Greig posted 35min, 3sec after the entry and said:

    You know more than me but I'm not so sure I share your lack of positivity on improving the situation.

    The web's a powerful place and us developers are very quick to jump on best practice bandwagons once these practices have been highlighted.

    I've already read 3 high profile blog posts on this issue this morning and I can only see awareness spreading. Personally, I wasn't even aware it was a big issue, and there are probably a lot of '-webkit- only' offenders that now know better after the awareness generated today.

    Let's keep pushing this and things might just get better. Or maybe I'm being a bit naive.

  4. David Goss posted 1hrs, 58min, 50sec after the entry and said:

    Well said Matt.

    Here's an idea for Apple and Google: drop support for -webkit-border-radius and -webkit-box-shadow, today, right now. It won't render any sites unusable, just spoil some of the aesthetics, but the incompetent devs will quickly notice and start googling, whereupon they'll find posts like this and start fixing their s*** (and do it right next time).

    I get the feeling that Mozilla is the keenest to support -webkit-. Their market share is in freefall and they feel they need to do something.

From the archives

Other enteries filed under:

Web Development

Site information

Built with valid XHTML and CSS, designed with web standards and accessibility in mind. Best viewed in a modern browser [Firefox, Safari, Opera]

This domain and all content is a copy of my old website, for historical purposes only.