How misconfigured and broken can one single site possibly be?

How broken can a site be? Let's have another look at MSNBC.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/

Problem 1: clicking the "IMAGES" link does nothing

Reason: the case of the link does not match the case of the JavaScript definitions – the link says SSOPEN while the script says SSOpen

Could Opera fix this? Only by creating a case-insensitive JavaScript version. This would violate the ECMA standard, be incompatible with many existing scripts and be an enormous change.

Could the site fix this? Easily: just send Opera same code IE gets.

Workaround: Load site in IE. Right-click link, copy shortcut, paste in Opera's address bar and press enter.

Problem 2: No images show up in the slideshow

Reason: their browser detection does not understand that Opera supports Flash

Could Opera fix this? It has "fixed" it: this is why "Identify as.." configuration is necessary. The problem is that many sites detect browsers in different ways, requiring the setting to be different from site to site. This is too confusing for the average user, and there is no way Opera could report the optimal identity to the site automatically.

Could the site fix this? With one line of JavaScript, yes.

Workaround: Press [F12] and choose "Identify as Mozilla", then re-load.

Problem 3: when choosing another image in the slideshow you get a download dialog

Reason: the site does not label the image with the correct content-type. All content should have a label telling the browser what kind of file is being sent.

Could Opera fix this? yes, by emulating Internet Explorer's "content sniffing" and looking at the contents of the file to determine what it is. Unfortunately this makes content handling much more complex and the complexity has caused serious security holes in other software so Opera is very reluctant to do this.

Could the site fix this? very easily by adding the following description when sending an image

Content-type: image/jpeg

Workaround: none 😦

We're not far into 2005 but I'll already nominate MSNBC to be one of the worst coded sites of the year.

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6 thoughts on “How misconfigured and broken can one single site possibly be?

  1. Yet, it all works fine in Firefox.

    The reasons for these problems don't matter; what does is that it works in IE and your competition, Firefox. Even those cool fan-out menus work in Firefox.

    Time and time again in Opera support forums, someone posts about a given site not working with Opera. Time and time again, someone responds with a learned and correct technical response that the site doesn't do this, that, and the other thing right.

    It doesn't matter. The user still has a broken site to contend with, and resorts to opening it with Firefox (or IE) instead. There's only so many times that can happen before said user simply uses Firefox full time.

  2. Opera used to sniff in 7.20 but it was "fixed" afterwards. Could there be an option in opera6.ini to go back to the old sniffing behaviour?

    In an .ini file it'll be safely obscure to only people who know what they're doing.

  3. > The reasons for these problems don't matter;
    > what does is that it works in IE and your
    > competition, Firefox.

    If something is broken because we don't support the technology, I agree. In that case the reasons only matter internally and just needs recording in our bug tracker.

    When the site is so broken that we can't possibly work around it, as in the javascript: links with the wrong case – then explaining the reasons in public and contacting the site is all we can do.

  4. I'm not aware of any setting though it may exist. Of course this is so common that we have to deal with it and a certain amount of content-sniffing is still done.

  5. Let me put this into english instead.

    1. You visit my site.

    2. I say "Tell me your name or I will not show you the site".

    3. You say "rseiler".

    4. I give you a page in martian (and unless you know something I don't, you don't understand martian).

    There is no way a browser can reliably defend itself against idiot programmers who do this. The way the site is operating is so badly broken, that no matter how smart the browser vendor tries to be, they cannot defend themselves against it. The only option the browser vendor has left is to complain publically about it.

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