Interview with Eric Meyer: Death of Netscape, CSS, Standards and Star Wars
July 16, 2003 by Bruce Lawson

CSS guru and Netscape Standards Evangelist Eric Meyer talks about AOL, Netscape, CSS, Web Standards and Star Wars and answers DMXzone members' questions in this interview conducted immediately before the news that Netscape has been discontinued (and one question asked immediately after the Netscape deathblow).

Eric A. Meyer of www.meyerweb.com  has been working with the Web since late 1993 and is an internationally recognized expert on the subjects of HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).  He is currently employed as a Standards Evangelist with Netscape Communications while living in Cleveland, Ohio, which is a much nicer city than you've been led to believe. A graduate of and former Webmaster for Case Western Reserve University and an alumnus of the same fraternity chapter to which Donald Knuth once belonged, Eric coordinated the authoring and creation of the W3C's CSS Test Suite and has recently been acting as List Chaperone of the highly active css-discuss mailing list.  Author of "Eric Meyer on CSS" (New Riders), "Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide" (O'Reilly & Associates), "CSS2.0 Programmer's Reference" (Osborne/McGraw-Hill), and the fairly well-known CSS Browser Compatibility Charts, Eric speaks at a variety of conferences on the subject of standards, CSS use, and Web design.  He is also the host of "Your Father's Oldsmobile," a weekly Big Band-era radio show heard on WRUW 91.1-FM in Cleveland.  When not otherwise busy, Eric is usually bothering his wife Kat in some fashion.

He was interviewed on July 12th 2003 by DMXzone's Bruce Lawson using questions contributed by the DMXzone community, and changed one answer in the light of today's news that AOL canned Netscape.

Eric, can you tell us how you came to be Standards Evangelist at Netscape?

(Martha Beaverdam)

They asked me to join the standards evangelism team, and were willing to let me work remotely.  That's pretty much the whole story. I came to their attention through my books, the CSS support charts, and my online forum participation, but from my perspective I just got mail out of the blue one day asking if I'd be interested in the job.  It was hard to turn down a chance to get paid for what I was already doing in my spare time for nothing.

The news has just filtered through to the UK that Netscape has been canned. Can you tell me what you think about that decision; how do you *feel* about that decision; where does that leave those who wish to continue with cross-browser development. And what the bloody hell are AOL up to?

(Bruce)

I feel terrible.  Netscape really kicked off the revolution, and with its death coming so soon after the death of IE/Mac and IE/Win, it feels like all the lights are going out.  They had really gotten behind the standards message, too, funding an entire team dedicated to standards evangelism.  That team is now gone, and I feel like we've really lost something.

I also feel a little foolish about my hope that Netscape had a future.  It didn't seem likely after AOL's settlement with Microsoft, but there was still that hope that AOL would look to the future and envision a world where they could improve user experience with a cross-platform Web engine they'd had a hand in developing.  Maybe that will still happen under a name other than Netscape, he said with faint hope.  Regardless, what this means to those who wish to continue with cross-browser development is that things are just the same as they were last week.  There are still a whole bunch of browsers out there, and Mozilla isn't going away any time soon, now that the Mozilla Foundation has been established.  If you want to reach the widest possible audience in the most efficient way, standards are still as important as ever.  Maybe more so.  Developers who decide they can now develop for IE only will be in for a rude shock.

What's AOL up to?  I can't figure out why, but the board of directors isn't consulting with me on the future direction of AOL.  So I don't have any insights to share on that score, I'm sorry to say.

Is it true you are related to Luke Skywalker?

(Paul Martin) (editor's note: an entry on a newsgroup prompted this question..)

I sincerely hope not, because if we are related, it means I have to kiss him.  Twice.

How come you're not in the Web Standards Project?

(Sophie Viktor)

I actually was, back in the day.  Shortly after the WSP was formed in 1998, I was invited to be a founding member of the CSS Action Group (otherwise known as the Seven CSS Samurai), and helped write things like "The Top Ten CSS Problems in IE" document. 

We were actually a very productive group.  We produced some tests, wrote honest assessments of browser CSS implementations, created complex testcases, and so on.  We also weighed in pretty heavily on the WSP's statement regarding Microsoft's patent on style sheets, getting them to soften a lot of the language and take a more wait-and-see approach.

Then the group fell largely silent, as did the WSP itself.  When the WSP was reconstituted, nobody asked me to join in.  By then I was working for Netscape, and I expect the feeling was that employees of browser makers shouldn't be members of the WSP.  If so, I fully agree with that feeling.  The WSP should be a grassroots organization, the better to represent the folks in the trenches.

Bruce Lawson

I'm the brand manager of glasshaus, a publishing company specialising in books for web professionals. We've a series for dreamweaver professionals - the dreamweaver pro series.

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