Suck on Skins

Tuesday April 11th, 2000

TheUIGuy wrote in about a article that talks about Mozilla/Netscape 6 and it's skinnability. It takes a very negative view on what we feel is a very positive technology.

Skins allow the user to pick their interface. Packages allow them to extend it. This customization allows anyone to choose how they browse the Web, manage mail, or use any of Mozilla's other applications. The author of the Suck piece, Greg Knauss, seems to feel that choice is bad, because there is the possibility for poorly designed or useless skins. That comes close to saying, "there could be ugly pages on the Web, so shut it down."

Greg also states, "by adding in all the flexibility of XUL, the Mozilla programmers have removed our ability to make the application use the native controls of the operating system." This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Open Source. The direction Mozilla is taking doesn't prevent anyone from doing anything. The capability to do exactly what Greg wants is right there, in the code sitting on the CVS server, and in the mind and will of someone who needs something done differently. Mozilla might not be doing what you want, but that does not mean that you are prevented from doing it yourself.

(FYI, there are projects for Windows and Linux -- and nothing preventing a Mac project -- for embedding the HTML renderer into a native wrapper application.)

#26 Re: Folks, this is SATIRE

by soybomb

Wednesday April 12th, 2000 10:59 AM

You are replying to this message

No, it's not. Suck simply rips into people that need ripping into -- at least, in their eyes. (And if anyone was reading the user reviews of NS 6, they'd understand this.)

But the point is still true. Skins destroy the basic point of user interface, that all things should operate equally and are easily identifiable. Since XUL allows you to change pretty much anything, it means that mozilla won't act like any other program you have. This is a reason why there are interface levels, like the Appearance Manager in MacOS, so that all programs share the same look so that an overall familiarity with a program is established. And might I note this is ESPECIALLY important for Mac users, as the functionality of the Mac UI is what attracted them to the platform... and dare I say there are just as many fanatic about it as well? An enormous amount of user reports turned out a near zero rating for the app, saying it operated like "a Windows/Linux program".

Frankly, Netscape screwed up big time by releasing a PR build WAY too early. By the time the "native OS" chromes are out (which BTW should be the default install on a computer for the sake of consistent UI -- so far a losing battle on the Net) and the builds are fast enough to not make the skin layer noticable, hopefully people won't have already set their mind against 6.