Doing Science on the Web

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Robin Rendle on

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Alex Russell on the current problem with testing experimental web features:

Prefixes “look” ugly and the thought was that ugliness  —  combined with an aversion to proprietary gunk by web developers —  would cause sites to cease using them once standards are in place and browsers implement. But that’s not what happens.

Tools like Autoprefixer compound the problem that we developers use prefixed-anything as soon as we can get our hands on it.

He talks about some strategies for solving the problem, but admittedly they still don’t sound perfect to me. As a tiny bit of anecdotal evidence: I’m less inclined to play with new features until they feel like they have some permanence. Ughgk, I guess that’s the problem.

In the web platform, the missing ingredient has been the ability to limit the experimental population. Experiments can run for fixed duration without fear of breaking the web if we can be sure that they never imperiled the whole web in the first place. Short duration and small, committed test populations allow for more iteration which should, in the end, lead to better features. The web developer feedback needs to be the most important voice in the standards process, and we’ll never get there until there’s more ability for web developers to participate in feature evolution.

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