The Week In Review: iPads, Chrome, Firefox, and PayPal

Wow, what a week. For a web developer/designer/tech lover there has been a lot of new information in this first month of 2010 (at last we get to use the word “twenty” to describe the new decade — twenty-oh-four never rolled off the tongue). Not only did two of the best browsers get some nice updates, but Apple finally released their long-rumored tablet and Microsoft told users to stop using IE6. Oh, and then there’s PayPal.

Firefox and Chrome

First off, Mozilla and Google both released updates to their web browsers. Firefox 3.6 is out now, and in addition to some bug fixes it introduces eye candy known as “personas”, stale plugin protection, downloadable web font (WOFF)  support, support for new CSS attributes such as gradients, background sizing, and pointer events, and support for new DOM and HTML5 specifications including the drag & drop and file API, which allow for more interactive web pages.

Google released the fourth version of their Chrome browser which added the ability to add extensions and sync bookmarks across multiple computers.  They also have added more HTML 5 support including  LocalStorage, Database API, WebSockets, and more. I like Chrome, but I still haven’t switched to using it as my primary browser (still Firefox). I think it’s making good strides but for the time being I still use it  mostly for testing. I like it, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that Firefox and I are old friends and well, I don’t see a need to dump Firefox just yet.

The iTablet iSlate iPad

Just yesterday Apple released their long awaited tabled, the iPad. Almost instantly the jokes about the name iPad began to circulate around the Internet with no end in sight. I admit I also cringed at the name, and was hoping for something more inventive than iPad. While Apple’s iWhatever line is certainly good branding, it’s wearing thin on me and it’s inevitable that at some point they’ll need to come up with a better solution.

Name aside, I, like many others, was a bit let down by the product that Apple released. Granted, with all the hype and rumors swirling around the tablet, it was virtually unavoidable that no matter what Apple released that it wouldn’t be as amazing as everyone had dreamed it would. A lot of reports call the iPad just a big iPhone with no camera (or ability to make calls) and since I don’t own an iPhone (can’t stand AT&T and don’t want to endure the raping they call data charges) I guess I’ll have to take their word for it. Personally I think I’ll wait until the next generation of iPads comes out before I plunk down $500+ for one. It looks like a decent start, but it has a ways to go before I see it as the “magical” and “revolutionary” product that Steve says it is.

Stop Using IE6

It’s no surprise to those of you that read CatchMyFame that I don’t support IE6 at all. If anything I create works in iE6, it’s by accident. Not only have big names like YouTube announced that they will be ending support of IE6, even Microsoft announced that it’s probably a good thing to upgrade to a more recent browser. The fact that IE6 is still alive and kicking amazes me, though I am well aware of the arguments for using it – primarily ignorance and sloth.

HTML5 and CSS3

I’m happy to see increasing support for HTML5 and CSS3, however I haven’t jumped on the bandwagon just yet. There are some really great features in these updates, however the sad fact is that until all the major browsers support the features, we’re forced to find workarounds and create special conditions to account for those features that don’t exist yet, or aren’t fully implemented, in the major browsers. Like rounded corners? I do, but since some browsers don’t understand the border-radius rule, you either need to generate a solution for those browsers that don’t get it (<cough>IE8</cough>) or ignore it and let those visitors that use browsers without CSS3 support see squared cornered.

So the dilemma is, do we forge ahead and learn HTML5 and CSS3 now, or do we wait until there’s mass support for it and most users will benefit from it? Personally I’m in the first camp and think we should learn as much about it as possible and implement it when its most accessible and least problematic. I also think that if more developers start using HTML5 and CSS3 that it will force browser developers to come out with updates for the features more quickly.

PayPal – Love it or Hate it?

I’ve been a PayPal member for a decade. That said, overall I think it’s a very good service and for web developers it’s a great way to be able to accept payments online. It’s far easier than trying to get a merchant account, a payment gateway and everything else you need to accept credit cards on the web. They offer several services that allow you to integrate their service into your website including something called Instant Payment Notification.

In a nutshell, IPN allows PayPal to send a notification to your server with transaction details whenever you receive a payment. I recently worked with NotOneBit.com to develop a system where my client could sell eBooks online and accept payment with PayPal. PayPal would notify the client’s server upon receiving payment and the customer would almost instantly be able to download their purchase. The system worked perfectly; customers were able to make purchased quickly and easily and then download the eBooks directly from the website. No fuss, no muss.

However we soon discovered a fatal flaw in PayPal’s seller protection policy after one customer claimed that their PayPal account had been hacked and someone used their information to make an eBook purchase. You see, PayPal only protects sellers where there are tangible goods that can be tracked, and since my client sold digital goods, they therefore weren’t protected. My client argued with PayPal that based upon the system that I and NotOneBit designed, that there’s no way that this claim of a hacked PayPal account could be legitimate (we send download data to the customer’s email address so this supposed hacker would have also needed to hack  this person’s  email account in addition to their PayPal account). PayPal didn’t seem to care and just reiterated their policy, so in the end, my client was out the money for the purchase (which PayPal happily refunded to the person with the supposed hacked accounts) and the eBook. In the end the person got a few free eBooks (and hopefully some bad karma). It’s really a shame that PayPal caves so easily on a topic like this when if they took a few minutes to understand what we and probably many other developers using their service to help deliver digital goods have done, then they’d see the obvious fraud.

Caveat venditor.

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