State of the Browser 5

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My conference season kicked off with State of the Browser 5. I’d been accepted after a blind call for papers to present the snappily-titled Ensuring a performant web for the next billion people.

The venue was Conway Hall, which I’d heard of but couldn’t remember the context. It turned out to be the HQ of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, “the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world”. So a historic venue (for bleeding-heart Guardianistas like me) with great acoustics and “To thine own self be true” inscribed above the stage.

State of the Browser this year had a wide variety of talks; from Seb Lee-Delisle amiably talking about lasers to Martin Jakl talking about WebKit’s garbage collection bugs on Raspberry Pi, with animation jank, keeping learning and modular design in between.

I enjoyed all the talks, but there were some standouts for me (not because any talks were “better” but some were more immediately useful to me in my browser geek-end of the spectrum). I want to praise Laura Elizabeth, who did her first ever public speaking with assurance and aplomb that suggested much more experience. There were shocks, too: for example, non-Jake Archibald people talking about Service Worker.

I found Edd Sowden’s talk on what makes a <table> not a <table> in assistive technologies, and some of the heuristics baked into browsers to guess which are data and which are layout tables. border-bottomand background-colormakes it a table, border-collapsestops it being a table, display:blockstops it being one (except in IE…). More than 20 rows, or zebra striping in CSS makes it a table, etcetera.

Here’s the video (and here are his slides):

Isn’t it tremendous that the UK government cares about assistive tech users on its new web properties?

I also learned a lot from Ada Rose Edwards who surprised me by explaining that reflowing text, if you animate widths of things that cause the browser to re-layout lots of words, is really slow – because of kerning, hinting etc. See her slidesfor more (video coming soon).

There were lots of old chums in the audience, and new chums like Seren Davisand Claudia. Synergies were leveraged, too – I’ve got an Opera bug moving after gently prompted by an attendee. There was even a party afterwards, with a free bar, and all for £30. So go next year!

State of the Browser is organised for love by the London Web Standards crew: Morena Fiore, Nick Smith, Dave Letorey, Ginestra Ferraro, Steve Workman, Rupert Bowater and Marco Cedaro. Morena wrote up the day too. Thanks very much to all of them, and all who came to listen.