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Browsers and Platforms

Many universities have adopted Microsoft Windows and Internet Expolorer as
internal standards.  Many database designers and other producers of
electron materials are providing material that only runs on these systems.

However, many students and faculty use other systems. In some fields, such
as Molecular Biology, the professional software runs only on the
Macintosh. In some, like the creative arts , I am told that the software
available for the Macintosh is much superior, and even that the software
for the previous operating system (9) is preferred to the current (10.2).
In physics, astronomy, and mathematics, many users apparently use Unix and
only Unix. As for the students, the 1st year students typically enter with
new computers;  they are still using them 4 years later when they write
their senior papers.  On many of these systems Netscape runs much better
than IE.

Regardless of which system we personally prefer, it is our patrons whom we
are providing the materials for. We should not insist that developers of
often special purposes software with small numbers of customers adopt the
customization techniques of the large service providers.  But it is
reasonable to ask they they refrain from using features that do not work
on any commonly used system. It is certainly possible to develop a system
primarily for IE that still functions in Netscape.  CPANDA,
http://www.cpanda.org/ is one excellent recent example.

We should consider a contract clause that "the system will have all
essential functions compatible with Windows97+, Macintosh, and Linux
operating systems, and with IE and Netscape 4.76+ browsers. "  Additions
should be made for Unix, but I leave it to the Unix people to suggest what
would be appropriate.  I do not suggest an indefinite window back to
Netscape 1.1, but anything within the 4 year undergaduate life cycle
should be workable.

Dr. David Goodman
Princeton University Library
Palmer School of Library & Information Science, Long Island University