Developers vs. Users?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/06/04 10:28 -04:00, original URI:

A little bit about the backstory on some of the Important changes in NLS that span Windows and the .NET Framework....

The language list in IE has its behavior firmly embedded in the HTTP "accept language" standard that is so firmly entrenched in the web (it is a part of the HTTP/1.1 RFC despite the fact that both normal humans and people like me still wonder What the hell does HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE mean?).

So, all it had to do was have a big list of languages that can go in this setting -- and languages without regions are just fine. It is what users often expect anyway (when is the last time you have expected ja to be associated with anything other than JP, for example?).

The problem comes in where developers want to turn around and get specific information like locale-specific formatting. Since language alone does not give the information, ASP applications need to have big lookup tables, and ASP.Net applications have to call CultureInfo.CreateSpecificCulture.

Or more likely they will do nothing until their website does not work when some user's specific settings hit the problem.

You can think of the "fixing" of the IE list as an occasion where, in this battle between users and developers, the developers have won. They will get a name that they can use productively, etc.

Of course it does not solve the bulk of the problem for developers (other browsers will still do whatever they have been doing, anyone can still override their preferences, the list may contain information on the client that the server cannot identify, etc.) and it makes life a bit weirder for users (due to all those issues with What it means to be in the default install, most users will not know what the setting is or how to change it -- they just might see subtle behavior changes in pages they are served).

So in a way, no one really wins with this type of change. But at least it stands a chance of a slightly better experience in the future for some people.

(I probably would have approached the problem somewhat differently, e.g.  adding both ja and ja-JP to the list, with ja-JP first so that developer code would be more likely to still work while users might still get the right content. Though this could likely cause a whole bunch of other problems....)

But as a great PM used to tell people to console them, at least it's not neon green! (perhaps I'll tell that story some day, if I haven't told it already!)....


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