Monday, June 9, 2008

Google Panic

This post was originally mailed in to, 8 June 2008 --

Yesterday, I got a scare when I logged into GMail with Lynx. There were a bunch of check boxes, one for each message, but no link to actually view each of the messages. This put me in shock, my confidence in Google hanging in mid air just off the edge of the cliff.

I floundered around a bit to verify that I was in their basic html user interface (I was) and then looked at the actual html source code. All the links to view the messages were there, but inspection of the markup language source code showed that there were some missing closing tags with each message, the probably cause of the problem. There was no proliferation of javascript/AJAX as I had feared, it is probably just a mistake by some new CGI programmer.

I sent them some email (that still worked :-) ), explaining the problem, pointing out the exact spot and probable missing tags that belonged on the table/row of each inbox message. I think having their basic html user interface output proper html is important to Google, this is the 'Plan B' not just for text mode and other alternative browsers but the many mobile devices they want to get market penetration on.

So we'll see what happens. Dallas E. Legan II / / /

18 June 2008 Addenda

    Since the above was blogged, I found a couple of ways around the above problem. I should of saved a sample of the HTML when the problem first occured to verify that there haven't been any changes in the mean time.
    • For Lynx, ^V toggles between two different HTML parsers.
    • The apparent default parser is 'SortaSGML', which follows strict, formal standards, and is prone producing bad results when confronted by poorly written markup.
    • The alternate 'TagSoup' parser, which will put up with almost any violation of standards. This of course is the one that can deal with the new GMail format.
  • After some experimentation, I found that the problem seemed to be caused by some '<div>' tags. The exact purpose of these tags seemed to somewhat unclear, especially in major browsers of the time a pocket HTML reference I use was written. A privoxy edit to eliminate them solved the problem:
Dallas E. Legan II / / /

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