Most corporate websites are worse than ever

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

This is true:

I feel like the web used to work better. Not in the sense of features or flagship sites—web-based email clients and word processors and image editors are all waaay better than they used to be and I would say the high-quality stuff is of higher quality than ever. I’m not pining for the HTML-only version of GMail, I promise. But if I were to estimate some rough median of “how well do websites work” I would also say that there’s an incredible amount of jank out there. My father called me in exasperation last night after trying and failing to book a plane ticket. I find myself having to go over to their house and do things like switch browsers, open private windows, occasionally even open up the Web Inspector to fiddle with the markup, and I hate every second of it. I’ve trained myself out of using the Back button and opening things in new windows, and I will often close and restart order flows rather than try to go back and edit something I messed up. And I just… WHY. Why is it so hard?

This is true. A lot of this is due to cost-cutting and outsourcing.

Way back in the 1960s the airlines lead the way in building electronic, database-driven systems for schedules and reservations and back then they were paying obscene amounts of money for the best mainframe computers that IBM or Unisys could build. And they hired the best engineers in the world. The airlines were one of the industries that lead us into the modern world of computers.

Even in the 1990s, when they built their first websites, they still spent premium money on the best technologies available.

But nowadays the airlines outsource these systems to India or Vietnam or Brazil, and they focus on cutting costs.

So yes, most corporate websites are worse than ever.

The other big problem is the lack of innovation from the companies that develop the Web standards.

I remember in 2012 we joked that if you used enough Javascript you could get the Web in 2012 up to the level that VisualBasic 1.0 offered back in 1991. But we were certain that in 10 years, by 2022, we’d up to the level offered by VisualBasic 6.0, which would have been amazing, because VisualBasic 6.0 had been amazing.

I’ve been stunned by the lack of progress. The major browser companies/projects have largely stopped innovating. The period from 1993 to maybe 2010 or 2015 was very fluid, and HTML and CSS expanded quickly, but after a certain point the attitude seemed to be “We don’t need to fix HTML because we can fix it with Javascript.” Which is sort of true, but it is clunky. It would be much better to simply add more to HTML. At a minimum, every form element offered by VisualBasic should have eventually been added to HTML. What is the hold up? Why isn’t this happening?

It’s shocking, but there are still no calendars in HTML. Every calendar has to be custom built with CSS and Javascript. You’d think in the year 2024 we’d have every possible time element added to HTML, with easy customization options. I’m baffled this hasn’t happened yet.

What will it take to get the major browser companies/projects to start adding more to HTML?

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