Browser broke? Nope, it's just Java
Yeah, I surf the 'net quite a bit (and if you're reading this now, you probably do too). Recently I was visiting a few web sites that showed what looked like a broken image (where you normally see a box with an "X"), and I was saying to myself "Huh? I just installed Windows on this computer.. why am I seeing the X?" Then I said to myself "Oh yeah, I don't have Java installed". A quick run to java.com fixed that.
Java, dear friends, is a thing made by Sun Microsystems. I won't get into the tech details of what it is because it would probably confuse most people, but what I can tell you is this: On the internet, Java has got to be one of the most awful things to ever be put in web pages.
Don't get me wrong, Java itself is a cool thing considering what it can do (which is quite a lot), but the end result is that the majority of internet surfers out there (including myself) find Java very annoying. That's because it slows down web pages to a crawl - even on fast computers, and when you don't have it installed, it shows nothing but an "X" - making you think you have something wrong with your web browser. At least Flash (made by Macromedia) is smart enough to TELL YOU when you need it. Java does not do that. I knew enough about internet surfing to install Java when I needed it. Most people wouldn't.
Previous to Sun's version of Java, Microsoft used to (until told by Sun not to) bundle Java with Internet Explorer and called it "Microsoft Virtual Machine" or Microsoft VM for short. Not anymore. You have to know enough to get it yourself now. Bummer. Granted, it was Sun's prerogative to make people get their version - after all they invented it... but like I said, most people won't know to do this. Two of our Armed Forces web sites, Navy and Marines, both use Java on their home pages (look for the scrolling "News" on the left side for either web site, that's the Java). Without the Java, a nice fat X shows up where the Java is supposed to go.
This is why I will not use Java or Flash on any of my web sites. I make all my sites "plugin-free" to ensure backwards-compatibility - and to avoid annoying anyone. (grin) When it comes to corporate intranet web design - that's a different story because many corp's insist on Java (mainly due to the reason "it seemed like a good idea at the time") so you have to deal with it. Goes with the territory I guess... but you'll never see it here. If for some reason I were to use it, I would at least put a little "heads up" web page stating "Hey you need this - go download it".