Holding back features on the web

If I were to say there's a CSS 3 feature that all major browsers support except one, which browser would you guess is lacking?

The answer for today is Mozilla Firefox.

It has come up several times on my current project where we've needed to take a variable amount of information and stuff it into a limited space, where aesthetics demand we truncate the data instead of allowing an overflow or a word wrap. The typical way to do this is with an ellipsis, but at what point one should truncate the message is usually the result of guesswork. Checking to see if a string is over, say, 35 characters and cutting it off if it is may work in most cases; but because in a proportional font, the same number of characters can be different sizes depending on which actual characters are used, any fixed number will result in some data elements appearing too short, and a few appearing too long and wrapping or overflowing anyway.

Enter the text-overflow style. In a fixed div or span, setting style="text-overflow: ellipsis;" will cause the browser to truncate the contents with an ellipsis if, when, and where it is needed.

Except for Firefox. Since CSS 3 is still technically in "draft", the coders behind Firefox have decided not to implement text-overflow, despite it being on the bug list since 2005. Mozilla's own developer forum shows that Firefox is the only browser to not implement this to date.

Oddly enough, this is the second time Firefox has failed me recently (the first being a misbehaving feature that plays havoc with AJAX queries).

I found two solutions on the web. One is to use something called XUL binding. The procedure (described here) involves creating an XML document that describes the requested behavior, and then using a Mozilla-specific CSS directive to bind it to the element. Unfortunately, not only does this require another document, but it may conflict with the text-overflow style such that only one or the other will work, but not both. Also, following the comments in the bug, XUL appears to be going away with Firefox 4, and with text-overflow still not implemented, this workaround will work no longer.

The second solution uses the JavaScript library jQuery. The function (which I found at Devon Govett's blog), when applied to a web element, takes the text, recreates it in a clone of the element, starts truncating text as necessary until it finds text that fits in the element, and replaces the text in that element. It's not terribly efficient as it iteratively tests the text on each element, and if the element can change size you either have to update it manually or tell the script to constantly check the element and recompute; but it does do the job that Mozilla won't. Fortunately, we're already using jQuery, so adding an extension was a trivial task.

I don't know if it's some higher ground they're trying to take by not implementing "draft" features, but the fact remains, as an end user of browsers, to me, they appear to be stubbornly behind the curve.

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