Online Petitions Don’t Work

Today, Jeffrey Zeldman made a fine post about the lacking support for the PNG file format in Internet Explorer for Windows. He explains it very well (and links to a great demo page – but it won’t work in IE/Win) and links to a petition to encourage Microsoft to fix the situation.

Online petitions don’t work. No one cares. I know – I started a petition last year (embarrassed). Of course, it can’t hurt to sign the petition. I did. But so did “Bill Gates”.

This is an important need of the web development community being expressed by a prominent member of the community. Microsoft needs to respond. However, I expect that they will not. Each little issue like this erodes a little more from Microsoft’s (massive) foundation and will lead people towards alternatives (like the fine Mozilla Firebird browser).

It is good for Zeldman to bring attention to the issue, and a simple “we’re working on it” response from Microsoft would make a big difference in how the company is perceived. However, I expect it would take a call from a “real” reporter to get a quote from them. Let’s hope they surprise me.


10 thoughts on “Online Petitions Don’t Work

  1. Does a petition starter have to include a process for lobbying on behalf of the signers? If there is a “web development community”, it should be able to elect a representative on an issue to poke Bill with a stick every now and then.

  2. The simple thing to do would be to flood Microsoft with phone calls and letters. If a company has palpable evidence (phone rings, pieces of paper arriving daily on the topic at hand), if the same information is cc’d to media outlets so that they realize the matter is important, then it may become nessary for the company to respond. Online petitions are a fine idea, but in practice they fail because all of the notes and signatures are on a screen. Move these thousands of notes to hard copy and this will create a broader perception that the issue is important.

  3. I wrote the following email to Microsoft:

    To: Microsoft
    From: Steven Garrity

    I realize that this is not the place for technical support or features requests. I’m not writing to request a feature. Rather, I’m writing to request a response (positive or negative) to a deluge of feature requests.

    Prominent web developer and weblogger Jeffrey Zeldman wrote today on his site about the unfortunate lack of support for PNG transparency in Internet Explorer for Windows. You can find his comments at the following URL:

    Mr. Zeldman links to a petition that thousands have signed asking for improvements with this functionality. I don’t expect you to pay too much attention to this petition (there’s a petition for everything!). However, Mr. Zeldman speaks as the voice of a large community of web developers. As a member of this community, we would greatly appreciate a response from the Internet Explorer development team on the support of PNG transparency.

    Even if that response is negative, or just “we’re working on it”, it would show that you are listening.

    Thank you,
    Steven Garrity
    Creative Director, silverorange Inc.

    and two days later (not bad), I got this reply:

    To: Steven Garrity
    From: Customer Support

    Hello Steven,
    Thank you for contacting us at regarding Jeffrey Zeldman’s comments on Internet Explorer.

    We have forwarded your mail to the proper Microsoft group for review. If appropriate, we will be responding to you directly. Your comments are very important to us, and will help us to provide the best possible products and services.

    Charisse Customer Support

    It’s a start.

  4. You are in! Now you just have to cross reference Charissee of Microsoft at home and bug her personally until something gets done or she spills the beans as to who is in the “appropriate Microsoft group”.

  5. I’ve been “escalated”:

    Hello Steven,
    We have escalated this to our Microsoft Internet Explorer contact for an answer. We’ll get back to you shortly. Thanks.

    Charisse Customer Support

  6. “escalated”… that’s a great euphemism for “forwarded”

    I am impressed that you’re getting anything beyond an auto-responder at all.

  7. Nothing new, Brad, no. However, Microsoft has since stated that IE will not be updated until the next version of Windows (2005).

Comments are closed.