Jeremy said something yesterday that’s been rattling around in my head since he posted it:

The web isn’t a “platform” like a native OS: it’s a continuum. Varying support levels work with progressive enhancement.

As he usually does, Jeremy put words to something that’s been bugging me for some time.

As I see it: we play the long game in this business. Standards get authored, browsers implement them, often at a varied, staggered pace. Over time, we learn to rely on those standards in our work.

Despite that, we keep focusing on perceived short-term failings in various browsers. No, IE6 doesn’t have document.querySelectorAll support; no, we don’t have wide in-browser access to a user’s camera; no, there isn’t a way to reliably detect touch; no, we don’t have reliable insight into the user’s “context.”

Often, that leads to people deciding the web is being “held back.” So there’s some hopscotching of, say, progressive enhancement — which, in addition to being a great philosophy, has been shown to have real, practical benefits to businesses — in favor of “not being held back.” So, in response, we make the same arguments — good and great arguments, mind, but we’ve been making them for some time now.

I don’t really have any answers here — hell, I’m not entirely sure what I’m griping about. But I do wonder if our collective short-term frustrations leads us to longer-term losses. And seeing the web not as a “platform” but as a “continuum” — a truly fluid, chaotic design medium serving millions of imperfect clients — might help.

I mean, ages ago John Allsopp wrote about “[embracing] the ebb and flow of things” on the web. But it’s taken me some fourteen years to realize he wasn’t just talking about layout: our attitude toward the web has to be as flexible as our designs. And maybe it’s worth remembering that the web’ll get there, eventually — we just need to keep playing that long game.

My thanks to Scott Jehl, Jeff Lembeck, and Mat Marquis, who reviewed an earlier draft in Editorially.