Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Winona and why I ended our Britannica subscription

We're a taking family trip to Winona, a town of about 28,000 south of the Twin Cities. Naturally, we review the Winona, Minnesota - Wikipedia entry prior to departure. It's excellent, as usual. We're ready to go exploring.

Coincidentally, I ended our five year old Britannica subscription yesterday. It hasn't been very useful lately -- ever time I've turned to it I've found better answers the net. The final straw was realizing that they still can't render pages correctly in Gecko (Firefox/Camino/Mozilla). That's a sign of rigor mortis. The old EB needs to either go entirely paper, or sell themselves to Google for a song.

Update 10/24/06: See the comments. It looks like the Gecko rendering flaw, which I saw when using Camino, was either an aberration or a Camino bug -- an EB engineer says they actively test using Gecko/Firefox. I believe him/her, so I think my Gecko comments were unfair. I mention in the comments that I've long regretted that EB's management never worked to develop an active community of users, with an open forum, to provide ideas and feedback on the site and its development.


Anonymous said...


Out of curiousity, what pages on are you having trouble with using Gecko/Firefox? We test for that platform pretty extensively. If there's a problem, I'd love to know about it.

- eb guy

Anonymous said...

My apologies, I guess that should have been addressed to John. The blog title threw me.

Blogger for peace said...

You can access britannica and tons of other subscription sites for free by downloading a free netpass from I saw this in Smart Money Magazine

Anonymous said...

Actually, the full text of every EB article is free when linked from a blog or website. See for details.

John, can you be more specific about the problem's you're having with EB on Firefox? I don't see any problems at all.

- eb guy

John said...

The problems I had were with a graphical element that didn't render correctly. It might have been on the Winona page, but I can't swear to that.

I'm going to revise my blog posting to note that EB tests for FF compatibility and point to the comments. I was probably being unfair.

When I quit EB I left some comments on what would draw me back. I think EB's management really missed on developing a community of subscribers who could provide feedback and ideas for development. For example, I'd like to see EB link to Wikipedia articles for further reference. I'd like to see them do more with maps and atlases and Googl e Earth, like a Google Earth layer sponsored by EB.

None of these are new thoughts, I suspect EB's management is pretty set in its ways. It must have heard all of these many times.