July 20, 2004
What's Going On?

Can anyone tell me why my view of the internet sometimes goes all to pieces? Here is a screen-capture of what my own website looked like to me for several hours this morning. And here is what Instapundit looked like. All the pictures are missing, and the various sections are misplaced or missized: for instance my links are below the posts instead of to the left of them. This has happened at least a dozen times over the last year or two. It looks as if CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) was turned off somehow, or HTML was not working right, if that makes sense.

My main question is whether the problem is in my hardware or software, or at my ISP. It can't be at the other sites' ISPs, because it affects 90% of them. I'm guessing that the exceptions do not use CSS or have some similar quirk. Three that look fine this morning are the sublime Rogue Classicism and Armavirumque and the ridiculous Rittenhouse Review. If no one can diagnose the problem, I guess the next step would be to do a 'View Source' on all three to see whether they use CSS, or differ from most sites in some other way.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at July 20, 2004 11:22 AM

Doc, first off, both those links are to your screwed up site, but through sheer genius, I was able to deduce the location of the Instapundit screwiness.

What happened was that additional files failed to get displayed in your browser. Often css is kept in separate files from the html page that you're on. For example, Instapundit's css is in a file at http://instapundit.com/ip_new.css, and not in http://instapundit.com/index.php, his main page. And of course images are separate files. Your browser received and displayed the latter, but not the former.

There are many possible reasons why the associated files failed to load, but the most likely reason lies with your isp. When you load a page, your browser requests the associated files (and there may be a lot of them). Probably these additional requests, or the requested files, failed to get through.

Posted by: Brian O'Connell on July 20, 2004 10:34 PM

Thanks. I fixed the link. If it's the ISP, not me, there's nothing I can do about it, which is both good and bad. Being lazy, I'll say more good than bad: I didn't really want to mess with anything complicated that would help.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on July 21, 2004 12:26 AM

The other thing to check is your browser security settings. One of the common settings shuts off content from addresses other than the page displayed. This is to shut out banners as well as "bugs" stuck on pages to track where you've been and where you're going. If the settings in those get screwed up either by your browser or by a helpful isp protecting you from viruses strange displays can result.

The other setting to check is how long your browser waits for a file before it times out. If either your isp or the server you're downloading from is overloaded, then your browser might pull the main page but cancel the secondary request when it doesn't have the full image or css file after 30 seconds or 1 minute or whatever. Being on a crappy phone line and having my time-out settings at 1 minute, I frequently don't get the ads at the bottom of pages because my browser has stopped issuing new file requests before the page finishes loading.

Posted by: Geoffrey Barto on July 26, 2004 02:21 AM