I rarely use GMail’s web interface – I don’t like it as well as desktop mail clients. For my primary account I retrieve messages via POP3 to my desktop mail client (all the while wishing Google would get busy with the IMAP) and my other low-volume, primarily read-only accounts are monitored with RSS feeds (well, technically they are Atom feeds). However, this week I needed to email out from one of the read-only accounts and that meant a trip to GMail web. Only I couldn’t get there on my PowerBook as both Safari and Firefox would hang at the blank ‘Loading…’ screen. The stuck at Loading… scenario Googles well but the top hits were of no help. Clear cache. Check. Clear cookies. Check. Adjust security settings in ZoneAlarm. Ch… “ZoneAlarm? WTF is that”, asks my PowerBook. You don’t want to know.

So I went off and did my business in Firefox on my Ubunutu box. Problem worked around but mystery not solved and that bugged me. So I committed some mental background processes to work on the problem. I was not surprised that Safari wasn’t playing nice with GMail but for both Safari and FF to exhibit the same symptoms was unusual. I ruled out problems with my GMail accounts – they were accessible from other machines – so the focus was on the commonality of Safari and FF on my Powerbook.

Eventually I came up with ‘userContent.css’ as just such a commonality. Years ago I installed a userContent.css file to suppress ads in web pages and to override style annoyances such as underlined links. It’s been quietly doing it’s job all this time and I had all but forgotten about it. Sure enough, disabling this custom CSS permitted GMail to load normally. A binary search of the contents led me to the specific offending line:

IFRAME[SRC*="ad."] { display: none ! important; }

I removed this line and userContent.css is now GMail compatible.

The bulk of my userContent.css originated from floppymoose.com with a few of my own edits. I paid floppymoose a visit and lo ‘n behold they report userContent.css is “now GMail compatible”.

That’s what I said.


floppymoose userContent.css
GMail via Atom
Mike Davidson and comments on GMail over IMAP