Archive: June 17th, 2003

Browser gloom and doom

When I wrote earlier this month about Microsoft’s decision to stagnate browser development, I took a fairly pessimistic view of where we developers now stand.

Jeffrey Zeldman, bless him, tried to take a more optimistic view of things:

"If you can’t see the good, here it is: ‘what IE6 is capable of’ makes a far better platform for standards-based design than ‘what Netscape 4 can do,’ which was where many of us were trapped the last time the browser space froze."

But when he realised just how long the current state of affairs is going to last, even his generous worldview altered:

"We pointed out that IE/Win is not that bad. But you know what? It’s nowhere near good enough to stay as it is for another two years."

I have a terrible sinking feeling when I think about the damage that Microsoft could potentially wreak.

Previously, they used their Operating System monopoly to illegaly gain an equal monopoly for their web browser. Now they can use that browser monopoly to pressure people into upgrading to a new Operating System.

Not to sound like Dave Winer, but I’ve always had the impression that Microsoft never much cared for the Internet as it exists in its current form; a level playing field built on standardised protocols. Bill Gates always struck me more as a "walled garden" kind of guy.

Microsoft are now in a position to introduce proprietary alternatives to HTML, CSS, heck, even HTTP, and wrap it all up in a layer of Digital Rights Management.

It would certainly be ambitious; to "embrace and extend" the internet itself.

But would they do that? They are, after all, part of the World Wide Web Consortium.

I think that Microsoft’s relationship with the W3C is similar to the United States of America’s relationship with the United Nations; they are members of the organisation and when their agendas coincide, that’s just dandy. But when there’s a difference of opinion, they can behave like the proverbial 800lb gorilla. Then can do whatever they want.

I’m probably being completely paranoid. All the same, the death of Internet Explorer as a standalone application just adds to the feeling of dread I’ve had ever since I first read of the planned horrors of Palladium.

In other news, MIcrosoft have unsurprisingly stopped developing any future versions of Internet Explorer for the Mac.

Let us take a moment to doff our hats in respect to a ground-breaking browser.

When IE5 for the Mac was released, it was quite simply the best browser in the world. It’s been around for a while now so other browsers have had to time to catch up but IE5 for the Mac was the browser that first set any kind of bar for standards support.

I’ll also take this opportunity to clear up a common misconception: just because the brower is designated with the number five, don’t assume that it’s equivalent to IE5 on the PC. In all but number, IE5 on the Mac is the equivalent of IE6 on the PC as far as standards support goes.

When it comes to web browsers, you can’t put much stock in version numbers. Just ask Netscape. Specifically, ask them about Netscape Navigator 5.