Archive: July 15th, 2004

The gathering storm

At the risk of turning this site into “Browser Watch”, I simply have to point to Ben Hammersley’s article in today’s Guardian called “The second browser war”.

The first half of the article deals with Internet Explorer’s slipping market share:

“This last year has seen a series of well-publicised security issues with IE coincide with the maturation of the various alternatives to IE. This results in many people moving to systems such as Firefox, prompted invariably by news reports, good reviews or the recommendations of friends.”

That certainly fits with what I’ve been seeing, including this fifty step programme on how to stop Internet Explorer pop-ups (including pop-ups that occur when Internet Explorer isn’t even open).

Then there’s Microsoft’s decision to stagnate browser development while the competitors have been forging ahead in leaps and bounds. Ben points out something that allays my fears somewhat about the way that browser manufacturers develop their products today compared with the bad old days of the browser wars:

“The developers of alternative browsers have been concentrating on the support of openly developed standards. Instead of developing things in-house and dropping them on a previously unsuspecting opposition, Microsoft’s rivals are working with each other to implement public standards from bodies such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).”

The second half of the article deals with the issue so succinctly summarised by John Gruber:

“However, what would happen if people’s web browsers were capable of running complex applications, with code based on openly published specifications? Two things: first, the operating system would become irrelevant, so there would be no need to upgrade to the next version of Windows, and second, the playing field for everything else would be thus levelled. The majority of Microsoft’s business, therefore, could have been threatened if the IE browser team had continued past 2001.”

I guess that answers my question about why Microsoft decided against going the standards-based route for XAML: if they did that, they’d have to compete on a level playing field that could potentially endanger their main source of income.

It looks like the battle lines are being drawn with the WHAT-WG and other standards bodies on one side and Microsoft on the other:

“By wrenching control of the standards for building such applications away from Microsoft today, rivals hope they can prevent another near decade of Windows domination. Microsoft, for its part, is not going to go down without a fight.”

I don’t think it’ll all be over by Christmas.