Blog of Wade Making Connexions

Microsoft, W3C Compliance, Browser Access - the Battles of the Interweb

The below rant over on slashdot caught my attention.

Yeah, except that it’s not Firefox: it’s writing to THE W3C STANDARD which Firefox and almost every other browser that exists (including Opera and khtml based browsers such as Konqueror and Safari) just happen to render correctly (with a couple of caveats).

IE, on the other hand, is a freaking nightmare. I find that IE7 works pretty well; in general I can fix its small bugs by changing the css in ways that don’t break the standard or break rendering in other browsers, but IE6 is so horridly in compliant that even for a lot of really common css tasks that were around long before IE6 was released and that Microsoft helped to write are totally broken. Things like the
:hover pseudo class and default element margins and padding are totally broke. Floats act funny. You cannot fix it without breaking compliance with the standard and other browsers, which means that you have to write a special css file for IE6. It’s not even consistent within versions of IE: IE5.5 and 5.5 for Macs don’t render the same code in the same way.

So, IE7 finally mostly works, but MS fucked the user interface up so bad that everybody wants to stick with IE6, which is still the world’s most common browser over a year after IE7’s release. Do you realize how bad that is? How many people haven’t upgraded from Firefox 1.5 to Firefox 2?

I can only conclude that Microsoft does this kind of stuff on purpose. They have a standard for trident: their web development products always produce code that renders perfectly in all versions of IE. Rendering the w3c standard is not hard: a bunch of hobbyists and a small company in Norway have both separately proven that you can do it on relatively limited resources. The only reason they could possibly have for their horribly broken browser is that they have an interest in web standards being broken.

Promptly I sent out to two really switched on, connected guys in the space for feedback. Tim’s take is below.

I doubt they have a proactive interest in keeping standards broken, I just think it’s the net result of

1) being too bottom-line focused
2) having a workplace culture in the windows dev space of bad UI, where this kind of shit UI, the same type that created vista, is not only encouraged but applauded, which drives users back to the safe and outdated technologies (xp/ie6)
3) having so much momentum in a different direction to the Opera/WebKit/FF companies and development teams. This is slowly changing, but whether or not it’ll be quick enough for them to stay relevant is yet to be seen

Apple was able to pull off half the Leopard dev team onto the iPhone, pump out some seriously cool tech, and then put them back on Leopard and only push the delivery deadline by 3 or so months. Microsoft are too big in terms of market size, feature set and code base to ever pull something like that off. The mob (us internet folk) demand companies be more agile than Microsoft is capable of being. Apple seem to be staying relevant because they’re able to deliver more with less, something that you can probably do much easier these days than when Microsoft was building its empire. (Tim Lucas)

I find the timing of this discussion very interesting, with Opera going after Microsoft on two accounts. 1) That it’s bundling IE with the OS, and 2) That it’s hindering interoperable webstandards.

The second point about hindering is something that the guys in the know just don’t think is possible, which I agree with.

I think Opera going after Microsoft is a bold move. Great publicity, at a fair critical time in the battle on access, and freedom. The law is really getting interesting in this internet/access/telco space. People are waking up to the amount of money that’s going on/through there, and beginning to treat it as a real medium, not a side project.

I can’t see how Opera’s is going to pull it off on the first charge. The user buys the OS with a browser integrated, it’s sold as a feature of the OS. No one is tied to the browser, they can, and do change. Users would rather an OS on their PC when they get it than none. It’s a pain having to get a CD/DVD or FTP just to get internet access. MS isn’t going to put a competitor’s browser forwards as well, why would they, why should they be expected to be promoting a competitor? That’s how I see it legally. I can, however, see Opera conceding and going for low hanging fruit.

That being Opera pull the other guys(Mozilla, Google, Yahoo, those-with-interests-in-web-standards) in and come up with a distribution deal when shipped, having all on a CD to pick. The best I can see MS doing out of this is to turn this into a commercial opportunity, which would be a very smart move. Do it by choice, instead of by reaction.

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