Catching up with Web Standards

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 28, 2008

Filed under: Random 68 comments

Firefox vs. IE
I’ve never really paid any attention to web standards until recently. I dabble in HTML and use half-assed CSS when I’m forced to, but I’m an old-school guy who began by coding HTML by hand in 1994. (Boy I wish I had some of those early pages, they would be hilarious.) I was aware of standards in a distant way and in the past I even poked fun at them as needlessly pedantic. I was aware that there was a standard, and that browsers complied with it to varying degrees, but I always attributed the differences to the usual culprit: Software sucks. Now that I’ve read a bit about it and I see how complex the standards are, and that compliance is more affected by business and politics than programmer time and talent. It turns out that some browsers suck on purpose. Or at least, the fail to not suck on purpose. Now that the problem is no longer a matter of fixing bugs, I’m intrigued by it.

The paradox facing IE is the most interesting. For many years it was both the most popular and the least standards compliant. Looking back, I can see why IE was so singularly infuriating to web developers. They would make a “correct” page, and it would work just fine in all browsers except for the ubiquitous IE6. They would find hacks to correct these flaws in IE without breaking the page elsewhere. Then IE7 came out, and pages broke in a completely different way, requiring an additional layer of hacks on top of the old one. Sometimes hacks are (shudder) nested. I’ve seen some example code of this business in the last few days, and makes quite a horrifying mess of what should be very straightforward CSS. I can understand why web developers feel such animus: If my job was complicated by this sort of business I’d most likely want to visit heinous damage on the people responsible.

Again, I wasn’t really paying attention to this drama at the time. My HTML has always relied on tables for layout and my CSS was too simple to run afoul of any of the dozens of quirks, issues, ambiguities, or broken behavior. It just didn’t affect me. (Well, once or twice. But I never had to deal with the sort of headaches that web developers deal with on a regular basis. I certainly never used any browser hacks.) I was aware that web developers had some ire towards Microsoft, but Microsoft’s foes are legion and I didn’t realize this was something other than the usual ambient level of hatred the company seems to maintain.

What Microsoft is facing now really does seem to be a certain degree of comeuppance. You can brazenly ignore standards only so long as you have absolute dominance over the market. If you lose your grip on the system, your deviations from the norm will become a great liability. Lose enough ground, and the cycle will begin to feed on itself. Most people will be making webpages that look good on their browser of choice. Only the responsible ones will bother to check other browsers, and only the diligent will go to the trouble to use the hacks. More pages will emerge that don’t work right in your browser. More people will switch. The system will bottom out once you get to the dregs – the people who don’t know how to switch or aren’t allowed because they don’t own the computer.

Is this happening now? I have no idea. The conventional wisdom is that IE has been losing market share at a good clip. I know my site isn’t exactly representative of the web as a whole, but check out the browser usage among the visitors here:


The IE Wikipedia page claims it still has an 80% market share. That seems pretty high to me, but I have no way of knowing. Regardless of who you believe the consensus is that IE usage is shrinking.

Now that I’ve given myself some sort of crude, rudimentary education on the web standards problem, I do find it to be compelling and I’m keen to see what Microsoft will do next. Millions of pages out there have hacks that do special things with the CSS to make the page look right in IE. Those hacks will still be in place, and will still do their thing, even if the problems they’re intended to solve are now fixed in IE8. Sure, new hacks will come out which will let developers give IE8 special treatment, but those hacks won’t appear until after IE8 launches. The upshot is: For most people, IE8 will look “buggy”, even if it’s actually just working right for the first time. This may well give people yet another reason to try Firefox.

So, IE looks like it will lose market share either because their old browser sucks or because the new one works right. The only way they can “win” is to make IE8 behave like IE7, and even that isn’t a solution. It just means they won’t lose users faster than they already are.

But what is most interesting in all of this is just how pissed off people are. I understand the animus from web developers: Their job is a lot harder and a lot more annoying because of IE. But the anger goes well beyond web developers. Some people are just plain incensed about how Microsoft has failed to adhere to standards.

The world of politics is imperfect. If you want policy A, you can’t implement it, let it run for thirty years to see the results, then go back in time and try things again without it. It’s always subjective, always muddied by imperfect knowledge, personal biases, feelings, salesmanship, and the capricious nature of polling. Religion is likewise not something that lends itself to the clarity of absolutes which can be demonstrated on a blackboard. Friendship is similarly vague. And let’s not even get started on what a mess love is. We accept that people will always disagree because here in the analog world, imperfect people make imperfect decisions based on imperfect knowledge with an imperfect ability to measure the results and an imperfect ability to appraise those measurements. But in the digital world we shouldn’t have those problems, right? Things can be perfectly measured in bytes and pixels, precisely compared to specifications, and dispassionately judged according to binary logic, bringing us into a desired state of agreement without ambiguity or rancor. I mean, it either works or it doesn’t.


int MakeSureNotTooBig (int i)
   if (i ~ 100) { // i is probably near 100
     i = MakeNumberGenerallySmaller (i);
   } not as such { // meh
     maybe return i;
   return i, or something in the ballpark of i.

But web standards don’t seem to bring about the platonic harmony we crave. Worse, it seems to fail because the analog world keeps intruding on the digital one. Eric Meyer has a beautiful example of a problem that has no right answer: You can either conform to the specs or you can make it work. In a perfect world these two actions would be identical, not mutually exclusive. This intrusion of the sloppy analog world into the tidy digital one is making people crazy angry.

Still, I’d love to hear a guess as to why Microsoft was so cavalier about web standards until now. “Because they suck and they are evil and I hate them hate them” isn’t really that informative. What I want to know is, how could loose standards adherence translate into money or power. Microsoft is not a well-liked company, but they operate under a very well understood set of priorities. When they make people mad, they do not do so because they enjoy the rancor, they do so because it’s more profitable than keeping them happy. What I can’t figure out is how that applies in this case. What was going on here in the analog world that made such a mess in the digital one?


From The Archives:

68 thoughts on “Catching up with Web Standards

  1. Calle says:

    By ignoring everyone else, they could develop stuff faster. Coordinating with others, particularly other companies in a standardization process, always takes a lot of time.

    Also, as long as they were completely dominant, being a total pain in the arse to develop for gave them a competetive edge, since they were the only ones who didn’t have to guess about what the hell MSIE was actually doing.

  2. Eric Meyer says:

    Think of standards like RPG rulebooks. How many times have you gotten into a big long rules-interpretation debate, or tried to work out the effects of two rules being taken together?

    Now imagine trying to combine the rulebooks of several RPGs at once. If AD&D 3.5 and GURPS and Star Frontiers disagree on point X, how do you resolve it? Answer: everyone will resolve it differently. Which is what happens with browsers.

    Now, as to why IE isn’t as standards-compliant as others, the short version is that they were on top and then took a half-decade hiatus. While on top, they did advance some standards support, but also their own home-brewed technologies (ActiveX, colored scrollbars). This is always what happens with the market leader. Netscape did in back in the late 90’s. Then they took a five-year nap while everyone else kept advancing. Hare, meet tortises.

    I wouldn’t describe the IE team, then or now, as cavalier about standards, though. They’re behind, and they’ve been painted into a corner by the actions of other groups at Microsoft, but they really do care. Whether or not the corporation supports them in their caring is another question entirely, and one that makes for many a toasty comment thread.

    There’s more to the story than that, of course, but unfortunately I’ve gotta get back to work… adding IE6 hacks to the CSS of a project I’m finishing up, ironically enough.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Oh, no, that’s accurate. Or I’d even say more than 80% of people use IE. You just have a different audience. Lots of programmers read your blog, they’re more computer literate than average.

  4. houser2112 says:

    They were cavalier towards web standards because they had ubiquity on the desktop, and hence ubiquity in browser mindshare for Windows users. By making a non-compliant browser, authors are forced to make special code for IE users, or risk alienating a large chunk of people. It’s all about control.

  5. maehara says:

    When your browser has 95%+ market share, you are the standard – MS knew this, so didn’t bother about conforming to the “official” standards set by W3C et al. Users got to see pages render correctly, which was all that mattered – there were a lot more of them than there were peeved web developers.

    It was only with the advent of Firefox, which got its first wind of popularity from people who just generally hate MS (probably including all those developers that had to write IE-friendly hacks), that falling market share got their attention and “standards compliancy” became a way of trying to persuade users to stay put or come back – but by then they’d already fallen into the cycle of decline you point out above.

    And for a case of history possibly repeating, see the general apathy towards Vista and growing OS X market share over the past year or so…

  6. Zaghadka says:

    :^D That code is beautiful! Is that yours?

    My favorite part about it is that all the comments indicate that “i” is an estimate, to be ambiguously and slightly modified, and intended to represent an ambiguous, “not too big,” value, and yet the programmer chose to make it an integer. Talk about a precision error! (Yes, I am aware that “i” as integer is a tradition that extends to at least FORTRAN, btw, so how could it be anything else?)


    Good point about the “standards” thing too. Microsoft’s embrace, extend, extinguish strategy is starting to weigh them down. IE still has a long way to fall, however.

    The results of your server logs probably stem from your website attracting an audience which has strong preferences for anything but the mainstream. I can’t imagine why. ;^)

  7. I run Linux and am interested in the politics of it, so I’ve seen a lot of discussion of this for some time. I’d say there’s been a fairly consistent answer given to your question.
    The rough consensus I’ve seen on the subject is sorta the inverse of what you’ve been saying. *Not* being standards compliant is a problem when you’re *not* all that dominant, because people have to code twice, or if they don’t it won’t work right on your browser.
    But if you *are* thoroughly dominant, not being standards compliant inflicts that same burden on your competition. Website developers will primarily develop for you and only secondarily for the standard. Competing browsers have to both comply with standards *and* try to reproduce your browser’s peculiarities. If they just code to standards, lots of web sites will look as if *they’re* crippled, which has historically been how it’s worked. It’s just another form of the same thing Microsoft does in most areas where it’s got a certain proportion of the market–block interoperability to cripple or impose extra costs on competitors who need to interoperate with the dominant player.
    This has been true of the operating system itself (hidden and undocumented and shifting APIs), the browser (deliberate failure in standards compliance), data formats (un- or poorly-documented and deliberately unsystematic), Java implementation (deliberately skewed from normal Java until Sun sued).
    There’s a reason why other word processing formats tend to be to some degree thought out and consistent, while Word’s document format was essentially a mess of pointers to variables in the program and therefore inevitably shifted in unplanned ways from version to version of Word. This is the same reason why the new format, OOXML, while hypothetically open, turns out for anyone who looks at it carefully to be an irreproduceable mess. Sure, it might have been hard work to clean it up, but they’ve got plenty of employees at Microsoft. They didn’t *want* to clean it up because if they did, other word processors would go around fully implementing it and their competitive edge of “other word processors don’t work properly with Word files” would go away.

  8. Maddy says:

    Yeah, I don’t think it was about being cavalier. It was about bullying. It forced commercial developers to either choose between the ubiquitous default browser which does things the wrong way vs. the rest of the browsers, OR expend extra time/effort/money to support both.

    Which results in commercial developers focusing on IE strictly because more people use it (because they don’t know any better). I think the hope was that this would cause users to think that using something other than IE would be more trouble than it was worth since they would still have to use IE sometimes whether they like it or not.

    I see this among some of my less technical coworkers. Our product is IE only, and IE is adequate for the other things they do online, and new things are scary. So they don’t see any point in shopping around for a better experience.

    It’s a self-perpetuating scheme, but if more people catch on to non-IE browsers, Microsoft is going to find that their browser has become a niche product mainly for business applications.

    And then they’ll start the cycle over again by creating a another browser targeted to casual users. It won’t be any better than IE, but will have cuter icons.

  9. Khizan says:

    About your statistics for browsers visiting this blog:

    You’ve got to take into consideration the crowd you draw here. It tends heavily to gamers and computer nerds, who tend heavily to be the computer adept type, who pretty much seem to use Firefox almost as a rule.

    However, my father uses IE. My mother uses IE. My boss uses IE, and my uncle uses IE, and my co-workers all use IE, and my relatives all use IE. This is because they don’t really care, because the computer just isn’t that important to them. Virtually everybody I know uses IE. I can easily believe that 80% of the population is happily chugging away on IE without a care in the world.

    *FYI, I use Opera.

  10. Assuming my point for a moment, that also suggests something else; you said
    “I was aware that web developers had some ire towards Microsoft, but Microsoft's foes are legion and I didn't realize this was something other than the usual ambient level of hatred the company seems to maintain.”

    Arguably it isn’t something other than the usual ambient level of hatred the company seems to maintain. It’s just that most of the rest of the ambient hatred has similar quite specific roots. There are a bunch of different nodes of Microsoft-hatred, each based in a different community for which Microsoft has made interoperability hell in order to block competition. So people who wanted to automate things to do with documents, or use other word processors, hate Microsoft for its .doc format. People who want to use LDAP hate Microsoft for Outlook. People concerned with security hate Microsoft for its deliberately broken Kerberos implementation. People who want to write cross-platform applications or use things like Wine hate Microsoft for Windows’ undocumented, shifting APIs. And so on and on. Very little of the hatred is actually generic–it’s just that there are so many specific things people are pissed off at Microsoft about. And oddly, the very volume of it all ends up making people who haven’t looked into it carefully assume that it *has* to be just some kind of generic hatred of a market leader for being big.

  11. Phlux says:

    Meh…Firefox is overrated. I am a geek, and I really wanted to like Firefox…but I just don’t.

    Microsoft is certainly guilty of not complying with web standards…but I still believe that 75% of the “problems” people have with IE is just anti-microsoft vitriol with little real foundation. People just love to hate good old “M$”

    EDIT: @ Purple Library Guy

    I don’t think that you’re wrong about many people having many specific complaints about microsoft. I certainly won’t defend them against your accusations, as a couple of those infuriate me as well.

    What I will say though, is that 99% or more of the population knows nothing about Kerberos or LDAP and just want to log on to their computer.

    Developers with legitimate grips have every right to criticize microsoft, and they SHOULD, because otherwise nothing will get fixed. But I’m still pretty confident that most of the anti-MS rhetoric on the internet comes from uniformed end-users who hate microsoft but don’t really know why.

  12. wumpus says:


    Why M$ was so cavalier? It has nothing to do with cavalier – it’s strategy, as you said yourself:

    “You can brazenly ignore standards only so long as you have absolute dominance over the market.”

    Others have elaborated on the point already in the comments, but I’ll add my $.02 as well: I work with audio and video compression. There are a variety of standards, the most commonly used being the MPEG standards. M$ actively works to subvert these standards and to substitute their own proprietary non-standards.

    Why? Because their OS (and Office) monopolies allow them to immediately dominate almost any computer (and increasingly, digital communications) market, simply by integrating the appropriate app into Windows and, effectively, giving it away for free. Then developers have the choice of being ‘compliant’ or being ‘compatible’ or trying to do both at increased cost. Guess which one most devs choose?

    And voila, M$’ market dominance is retained and extended.


  13. Zukhramm says:

    One thing.

    Those hacks in websites only activate when they check what broser is used and finds that it’s Internet Explorer. I assume this information about the browser is sent by the broser itself.

    The question is, why does Microsoft simply not change that information to something different and then starts trying to follow the standards as well as they can? Would that not solve this?

  14. WWWebb says:

    “Because they suck and they are evil and I hate them hate them”…I thought you were talking about standards.

    Seriously, talk about market dominance all you want, but W3C takes FOREVER to get anything out. Someone on the IE team probably thought “hmm, we can wait for standards, or we can let our browser do all sorts of ActiveX and Dynamic HTML goodness”.

    Now the activeX stuff was just a security disaster, but if they hadn’t moved ahead on the other visual-neato stuff, then some other browser WOULD have and they would have lost even more market share.

    Standards are slow and are about writing down the neatest things being done TWO YEARS AGO, not the nifty things someone will want to do next year. Web standards are the result of someone doing something neat and everyone else saying “wait, wait. We want to do that too. Don’t do anything else new until we figure it out.”

  15. ChattyDm says:

    Your browser stats are in line with mine Shamus. And while I share a sub-part of your readership I have a lot of non technical RPG geeks reading and most are on Firefox now.

  16. Cadamar says:

    Welcome to my world.
    I’ve been building websites (read complex web-based applications) for over 12 years. It’s always been the case that whenever a new browser comes out there is a flurry of testing and tweeking. It eats up a ton of time, effort, and blood pressure.
    Like you, I’ve typically resorted to tables for layout, but you can’t really do that when you are building one of these new fancy-smancy AJAX apps. For example:
    The great majority of my time is taken up by making it look right in the largest market share browser (IE) and then tweeking things until it looks right in Firefox and Safari.

    Personally I like Firefox. It does some obnoxious things (like not rendering DIVs that have no content but are given a height, width, and background image in CSS), but I can be sure that it will render the same on both a windows machine and a mac. Safari on the other hand just needs to die.

    You browser numbers are interesting. It really shows how skewed your audience is. ;)
    What shocks me is that f’ing POS Netscape still shows up at all. It’s dead! Give it up! No really, it’s officially dead. Switch to Firefox already!

  17. Thad says:

    While a lot of us might prefer Firefox, most businesses go with the default of Microsoft operating system with Microsoft products, thus Microsoft dominance.

  18. Cadamar says:

    Zukhramm – Yes, the information is sent by the browser to the server and is also avialable to Javascript on the client-side. Generally the use of browser sniffing / browser specific code is frowned upon. Typically it is much better in Javascript, for example, to check for the existance of a class or method that is different between browsers before trying to use it. CSS can be a little trickier, but browsers tend to simply ignore CSS that it doesn’t understand.
    If you are to use a browser sniff to determine to use a hack then you should restrict it to only the browser version that you know needs to use it. For example, IE6 didn’t not support alpha-transparency in PNG images. You had to use a hack in the CSS to make it work at all. However, MS added support in IE7. So really the code should only check for IE6. The problem is that many developers either don’t bother sniffing the version or they assumed that the problem would also be in all future versions. Which causes the problems with IE8…

  19. Zukhramm says:

    ” The problem is that many developers either don't bother sniffing the version or they assumed that the problem would also be in all future versions. Which causes the problems with IE8…”

    Which means that if Microsoft decided to change that information about the browser a small bit those problems would be gone, right?

  20. Taellosse says:

    I haven’t followed this particular drama especially closely, but I do remember several instances over the years, after IE beat Netscape into the dirt, of Microsoft making various attempts to push proprietary technologies into web standards. I think that’s the key to their behavior in this arena–they were trying to turn the internet into another monopoly for themselves–they were trying to leverage their power with IE in the browser market to force the standards to become things that would make them money from developers. The strategy failed mostly because people really didn’t want to have to pay Microsoft on top of their web hosts to make cool web pages, I think.

  21. Uninverted says:

    I haven't followed this particular drama especially closely, but I do remember several instances over the years, after IE beat Netscape into the dirt, of Microsoft making various attempts to push proprietary technologies into web standards. I think that's the key to their behavior in this arena”“they were trying to turn the internet into another monopoly for themselves”“they were trying to leverage their power with IE in the browser market to force the standards to become things that would make them money from developers. The strategy failed mostly because people really didn't want to have to pay Microsoft on top of their web hosts to make cool web pages, I think.

    I couldn’t agree more. They manage to become a part of nearly all software with .NET, nearly all media-ing with WMP, and nearly all computing with Windows. As soon as the internet started to get popular, there had to be a Microsoft Browser, standards be damned. And I hate them and they’re bad and I hate them.

  22. Vegedus says:

    I just want to know why IE8 can’t just ignore the IE specific quirks like every other browser does. Yes, a code targeted at IE should be executed in IE, but IE8 is IE in name alone. In the code, it could pretend it was anything it would like.

  23. Kayle says:

    When Microsoft introduced IE 5, it was one of the more standards compliant browsers; Netscape’s 4.x series was far worse. Netscape didn’t get a seriously improved browser until the Gecko rendering engine was finally available, years too late for the company.

    It seemed that as Microsoft released IE 5.5, 6.0, then 7, they did improve standards compliance generally, but also tended to break standards in new ways as well as break old workarounds.

    Side note: Internet Explorer Mac 5 introduced a new layout engine which achieved the best standards compliance of any Microsoft browser (still? or until 8?), why didn’t they bring it over to the Windows product line?

  24. mockware says:

    The problem I see is that the web grows faster than the standard keepers can keep up. Web browsing companies come up with a nifty new Tag or feature to put in the browsers and hurry it to market so they can stay relevant. You definitely don’t want your competition to know about it until you’ve put it out there because this is all about competition. Unfortunately, your competition is having many of the same ideas or ideas similar enough that there will be a clash of codes later on. After a couple months of the browsers being released, the standards people have to come in and decide which implementation is “the right one.” Now the company with “the wrong implementation” has to decide if they want to upset their customer base or possible new customers. If you dominate the market, the decision is easy. There is nothing sinister going on. It is just the old addage “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” The same with undocumented API in the OS. A programmer is desparately trying to find a quick or easier way to accomplish something with an application and he works at the same company that develops the OS. Is he going to pull out some vague documentation on the API or just sneak a peek at the OS code to see how it works and find a function that does what he wants and not bother checking that it was official API or some internal (undocumented) OS function.

  25. Jamez says:

    Joel Sapolsky has a wonderful article about Web Standards, which I think everyone interested in this particular issue should read. Specifically, he discusses the problems with the notion of a “Web Standard”. I certainly think that anyone who wants to attack Microsoft (Or Netscape, or Mozilla, or Apple, or whoever) for not adhering to standards should read it.
    It begins with the question “What the hell is a standard” and goes from there. It’s a long read, but fascinating.

  26. Stats from my own site show 58% Firefox, 32% IE, and then a mix of the usual suspects.

    As for Microsoft’s motivation for breaking standards, there are four explanations:

    (1) Laziness. They couldn’t be bothered to be compliant, and due to their monopolistic practices they had no motivation for not being lazy.

    (2) Incompetency. ’nuff said.

    (3) Maintaining monopoly. For a significant period of time the 95-98% marketshare they enjoyed meant that many businesses and websites just didn’t bother trying to make sure their webpages were compliant with other products. Some webpages and features wouldn’t work at all, displaying a “you must be using IE” message if you weren’t, in fact, using IE. By keeping their browser slightly out of synch with the rest of the market, they inhibited the ability for other browsers to compete with them.

    (4) Innovation. Sometimes, Microsoft was honestly ahead of the pack. They wanted IE to be able to do something and there wasn’t a standard for it yet.

    If they had been smart, they would have worked harder to get their innovations established as the standard. But they tended to only do this when it was to their advantage and nobody else’s (and have a track record of abusing the standards processes in attempts to hurt their competition). This, along with their other monopolistic practices, tends to make everyone else (legitimately) paranoid when Microsoft decides to get involved in a standards process.

    When Microsoft’s figurative HD-DVDs would get rejected by the standards committee, though, they tended to stay home and sulk instead of releasing their movies on Blu-Ray. (Kinda like George Lucas sulked after his beloved buy-to-rent, DRM-laden DIVX discs got rejected by the marketplace.)

  27. @Jamez: Shamus actually talked about that article a couple days ago. Its a decent article in terms of its overall discussion, but Joel’s conclusions are completely whacked.

  28. lplimac says:

    Where I work IE is the standard for PC’s and they recommend Firefox for Mac’s. So of course I use Safari at work on my Mac. But for one good reason-it can play with the java that was written (internally) to access the on-line timecard system that was designed for IE where Firefox currently can’t. The head of our Information (Technology) Office has a group, headed by the newly minted CIO, working on getting Firefox compliant with all the current and future intranet based web applications (which is a function of designing the apps correctly of course). They have done a far job but it still needs work, the main job being getting a new timecard system that can work with Firefox, both Mac and PC versions as well as IE so they can switch over.
    The real problem though is at this company departments have a tendency to go out side to get web apps with out letting IT know until they have a designed and paid for app (which only work with IE natch) . With luck the new CIO can change that.

  29. Spam Vader says:

    I have an idea on how to implement standards!

    Delete all web pages. Better get rid of all browsers too. Make one perfect way to make pages, and force people to sign up to a monolithic system in order to make a page. They’re sent a Harge German Mistressbot to stand over their shoulder and berate them for every mistake they make until they fix it. Now, then we only allow one browser to exist, so that 100% of pages and browsers are compliant. Then you have your standards implemented.

  30. Robert says:

    I like Safari. I do a lot of photography, and Safari is the only browser I’ve found that actually pays attention to colour profiles in images.

  31. Rhykker says:

    I skimmed through the comments and didn’t see this directly stated, but perhaps implied.

    The 80% statistic is likely accurate, simply because of PCs used for businesses. Just think of the hordes of near-identical PCs in an office building. Unless the bosses let the employees install whatever they wish, or even give them the privileges to be able to install anything at all, then I’m sure the great majority of those PCs will be running IE. And I wouldn’t be surprised if at least 50% of all computers in the world are owned by businesses or organizations, as opposed to private-use computers.

  32. BlckDv says:

    I’m going to keep this very short, so as to keep my own bias infiltration to a minimum.

    EDIT: I didn’t keep it that short, my apologies. /EDIT

    Microsoft launched IE into a world in which a browser (Netscape) existed that most of the reasonably tech savvy but not code reading folks were already content with. this meant that they had to make a product which would drive users to it, or at least make the existing one less fun to use.

    Early webpages were really badly sloppy, and so standards were not exactly being adhered to when Microsoft came onto the scene, making it less attractive to enshrine as a golden principle of IE development.

    MS has long had a product cross-promotion philosophy, and so IE was as much, if not more, a product to push adoption of MS “approved” web technology as websites moved beyond HTML. Anyone remember Blackbird?

    Mix this all in a pot, and MS wanted to make a Web Browser that a) Rendered sloppy non-compliant pages as well as or better than Netscape. b) Made users happy with the product, and feel like changing browsers was a “risky” choice that might make their web experiance more of a hassle and c) incorporated new web technologies that were more firmly under Microsoft’s control, where they could dictate what the standards were, with a likely eventual goal of moving “past” HTML and making the non-MS web standards a moot issue.

    It did not work out so well. There are a number of good web log articles about how MS lost the developer dedication to their API, and how coders embraced non-MS dictated OS independent standards (And MS isn’t stupid; their .NET suites have done a brilliant job of getting them back in to that fight.. but at costs still unknown to the core).

    So now, HTML, and the also not MS driven CSS, are the core of the Web, and products live or die by those standards, fancy happy server side dynamic scripts may be fun and powerful… but they remain a much smaller share of the web. MS did well enough that for years their powerbase has compelled coders to do double work to appease their users, but now we have reached a point where enough people are *aware* that the standard exists, and that it is Microsoft that is not following it.. that the question “If we let MS IE break, would the customers leave us, or get another browser?” Becomes an askable question… and MS knows it, and so they have to roll the dice; conform, or hold tight.

    OK, not so short, but hopefully not too biased… summary; the really, really sloppy web code of the early browser days gave MS little reason to be strict with standards, and MS culture gave them reasons not to… but now the chickens have come home to roost.


  33. Roxysteve says:

    You guys are cute. You talk about web standards like they were there to read and everyone just did what they felt like for years, then in rode the Firefox team, who were the only guys who felt like reading the RFCs.


    Back in the old days of NN 4.0 and before, it was Netscape who were the non-compliance kings, and proudly so. MSIE 4 was actually more compliant than NN 4 with the “so far so good” standards that the various sub committees were galacially getting out into the world where they were supposed to be used.

    But you know what? It was still the popular fiction that Netscape was the one in compliance and bigbad MSIE that was doing it all wrong.

    If you want standards compliance the first thing you have to do is kick the bloody accademics officially in charge of putting out the specs for CSS, XML and Azathoth-knows what else into working to real-world timescales so that de-facto standards don’t have to be engineered along “best guess” lines.

    Yes Microsoft has an agenda. Yes it is not to the advantage of the web community (like there was only one) as much as it is to further MS business interests. Yes they play rough. I imagine they learned that trick from the people who put out Wordperfect (who were not pleased that the embryonic Word was out there and tried every dirty trick in the book to kill it) and Netscape who built Navigator very early on with fistfulls of non-compliant “extensions” that they hoped would become the way everyone would want to do things and incidentally give the Netscape team a code-under-the-belt advantage it would take years to erode, years in which Netscape could pull the same trick over and over again so the other guys could never catch up.

    What, you thought this was all Big Bad Bill’s idea? They teach this sort of stuff at business school.

    That said, it’s hard to design your document model around a standard that is only 3/4 written down and the rest is word of mouth for the next couple of years or so. I’ve no doubt something will change that will utterly break Firefox within five years. It’s the nature of the beast.

    A pox on CSS anyway. All this fuss over separating content from presentation when the vast majority of what people want to see over the web comes in the form of single, large JPGs*.

    Funny old world.



    * – Like DM of the Rings. What did you think I meant?

  34. Roxysteve says:

    Dot Net. Understanding .NET comes easier when you know that it is was and will be a strategic tool to get Java out of the web.

    This, in and of itself, is a laudible goal worth anything up to and including signing pacts with the dark lord hisself.

    We hates the nassssty Java my precious, so we does.


  35. LeFarr says:

    I love the little Firefox illustration. And I agree. Firefox is just getting too powerful. The only reason IE is popular is it ships with most windowses.

  36. d4b3ll3z says:

    I think you really answered your own question, at least in part, earlier in your blog. Everyone knows that when you buy Windows it comes with IE. That’s a given. You have to go out of your way to find Firefox, or any of the other browsers, and then install them onto your computer. I think it boils down to the simplicity of using a computer in respect to the complexity of understanding a computer.

    Everyone pretty much knows how to use a computer these days. My grandpap, who swore he’d never use one, is even considering taking computer lessons. It’s literally point-and-click and typing. People will generally use what’s given to them, and when it doesn’t work, scratch their heads and grumble. Until recently, my mom didn’t know there were any other browsers besides IE and complained about how buggy it was constantly.

    THAT is where Microsoft gets its profitability in being non-compliant – it’s simply a matter of mass ignorance on the level of most internet users. Luckily that is changing and, as you said, Microsoft is either going to have to shape up or become a victim of its own failings.

  37. ngthagg says:

    Two things:

    I use Firefox by choice at home, but I work I use IE because that’s what my company has. I would suspect for a lot of people at my work (a couple hundred), the majority of their browsing is at work. Like a lot of things, it’s the business world that drives those numbers, and it would take a dedicated IT guy to change an entire company away from a Microsoft product, when you consider that Firefox doesn’t make any kind of bid to supply computer software.

    Second, that old link complaining about web standards has a couple of errors. Specifically, you use “depreciated” instead of “deprecated”. They are related words, but not in the sense of computer standards.

    Is there any irony in calling out errors in a year old post which is about “needlessly pedantic” standards? Nah.

  38. Kristin says:

    Another non-IE at home, IE at school. I like Opera much much better than IE now. I didn’t want to switch and resisted it because I don’t like change. But when IE went tabbed, I switched to Opera.
    My mom uses Firefox and my dad uses Opera so that they can share a computer without messing up each other’s cookies.
    But my school uses IE because that’s what comes bundled with the computers they buy. They actually are pretty good about technology for a redneck West Texas town, but they prefer filters and adult supervision to prevent viruses over having to install Opera or Firefox on over a hundred computers in the district.

  39. Kobyov says:

    I work at the ITS helpdesk at my university, and we have an unofficial policy of installing firefox on everyones computers we touch (with permission of course), and recomending that they use that and only that – to the extent that I have deleted the IE icon and renamed firefox ‘Internet’ on some computers. This is because we can then give people the quickproxy extension so that they dont go through our proxy and waste our bandwith. We have even started doing it on macs, even though locations do the same thing, because of that lovely crash-on-authenticated-sites safari bug.

    And yeah, I agree with the idea that while IE was dominant, non-compliance was in the best interests of its bottom line. Looks like they have to swallow their own bitter pills now, but hopefully the internet will be better for it.

  40. scragar says:

    @ Kristin: your parents should proberly look into the cookie swap extention of firefox, would definatly stop cookies getting confused. <– ctrl+f for “Microsoft Corporation” – if Microsoft have people at the w3c I see no reason why they cannot comply to the standards more than they currently do, IE7 is a nice step in the right direction, but it’s still missing a lot.

    As for the point about netscape being a bad standards browser I just want to agree, it was bad, however once the source was opened up it very quickly became more compatable.

  41. J says:

    Roxysteve says it hard and says it right. I’ve always been of the opinion that Microsoft really gets more hate than their fair share. A lot of what they did/do/will do, dirty tricks, incompetence, non-compliance and all, I can easily picture any other company in their position doing. These tactics are not new.

    That said, the sheer popularity of Firefox puzzles me. I suppose it works well enough for the typical user, but so does IE. If it does more exotic technical things, that’s beyond my understanding. I only remember that my first impression was that it was just so darned slow. Slow to load, slow to re-load (“warm” boot), just… slow. This was true for the clunker I used 3 years ago and this is still true on my new machine now (less so, probably due to hardware).

    I can believe that IE has an “unfair” advantage here because of its integration, but Opera doesn’t suffer from this loading lag and is even faster than IE, so I can only assume this time is due to poor coding.

    (FYI, I run 3 browsers, IE, Firefox and Opera, and switch between them from time to time. Quick and dirty cookie separation.)

  42. McNutcase says:

    In a way, it’s satisfying to see Microsoft being punched in the yamsack by their own acknowledged policy of “Embrace, Extend, Extinguish”.

    It’d be a lot more satisfying to see sites quit coding for IE and start coding for standards. It really toasts my donkey that in this day and age there are STILL sites which will throw you out if you’re not using IE. Some of them even go to the trouble of detecting user-agent spoofing (yes, it is possible to detect UA spoofing). Microsoft have a lot to answer for when it comes to What They Did To The Web…

  43. scragar says:

    @ J: Firefox 3 is in beta4, and almost ready to be released(infact, it’s a working browser with tons of features, some plugin’s and features don’t work though. Anyone participate in the test day today btw?), and is currently the fastest browser I know of other then lynx(which is a text only browser accounting for it’s speed). Firefox 2 suffers from a bug in it’s particular version of the gecko engine which causes a very slow load (incidentaly, this is still far faster than IE7).
    If your after a fast browser(and don’t want to try the Fx3 beta) I recomend either a KHTML browser(or safari which is based off the KHTML engine) or opera.

  44. GAZZA says:

    Why is Microsoft in this mess? I think the answer is that they didn’t, in fact, develop IE3 – they bought it from another company. The rest follows from there – Microsoft generally always pushes for backward compatibility at all costs (at least historically this has been true; Vista is one of their big breaks, and it seems not to have been a popular one).

    A better question would be why Firefox et al are so much better at it than Microsoft – and the answer there is alluded to by Rebecca #3 above: a lot of programmers use Firefox, it’s open source, and if it doesn’t do what it should you can go in and fix it yourself. The open source model tends to make better quality software, in my opinion – if it weren’t for games, none of my home machines would have Windows on them.

    As an aside, I’ve always been curious as to why the RPG and computer savvy crowd have such a large crossover. Any ideas what percentage of your regular readers are programmers, Shamus? (I’m am, to start you off ;) ).

  45. Luke Maciak says:

    Shamus, it’s called embrace and extend. MS took web standards, and implemented them their way. Since they had near monopoly over the browser market at the time, web developers had to be creating web pages that would look nice in IE.

    Since they decimated Netscape, and there was little competition on the market testing towards standards was less important than testing towards IE. So it created an environment where a lot of pages looked great in IE but were not standards compliant. Any competing compliant browser emerging from the woodwork would run into pages that simply didn’t work, making sure that adoption rate of non IE browsers was low.

    I’ve been using Mozilla browsers long before Firefox, ehm.. Firebird ever came out. I distinctly remember frequently bashing various government and corporate sites would just not work in my favorite browser. There was a time when I didn’t even consider installing a Mozilla browser on computers of friends and relatives because I knew they wouldn’t be able to use poorly coded but popular sites X, Y and Z with it.

    The IE non-compliance was essentially a barrier erected to make it harder for any other browser to threaten IE monopoly. And it worked well for a while.

  46. Dan Morrison says:

    I just described one of my own reasons for the absolute hatred of IE as opposed to mere dislike or frustration. And it’s not to do with standards.

    As some (like Kayle) have observed.
    – In the early days, It was Netscape that had the serious market domination. They ‘abused’ it with their own extensions also.
    – Early IE actually did a few things in better ways (eg Layers vs DOM, or slightly stricter rendering of really badly-formed markup)
    – Neither camp spent serious effort on standards, when adding features was much more fun. Script, Marquee, Plugin Object embeds and many more all were implimented ahead of any W3C ‘standards’ spec.

    The whole “Firefox is better at standards” only came after the Netscape/Firefox split and after the standards were actually written.

  47. Winter says:


    I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say Firefox got its start from people who just “hate MS”. For a long time (a real long time) Internet Explorer was static–no updates, no bug fixes, no new technology added. Then along comes Mozilla (which was, frankly, crud–but it was a start) and then Firefox (the good part). Firefox promised a 5 mb download (currently 5.7) and that it would crash less (anyone remember the continuous IE crashes? I do…) and be as fast or faster (well… MS still cheats here) and support all kinds of new things like proper CSS support and (gasp) standard HTML/XHTML support.

    The support for standards was only one of many features, but once Firefox (and similarly, other browsers with support for “standard” HTML) took off the world got split into two camps: IE (old, buggy, nasty) and everything else (new, shiny, and nasty but in generally tolerable ways). The internet has moved on from IE, and just updating old IE (to IE7) wasn’t enough for MS to staunch the bleeding. Now the internet is standards and Microsoft is playing catch-up with IE8… only… they also want to maintain backwards compatibility with their intentionally-crippled browser.

    They can’t have both and they did this to themselves.

    Except, actually, they can have both–as i will explain (or rather, as someone else will explain for me) below. But they won’t, probably.

    Zukhramm said:

    The question is, why does Microsoft simply not change that information to something different and then starts trying to follow the standards as well as they can? Would that not solve this?

    The answer is: I don’t know, and it would solve this.

    I linked to “Reality Distortion Field” (on the post on Joel Spolsky’s post) who explains that…

    So [a successful transition from IE7 to IE8] would involve giving IE8 a new UA string identity [User Agent–basically the browser’s identification string as it is sent to web servers], making document.all evaluate to false as an if condition, and keeping the old Intranet Explorer as an optional side-by-side install for a few years.

    By breaking from the past IEs Microsoft could, indeed, sidestep these problems.

    But they probably won’t.

    As an additional note, to all those people wondering “how in the heck did we get here??” you can all sit down by the fireside and i’ll tell you all a story.

    Because i was there.

    Back in the day, when the web was young, Netscape was the dominant browser. At the time, people were making all kinds of crazy predictions: in the future the “desktop” would be irrelevant, all applications would be web apps, you would do your taxes in a web browser, you would do teleconferencing in the web browser, etc. The world was a thin client (in the future!!) and computers were their web browsers! It was a glorious, shiny, neon future and it was mostly ridiculous. Of course, we now have internet spreadsheets, internet banks, internet commerce, internet word processing, and so on. But these things have supplemented (ie) Microsoft Office, rather than replacing it.

    Microsoft feared this future, because they were a “mere” OS company and were being left out of it–somewhat intentionally, i suspect. People hated and feared them, and for good reason. So Microsoft nabbed a web browser and made it their own.

    Of course, if you have Netscape and Internet Explorer now you have competition! How do you differentiate yourself from the competition? Well, you can cut the price or increase features. Both solutions were used, by both Netscape and Internet Explorer.

    Of course, if you just better implement HTML that’s not really a feature–or it wasn’t perceived as one. Furthermore, a feature had to be something that wouldn’t be instantly copied by the competition. So it couldn’t be an open standard, it had to be sneaky and full of holes. Both Netscape and IE pushed these broken features.

    Furthermore, Microsoft decided that they would just make the web browser the operating system–then they didn’t need to worry about “thin clients”! So they tied Internet Explorer into the OS and made it free, as well as forcing OEMs and the like to package IE and not Netscape Navigator or similar programs.

    Netscape also went free, and sued MS on top of that. After being found guilty and sentenced to being broken into pieces, the Bush admin(!) came to power and the case was mostly dropped on appeal–the prosecution sought a much, much lesser penalty and MS got off (in my opinion) pretty damn nearly free.

    But that’s all history now.

    Eventually, Netscape crumbled. They shot out an “escape pod” (in the form of Mozilla/Gecko) and were bought up by AOL. Meanwhile, Microsoft (having successfully staved off the threat of losing their OS/application monopoly) sort of shrugged their shoulders and went on to work on things more their style.

    The intentional incompatibilities in Internet Explorer remained. There was no real attempt to fix them before IE8 and, to a lesser extent, IE7. Since these didn’t necessarily make it into the standards, nobody else uses them. (They might also be impossible to implement reasonably in, ie, Linux.)

    As i mentioned above: Microsoft did this to themselves. They may argue that, in context, their actions were not really bad… but nonetheless, it is not the fault of the standards people or other browsers or web developers. It is Microsoft’s mess to clean up. It can be done (the technical hurdles can be overcome) but Microsoft has resisted this path.

    At least, in IE8, they’re starting to try to do the right thing.

  48. This is why I put notices on sites. “Best viewed using Firefox” and then I put a small logo of their’s with a link to the download site.

    Of course I have to make the sites look perfect in both FF and IE, but IE keeps breaking their own stuff so I figure this is my way of playing it safe. If it ends up ‘broken’ it’s totally not my fault.. see the notice. heh

  49. Jansolo says:

    Hello Cadamar, we live in the same world ;)

    Kayle has pointed the key: Microsoft didn’t have the monopoly when they released their first versions of IExplorer.

    Worse than that, IExplorer 3 didn’t work correctly. Netscape had the best browser. Moreover, at these days, Bill Gates thought that the Internet would be unimportant. And he told us (as he did with earlier the amount of memory necessary for computers)

    So I don’t agree Justin Alexander. The main purpose for breaking standards was creating monopoly

    When Microsoft realised they had have a mistake with the Internet approach, they focus on web development. The intention was to make easy the web pages development. Remember ASP.

    What about HTML? For IExplorer, it doesn’t matter whether the code is right or wrong, the browser is going to show the page as you expected.

    Suddenly, all inexperienced programmers preferred IExplorer. And, in this years, almost all the programmers was inexperienced and a lot of them not computer related (nor engieneering neither programmers)

    This is the easy way to ignore a standard.

    Then came the monopoly: IExplorer within Windows, that is, for 90% computers, the “by default” option.

    Now, a choice between standards or functionality is not an option for a developer, because a developer doesn’t choose, he or she obeys the customer rules.

    I use Firefox. But I find a lot of old web applications that don’t work but in IExplorer, so we need to maintain them as they are.

    Moreover, Microsoft creates some bugs with new releases, but the backward compatibility usually works.

    That is important, because there is no need of a new development. Just fix some bugs and everything goes well in all browsers. In all IExplorer browser, I mean, the browser expected by the users.

  50. Strangeite says:

    I just checked Google Analytics and the browser statistics are interesting.

    On the webpage I host for a bluegrass music festival, over 87% of users are using IE. Amazingly, 39% are still using IE 6 (4% of them are using Windows ME. yuck). And, I have noticed about 8% are now coming from iPods.

    The webpage for a newspaper publisher has a 67% market share for Firefox. 24% for Safari and the rest spread out over IE, iPod, Opera, etc.

    The other pages I host have similarly divergent market shares. So this leads me to conclude audience is a HUGE factor in browser choice.

  51. Josh says:

    So when you actually look into one of the complaints about Microsoft, you’re forced to acknowledge that it’s valid? Funny how that works.

  52. RHJunior says:

    look, no matter how you put it, it all boils down to user friendliness. I switched to Firefox for a multiplicity of reasons—better features, better speed, fewer crashes, the usual fruit cocktail of “M$ $uck$” complaints— but the main reason was that I learned that the pages I cobbled together that looked FINE to me in IE were broken all to hell in every other browser (a rather important issue for a webcartoonist!) If it worked on Firefox, it worked on IE, but not necessarily the other way around. So I switched to Firefox so I could see what it was I was actually doing.

    IE’s strong point isn’t it’s incompatibility, it’s that when it comes to HTML it’s largely “idiot tolerant.” It will choke down mistakes that would gag other browsers, and still allow the page to function more or less as intended.
    Unfortunately it only takes a certain threshold of alternative browser usage before this becomes a bug, not a feature.

  53. Daosus says:

    Could someone explain to me why Microsoft or Mozilla would care how many people use their browser?

  54. James says:

    in regard to the Firefox > IE usage of your site,
    keep in mind that of the countless people who still use IE, most many of them aren’t computer-savy. they use IE because that’s what came with their computer. I’ve noticed that the more technologically advanced a user is, the more he or she perfers Firefox (though the more we are also aware of its shortcomings).

    *shrugs* just a thought.

  55. J wrote: “That said, the sheer popularity of Firefox puzzles me.”

    When I switched to Firefox it featured many features that IE didn’t — most noticeably the awesomeness which is tabs; easily exported bookmarks; and a default pop-up blocker. It was also less buggy and less likely to be a vector for viruses.

    IE also had the “lovely” feature at the time of resetting your homepage to MSN every single time you updated. And since Microsoft sent out weekly updates to fight all the security problems they had, it meant that I was constantly having to reset my homepage. Suck-tastic.

    Another minor advantage Firefox had at the time was the way the address bar was handled. In IE, if you started typing a new address into the address bar while a page was loading, when the page finished loading the address bar would reset to the current page. It was a minor annoyance, but a persistent one. (Particularly since IE didn’t have tabs.)

    IE has now added many of these features and gotten rid of some of its problems. (This is, coincidentally, why competition is a good thing. I doubt IE would have tabs even today, for example, if it wasn’t for their competitors pushing the envelope.) But it’s too late to win me back by being “just as good” as Firefox: I’m already a Firefox user. I’m used to its interface. You have to be noticeably superior to Firefox before I’ll consider switching back, and IE hasn’t gotten there.

    Similarly, I was originally a Netscape user. IE won me over back then by becoming the noticeable superior product.

    And as much as IE has improved, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to exceed Firefox. Indeed, just as IE is finally getting around to catching up to Firefox 2, Firefox 3 is just around the corner — pushing that envelope.

    And I’ll admit that I loathe monopolies (which are inherently anti-capitalistic even if they happen to arise out of capitalistic systems), so if I’m given an even choice between what a company with a monopolistic history is offering and what anybody else is offering, I’ll generally favor the “anybody else”.

    By contrast, after dabbling with OpenOffice I continue using Microsoft Word. Why? Because Word is the superior package. The morons behind OpenOffice haven’t managed to add basic functionality to their word processor, despite the fact that people have been asking for it since 2006 and the design team acknowledges its probably the #1 reason why people don’t adopt their software. That’s a level of gross incompetency which not only makes the software useless to me (and millions of others), but also raises the question of what other idiocy might be lurking in their implementation.

  56. Gary says:

    I am not particularly computer-savvy, but I most definitely use firefox. Why? I like the find function. As far as I am concerned, the find function in FF in miles ahead of IE. Other than that, I don’t care. I’ve noticed no particular increase of speed in either browser. IE has gotten tabs, which I adore. No difference but the find function.

    Weird huh?

    EDIT: I find it weird but awesome that one of my favorite webcartoonists reads your the site of another one of my favorite webcartoonists. That is, RHJunior, and Shamus

  57. Viktor says:

    Tabs are awesome. For a while, IE lacked them, which was fairly annoying. Yes, the find is also better, and the lack of bugs is a definite plus, but back when it mattered, Firefox was better. Plus, stuff like this standards thing really gets annoying fast. Microsoft has some real PR issues, above and beyond everything else.

  58. Nick says:

    IMO, the problem is solely the fault of web developers. What do you think would have happened if every site was designed to the W3C guidelines? The IE users would see a bunch of crap and eventually the Internet would be unusable to them and they would either have to pester MS for a browser that worked or they would use a proper browser. I personally design to the guidelines, they are there for a reason.

  59. MaxEd says:

    I was on the other side of the wall when I started trying to use Dynamic HTML in my pages. I made pages that worked in IE and used non-standard Microsoft extensions and hated all the other browsers in which my pages wouldn’t show right (especially Opera). My favorite thing was to use “all” collection to access elements of page, and Netscape/Opera didn’t support this. Grrrr.

  60. Viktor says:

    Nick has almost the right idea. If even one “top ten” website put it’s foot down and said they wouldn’t code away from standards, Microsoft would probably have to comply. If their browser won’t render Wikipedia or Youtube, they won’t want to ship. That alone might be enough to force them to do the right thing.

  61. @Gary: Yeah, I’d forgotten the Find function. IE still hasn’t gotten that right. I wish Microsoft would adopt this in general, because it would be pretty useful in pretty much every Office app.

    @Nick: It’s trivial to say that… unless, of course, you’re actually designing a website which people actually need to use. In which case, deliberately designing a website that 98% of the user base can’t use is a good way to get fired.

    Now, once IE started to lose market share it became a lot easier to stand up to their nonstandard bullshit. And the more marketshare they lose, they easier that will be. (Which is probably why they’re suddenly all gung-ho about standards. They can read the writing on the wall.)

    @Viktor: You’d think that. But considering that this story got its start specifically because Microsoft is seriously thinking about shipping a version of IE that isn’t displaying webpages correctly, I think you’re flying in the face of Microsoft’s unreason.

  62. ArchU says:

    The following is entirely speculation on my part.

    It may simply have been based on the philosophy that it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I mean by that, that MS has the clout and audacity to steamroll ahead with whatever they desire to do and offer to fix their mistakes later (but no complicated software development is perfect on the first release so patches are inevitable) in order to race ahead to gain the market share. Only in this case relying on brute force to accelerate a solution also escalated the problem too rapidly into a world-wide scale of billions of web pages. And all of them need fixing because of this.

    The problem therein lies with the decision of MS developers to revert to standards compliance. My guess is that the slip in market share has prompted an investigation into why other browsers are becoming more successful and in order to compete a major overhaul is required. The overhaul means optimising and streamlining code to reduce the size of the overall “bloated” software package (refer to the download size of IE versus other web browsers), which means removing redundancy.

    Most of that redundancy probably originates from various hacks created early on during the steamrolling phase. Removing the redundancy means, probably, starting from square one and building up the new browser from sensibility and appropriate standards instead of trying to rebuild the old cut-together one which, after certain editing, may cease to work.

    I don’t think MS are doing a community service here in trying to repent for a past wrong. They are trying to right a past mistake but only for their benefit – to regain lost ground in releasing a more stable, more efficient and more cost-effective (at least, to download) browser.

  63. Michelle says:

    Okay…I’m a web designer.

    IE is a constant pain for me. Not because I just hate microsoft. I don’t, I use office and windows. But IE has not only does not comply with standards, makes things up.

    MS has an IE blog, their stated reason is that’s our fault for not following standards.

    Now this is false…any web designer worth her salt would be more than willing to tare out all those hacks the instant MS beget a standards compliant brower. Instead they just change the hack character from version to version and call it fixed.

    I have no hope for IE 8.

  64. John Marley says:

    “It forced commercial developers to either choose between the ubiquitous default browser which does things the wrong way vs. the rest of the browsers, OR expend extra time/effort/money to support both.”

    Yeah, just try to stream a movie from Netflix. It only works with IE.

  65. ArchU says:

    #64, John Marley: Because IE is still the most popular browser, Netflix prolly tailored their site for it. It doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do by web standards but for good business it is.

  66. Deoxy says:

    Congratulations, John Marley – you not only missed the entire point of this thread, I think you missed the entire thread, which is pretty impressive.

  67. @ArchU: Actually, my guess is that Netflix is contracturally obligated to use the DRM built into XP and Vista. (The streaming won’t work at all on earlier versions of Windows.) That’s also why it only works with IE.

  68. NBSRDan says:

    Microsoft’s philosophy is that the cost of the personnel, resources, and time required to create stand-adherent, quality products is greater than the cost of customers lost as a result of defective products. This is the reason we saw a 50% Xbox 360 failure rate and countless released alphas of Windows Vista.

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