Opera: Setting the record straight on Microsoft and Web standards

Summary:Not surprisingly, Opera Software took issue with my blog post yesterday on "Why Opera's antitrust complaint against Microsoft is a bad idea." Opera Chief Technology Officer Hakon Wium Lie asked for a chance to respond to my points. Here is why Opera believes the European Commission should get involved in the browser-standards issue.

Not surprisingly, Opera Software took issue with my blog post yesterday on "Why Opera's antitrust complaint against Microsoft is a bad idea."

Opera: Setting the record straight on Microsoft and Web standards

My premise: Whatever you think of Opera's attempt to get another antitrust court to revisit whether or not Microsoft should be allowed to bundle Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows, Opera's attempt to get courts involved in mandating Web standards compliance is ill-advised.

Opera Chief Technology Officer Hakon Wium Lie asked for a chance to respond to my points. Here is his take on why Opera believes the European Commission should get involved in the browser-standards issue:

Yesterday, we filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission about Microsoft's practices regarding Internet Explorer. There has been some questions about our motives for this and I think it would help if I set the record straight, particularly as it comes to my area of expertise, Web standards.

It has been claimed that we're dredging up the past; the browser issue is dead and it was decided more than a decade ago. Actually, the browser issue is far from dead. The browser is more important now than it ever has been. The Web is exploding with new applications and new services. If we did not file with the Commission at this time, once Microsoft had settled their differences with the Commission, the fight for an open Web could have been lost forever.

To help Microsoft and other browser makers support standards correctly, the Acid2 test was developed and published by the Web Standards Group. When published, it exposed bugs in all browsers. The programmers of Safari, Firefox and Opera got to work quickly and the latest versions of these browsers now pass the difficult test. Microsoft took a very different attitude and has not, seemingly, made any efforts to pass the test. This tells me we must do more than just ask them nicely.

At the same time, we recognize that developers have coded for Internet Explorer and we have no desire to break the Web. We have a group here at Opera that group that works only to improve Web compatibility across devices and browsers. We've even helped to make pages render properly in Internet Explorer. However, it is quite possible to support standards correctly while also rendering legacy content as the author expects. All modern browsers support two rendering modes: "standards" mode and "quirks" mode. We're simply asking Microsoft to make sure that their "standards" mode really support the standards.

Mozilla Corporation's Firefox has made tremendous inroads into Internet Explorer's market share. But even with all the support and marketing Mozilla Corporation, Opera and Apple can muster, Internet Explorer hovers at a global market share of approximately 80%. We believe in free markets, we believe in offering new and innovative products, but we feel that the tight integration of IE with the operating system and its refusal to support standards in the most-used consumer software application puts both developers and consumers in a difficult position.

We're taking up this fight on behalf of those who share our belief in open standards and free choice. We are not seeking money from Microsoft. We are fighting this battle on behalf of open standards in the hope that the Web will remain the dynamic and open community it is. If we lose this battle now, those things will be gone. And I think that's something worth fighting for. I have to say, with all due respect to Wium Lie, I still think bringing courts into the Web standards arena would set a bad precedent. What do you think of Opera's reasons for advocating for the EC to get involved here?

Topics: Browser, Enterprise Software, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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