Fear and loathing of IE 7

Fear and loathing of IE 7

Summary: Hakon Wium Lie, CTO at the Olso, Norway-based Web browser maker Opera, has contributed a stinging commentary to CNET Networks that calls Microsoft out for using Internet Explorer 6 to slow down the adoption of Web standards. Lie, known by many as the father of cascading style sheets (CSS), is hypersensitive about Microsoft's failure to fully embrace the most recent W3C CSS recommendations (in W3C-speak, a "recommendation" is the equivalent of a ratified standard).

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TOPICS: Browser
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Hakon Wium Lie, CTO at the Olso, Norway-based Web browser maker Opera, has contributed a stinging commentary to CNET Networks that calls Microsoft out for using Internet Explorer 6 to slow down the adoption of Web standards. Lie, known by many as the father of cascading style sheets (CSS), is hypersensitive about Microsoft's failure to fully embrace the most recent W3C CSS recommendations (in W3C-speak, a "recommendation" is the equivalent of a ratified standard). Using his history lesson to prove that Microsoft likes to say one thing but do another (when it comes to supporting standards), Lie warns that IE 7 could be more of the same and challenges Microsoft to show up with its new browser for the unofficial W3C-standard CSS 2.1 compatibility test. More precisely, Lie is inviting Microsoft to take the Acid2 Challenge -- a compatibility test suite that's being co-developed by Lie and the Web standards project.

At the end of his contribution, Lie appeals to IE developers and Web users saying:

Show them that other browsers get it right. Explain how embarrassing it will be to release a browser that doesn't live up to community standards and that the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox, Apple Computer's Safari and Opera will increase their user share as a result....What you do is important. The Web will thank you for your efforts...To the Web community I want to say: Microsoft has now been challenged. They will respond, if enough people remind them of the challenge. Please remind them. And, when IE 7 is released, make sure this is the first thing you type into it http://webstandards.org/acid2.

I checked in with Microsoft to see if it would be willing to accept the challenge and according to a spokesperson for the Redmond, WA-based company, it had no response at the time. Nor does a report by News.com's Paul Festa on whether Microsoft will bow to standards pressure say whether or not Microsoft will accept the challenge. But it provides significant evidence that Microsoft appears to be taking standards a bit more seriously. In the report, Festa points to a blog on the issue by Chris Wilson, Microsoft's lead program manager for the Web platform in IE, who writes "We know we have a lot more work to do in addressing our consistency issues with CSS and furthering our coverage of these standards. Expect to see more detail on our plans in IE7 in the future." In the blog, Wilson claims responsibility for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 3 being the first to support CSS at the time it (IE3) came out 1996.

Of course IE 7 isn't even out yet. It was only announced -- something that we all knew was coming even before it was officially coming. Microsoft really had no choice given the delays and retrenching around Longhorn (the codename for the next version of Windows). But, here's what's different this time around: the blogosphere. When IE 6 and all versions previous to it first came out, hardly anybody knew what a blog was (although they did exist). Today, the rules are different. The Web Standards Project's Who We Are page has a few influential names on it that could easily raise the sort of blogosphere cacaphony that would ring in the ears of Microsoft's corner office as well as off the presses of the mainstream media: something Microsoft could do without now that Firefox has already taken a toll on Internet Explorer's usage.

If you ask me, it's likely that Microsoft will look to support all of the key standards. It doesn't have a choice (well, it does if it's suicidal). What's ironic about Lie's challenge is that once Microsoft rises to it, then one of Opera's big differentiators (standards support) gets wiped out. Can Opera survive two free browsers on the market (Mozilla and Firefox)? I've said my piece on Opera before and not much has changed. Fellow ZDNet blogger and ex-State of Utah CIO Phil Windley has other reasons for moving to Firefox and never looking back. Perhaps Opera should rip a page out of Apple's playbook and innovate on top of open source (Firefox in Opera's case) rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. There are certainly plenty of things that a good developer can do with Firefox to come up with something unique. If more people start thinking like Windley (and they most certainly are), the total weight of the Firefox ecosystem is what could do-in Opera while putting a serious dent in IE.

Topic: Browser

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22 comments
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  • Microsoft doesn't have to conform.

    The reality here is that MS still has the giant's share of the browser market. All new windows PC's are shipped with IE. They can come up with a broken, standards non-compliant browser and that's what people will use.

    This has in fact led to the adoption of non W3C standards by other browsers such as mozilla. Opera can scream all they want but it will not make a big impact on IE.

    Btw, I'm a long time opera user and this browser really rocks.
    kraterz
  • If you ask John Carroll

    He will say "Why don't the OTHER browsers have support for M$-only web standards?". With the proliferation of M$ development tools, many websites use FrontPage for their design. The resultant web page is full of non-standard M$-isms, which render fine in IE - and nothing else.

    If M$ were to make IE7 W3C compliant, and then NOT change FrontPage, then this acid2 stuff is all for naught. IE7 would work on ALL webpages, while Firefox and Opera would still look crappy on FrontPage-designed websites.
    Roger Ramjet
    • Well, I would agree with John to a point

      Anything IE only that is simple to implement, should be implemented to decrease Microsoft's advantage. I could be done in a way that would warn users that the website is not standard and ask them if they want to view it in "Microsoft" mode.
      DonnieBoy
  • Opera will still have a particular advantage....

    In a word, speed, particularly for older systems.

    I won't use IE anymore unless I have to.

    Firefox is good. But I've started to notice that, particularly on older machines, it tends to get a little sluggish. I'll admit though that I haven't looked into optimizing the configuration, so perhaps that's where my problem lies.

    Firefox says the requirements are:
    233MHz CPU (500 or greater recommended)
    64MB RAM (128MB or greater recommended)

    Yes, I do have some older systems. On 2 machines, both 500MHz, one with 192MB and one with 128MB, there's an occasional tendency here and there for Firefox to slow down. Not much, but every once in a while I notice a bit of sluggishness rendering.

    I tend to nitpick, though.

    On my dad's machine, 400MHz, and only 64MB of RAM, it's worse. Notably so. If you get more than 2 or 3 tabs open, it definitely takes a hit. On the other hand, my wife's 266 MHz system with 128 MB RAM handles Firefox notably better.

    With my dad's machine, I switched to Opera 7.53, and let me tell you, speed-wise, it's like night and day compared to with Firefox.

    This isn't a knock on Firefox really, it's a good product. But there are probably more old machines out there that are being used, or can still be used, than you might imagine. I don't think that just because they're old they should automatically be relegated to the landfill.

    Anyway, the fact that Opera works so well, and so fast, on machines with older hardware (only requires a Pentium chip, and 16MB RAM . . or 166MHz and 32MB RAM if using Java), definitely gives it a market.

    Might be a niche market . . but hey, if I already know at least two people who can benefit from it, then there's something to be considered.


    Ok, that was kind of rambling. The point is that having two free browsers that follow standards isn't necessarily enough to drive Opera out of business.

    In a way, I'd like to see Firefox work toward increasing its speed and other improvements such that the minimum and recommended requirements become less than they currently are. I highly doubt Internet Explorer will even try in that regard.
    jvahabzadeh
  • Why ??? Are we all clones?

    Why cant microsoft do what they feel like doing?

    Does GM make the exact same car as honda?

    Are Dells the same thinkpads

    Why is there not one Database?

    This is a FREE market if people dont like IE7 then they wont use it

    The only reason people stopped using netscape is because they stopped developing it with new features and functions - the market decided not microsoft.
    sammk@...
    • excellent points!

      But, you are using reason, objection, intelligence, and no hatred or zealotry. That is rare and almost unheard of in the zdnet talkbacks.....
      TechType
    • Agreed

      Hey this is a ZDnet forum, you need more hatrid of MS - sorry M$. They cannot advance, we made the standards in 1999 and they were good enough then, so they are good enough now. No more innovation!
      Can't we all just get along and try to move this society forward. Or am I just being silly.
      bnordberg
      • Yes, you are

        ... being a little silly. True (universal, accessible for all) innovation would be if IE followed the latest standards, and CSS1 too. (As it is it doesn't - see http://www.meyerweb.com/eric/css/edge/complexspiral/glassy.html ) That would allow truly innovative site design.
        naylor83
    • No, but 2+2=4

      So, how'd you like it if some calculators made out that 2+2=4, while some calculator makers decided that, no, 2+2=4.79, and a third calculator manufacturer argued that 2+2 is definately 5.
      naylor83
    • Why??? Are we all Clones?

      Actually, while we are not all Clones and individuality is to be embraced and promoted when and if at all possible, Automakers follow the guidelines set down by governments. They all look different; they all "meet standards" - see my other post.

      Microsoft took the worldwide standards of html and java and created their own. The worldwide standards have not changed to accomodate MS tho MS seems to believe they should. And they continue to operate by their own standards, not the established standards which every one else seems to adhere to.

      There is nothing to prevent MS, Firefox, Opera or anyone else from having its individualized browser. There should have been something in place to prevent Microsoft from flaunting the established standards and "going their own different way" by creating their own standards so very different from the ones the rest of the world agreed to and adhered to.
      windy@...
    • Does GM make the exact same car as honda?

      No. But they do burn the same type of fuel. Think of it this the data is the fuel of the browser and every browser should burn the same type of fuel.
      rhammock
  • An odd view of browsing.

    Let me suggest some countervailing observations that seem self-evident.

    Of course the largest ecosystem surrounding any browser belongs to IE.

    Of course damaging that ecosystem to follow the lead of the WC3 cohort would be suicidal.

    Of course Opera is in business to make money, which they do by offering a different and better product.

    Of course for Opera to abandon what makes them uniquely valuable to build atop FireFox would be ruinous.

    Of course the W3C cohort opposes Microsoft, and has left out of its list of standards innovations essential to Microsoft's future plans.

    Of course Microsoft would abandon its future to cede control to its opponents. Particulrly if FireFox is in fact becoming a competing "platform".

    That said, there are obviously ways Microsoft could respond to legitimate concerns; CSS may well be one. But a realistic attitude has to be that IE is a success, not a failure, and can benefit from improvements, not abandonment.
    Anton Philidor
    • Standards are the bottom level

      Implementing full copmliance with CSS 2 or 2.1 doesn't mean that MS can't have all the other non-standard bells and whistles that they please in IE.

      Think of it like a small econo-box car versus a high-end luxury sports car. They can both implement all of the required safety standards, fuel, dimensions, and what not and still be differentiated.

      The complaint against MS and IE is that they're not even bothering to implement the core standards in an effort to force use of their product which they are promoting via a desktop monopoly.
      Robert Crocker
      • What does the desktop have to do with HTML Standards?

        .
        TechType
  • MS sets the standard, right?

    Isn't the standard to make all web applications compatible with IE? Has that changed?
    scott1329
  • Microsoft meets browser needs

    Microsoft ships a file manger with Windows. It meets the basic needs of most users and I think most people would agree it would be difficult to navigate without it. But I use Powerdesk because it is a more robust file manager.

    Today the web has become an extension of our OS enviorment. Once again Microsoft has provided us with the basics, and of course included for free with the OS. A host of other browsers lurk out there that provide better features, interfaces, etc. Users drive demand - not competetors (no matter the market share). I wonder if it is in Opera's best interests that a product that is more or lest free has the same capabilities as their own product.
    kyron.gustafson@...
    • Microsoft meets browser needs

      AHAH! Now we come to the nitty gritty of another problem with M$ - "Free" browser. Forget it - there's ain't no "free lunches" out there anymore. Trust me on this one - the price of IE is "built in" to the "cost of Windows"! This is why Windows has been going up and up and up in price with every iteration of the O/S.

      Soooo....you think its free just because it came bundled with your Windows? Forget it....you paid for it with those extra dollars you paid for your O/S.
      windy@...
      • Yes Free

        No free lunches? Ever heard of Firefox, Mozilla, Linux, Star Office - what planet are you living on?

        Just because it's not open source does not mean it isn't free. When's the last time anyone paid for a IE upgrade?

        I'm not saying Microsoft's interest's are altruistic. By improving the Internet experience they are generating demand for faster computers which generally come boxed with Windows.

        Microsoft stock is publicly traded. Their first duty is to their stock holders. Supporting standards embraced by their competetors is not always in the companies best interst.

        So I guess I would reverse the question. Why is everyone (especially competetors) asking for a free lunch from Microsoft?
        kyron.gustafson@...
  • Opera might become more popular, too

    "What's ironic about Lie's challenge is that once Microsoft rises to it, then one of Opera's big differentiators (standards support) gets wiped out. Can Opera survive two free browsers on the market (Mozilla and Firefox)?"

    1) If IE7 were standards-compliant Opera users would have less trouble with sites not being displayed properly.

    2) Didn't you mean "three /standards compliant/ browsers (Mozilla, Firefox and IE)"?? It's doing fine against the current two, it's even gaining some I believe.
    naylor83
  • Fear and loathing of IE7

    Microsoft has blithely "gone its own way" in spite of worldwide standards to the contrary. They developed their own version of html, ignoring the existing worldwide standards; they developed their own version of java script, ignoring the existing worldwide standards; they developed their own - the only - O/S platform going and "integrated into it" a mail program and internet browser which allow instant invasions by hackers and malevolent worms/virus attack, to the detriment of many independent browsers and mail programs which, if used with Windows, still provide some measure of security against virus/worm attacks.

    So exactly why, with their track record, should we expect a sane response and effort from MS at this late date?
    windy@...