back to article Opera CTO: How to fix Microsoft's browser issues

If there was a functioning market for web browsers and operating systems, the past few weeks would have seen two announcements from Microsoft. After a firestorm of criticism from the web design community about Internet Explorer 8's misguided mode switching proposal, Redmond would have publicly backed down. Second, Microsoft …

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  1. Steve

    List, schmist.

    I just want it to be an opt-in that I can ignore as I've always got install files for Firefox and Opera. The only time I would use IE is if I had to use the Windows Update site and that's just because the bastards at MS deliberately borked the site for anything but IE.

  2. Stephen Melrose

    Microsoft's Difficult Position

    I agree that Microsoft need to get IE up to form, but they can't do it over night.

    IE is still by far the dominant browser on the internet, and a LOT of websites are built specifically to work on it. With this in mind, Microsoft need to think about their user base and the websites those users access.

    If they were to change IE over night to be standards compliant, a lot of websites around the world would cease to work properly, and people would actually demand to have the old IE back because websites actually worked on it.

    No matter what we developers demand, we have to think about the end of our process, the users. Microsoft are slowly but surely trying to bring IE into touch. They have a very large hole they need to dig out of, and it is just going to take time and compromises.

  3. Adam Moore
    Happy

    Pie chart of web design

    Every potential web designer should know about Beccy's pie chart:

    http://humor.beecy.net/geeks/web-design/web-design.gif

    I design for 2 CMS systems and templated HTML pages and the amount of times where things are working fine on Firefox, Safari, Opera, Lynx then we look at IE (which is what the manamgent run *SIGH*) and have to redo things due to broken box models, incomplee or wrong implementations, etc - I can only whole heartedly echo the sentiments expressed.

  4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Where's the damage?

    Microsoft make no money out of IE, so how are they abusing their Windows monopoly?

    I agree that IE's "widespread non-compliance" is pretty irritating for web developers, but as far as I'm aware there is no *law* against just being irritating and I personally wouldn't want there to be one.

  5. Harry
    Thumb Up

    Sounds well thought out to me.

    Lets hope the EU will listen, and act.

  6. Ilgaz Öcal
    Thumb Down

    Here is the damage

    Microsoft IE can _only_ run on Windows Operating System or using a complete hack like Wine on x86 (not on PPC for example) or running MS Virtual PC on PPC.

    MS wants to make sure everyone needs running IE at some point even OS X only web design shops.

    MS is making lots of money from IE by giving it free with the OS and forcing OS upgrades to people who may need latest IE.

    Other browsers (Firefox, Opera, Safari) support one thing very exclusively: Published web standards. Making your site or even releasing it without any testing is fairly easy. Stick with standards. I didn't care to test any sites I designed on anything but IE, just knowing they are standards compliant was enough. To run IE on PPC, I had to purchase MS Virtual PC along with Windows to a Quad G5 Mac. It sounds comical yes? That is what happens if your non standard browser dominates the scene.

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. Tom Peach

    RE: Where's the damage?

    They make no money out of IE but they do make money out of Live Search. Opera and Firefox using Yahoo or Google as the default search engine costs them revenue, so it is in their interest to have an "IE compatible only" internet.

  9. Robbin Nichol

    Firefox 3 beta 3

    Don't pass acid 3

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opera....

    should fix their own crap before criticizing others...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Difficult position

    "If they were to change IE over night to be standards compliant, a lot of websites around the world would cease to work properly, and people would actually demand to have the old IE back because websites actually worked on it."

    So? Who said it had to be overnight?

    Build Internet Explorer 8 from the ground up to be standards compliant. Release it to beta testing to the world as early as possible. Get feedback, improve the product.

    Web developers then have IE from early beta to tweak their pages to work properly. Because if they're "optimised for IE" or, worse, only work in IE, they're not standards compliant web pages.

    Oh, and for the love of Raptor Jesus, please disconnect IE from the Windows OS core. That way, when nasty web pages (and there will always be some) do nasty things to the browser, the damage they can do the the OS underneath it is limited.

  12. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Get your browser tested for damage.

    For all you Acid heads out there ..... http://acid3.acidtests.org/.

    Mozilla Firefox 3 Beta 3 ...... 58/100

    Internet Explorer ...........12/100

    "Microsoft make no money out of IE,..." If it didn't make them money, it wouldn't be there, Ken........ but it appears to be a very incestuous affair.

  13. Edward Rose

    Sympathy?

    You'll find it in the dictionary.

    For all those idiots who have taken advantage of a broken browser, and ignored the standards, well, tough. Fix the bloody sites and don't whine to people who actually know how (and care) to do a job properly.

    Good luck to Opera's bid.

  14. Pekka Puupaa

    Browser AOC?

    In many products on this planet we have regulations prohibiting the use of the product category name if the product does not comply with the defined rules of the category. For example champagne, cognac, armagnac etc. How about having this applied to the product type "web browser"? Iow products not being compatible with browser standards could not be called web browsers.

  15. Ian Davies
    Stop

    IE deserves to sink

    @ Stephen Melrose: Microsoft *is* is a difficult position, but it is one wholly of their own making. More to the point, they are only having to recognise it as a difficult position because a significant proportion of the web-using public are finally aware of standards compliance and the benefits that it brings. Conversely, and at the same time, they have become aware of the problems that Microsoft's non-standards compliance brings, hence the rise of Firefox. Were it not for this growing segment of web users, do you really think that MS would give 2 figs? They do not deserve sympathy.

    @ Ken Hagan: I can't tell whether you are stupefyingly naïve or just colossally disingenuous. To suggest that MS "makes no money out of IE" and should somehow be allowed to carry on their merry way is a joke, and not a very funny one. A significant proportion of their product line (and therefore their revenue) is based directly on the performance (or lack thereof) of IE. A significant number of often deeply entrenched websites are built around IE. MS likes this situation just fine, thanks very much

    The argument that IE somehow deserves special consideration because to make it standards compliant would "break the web" is a non-sense. The web isn't broken; only Microsoft's cynically shabby implementation of the web is broken.

    Car manufacturers don't get to put cars on the road without adhering to published standards (national and international). Car owners don't get to keep cars on the road without adhering to published standards (MOT).

    MS *should* be forced into standards compliance - TRUE standards compliance - and when the thousands of websites foolishly built only for IE compatibility start to fall over, MS should take the heat for it. Maybe then people will start to see the massive shit sandwich that MS has been feeding them for the last 10 years.

  16. Pete Wilson
    Thumb Up

    Selling XP...

    I think it's entirely fair and reasonable for Microsoft to stop selling XP whenever they want. And, then or thereabouts, to halt all support for it.

    But of course, at that point they should also turn off any and all "activation" measures - so that anyone with this (in MS' view) undesirable, uncompetitive OS can install it on any machine at any time as often as they like.

    -- P

  17. Steve Renouf
    Pirate

    @amanfromMars

    "..."Microsoft make no money out of IE,..." If it didn't make them money, it wouldn't be there, Ken........ but it appears to be a very incestuous affair"

    Indeed. And, of course, if you consistently break standards and get it to the point where all developers end up having to build their webpages for your proprietory code to the extent that no other browsers will any longer work with the vast majority of websites so that, eventually, all the other browser manufacturers just give up, well, then, of course, you can stop bundling it with your OS and start charging extra for it!

  18. Alastair Smith
    Boffin

    @Get your browser tested for damage.

    FF3b3 - agreed

    IE7 - agreed. *And* it wants to run MSXML 3.0 SP9 as an ActiveX control (which makes bugger all difference to the rendering or the score)

    FF2.0.12 - 50/100

    Opera 9.25 - 46/100.

    So I agree with the Anonymous Coward too.

    Why can't the rendering engine(s) be patched like other parts of the browser (e.g., security holes)? I.E., back-port standards compliance via a hotfix. Given sufficient warning to un-break their websites, I think developers would welcome such a move...

  19. Steven Knox
    Alert

    @Stephen Melrose

    "I agree that Microsoft need to get IE up to form, but they can't do it over night."

    Actually, they pretty much can. They already have standards compliant modes, they just don't turn them on by default. A simple change to the parser logic to change that, and then they just send it out via Windows Update as a critical security fix*. Viola! Fixed (mostly) over night.

    *Yes, that's an abuse of WU, but so was WGA.

    And if any crap non-standard web developers complain, MS can even set up a standard e-mail reply. It need only contain the following text:

    RTFM: http://www.w3.org

  20. Chris Bradshaw
    Gates Horns

    Re What would be on your list?

    Microsoft put themselves in this hole on purpose, and they pulled others into it with them. They ignored complaints from those who understood what they were doing. Microsoft made money from this (and still do...).

    So force Microsoft to help pay for fixing the web. Say 50% of the cost of making sites compliant, based on lines of HTML code modified per hour and a standard developer rate.. Yeah it's a lot of money. No I have no sympathy for them. They have the money, and they caused the problem.

    It might even bring a boom to website developers... :-) Web 3.0* anyone

    * yeah, I want a trademark on this :-D

  21. Flocke Kroes Silver badge
    Flame

    Easier to herd cats than force Microsoft

    I am happy for Microsoft to discontinue XP when they choose. They can make Internet Explorer as non-compliant as they like. If supporting IE is a problem for web designers, then they do not have to support it. The only way users will learn that IE is defective is if web pages render badly in IE.

    I object to being forced to pay for MS software with a new PC. Distributors could put a free version of deactivated MS software on their computers. I could wipe it out and install something that works. Lock-in victims could pay MS to activate the software.

    Trying to force MS to do something useful is a complete waste of time. Just fine them for each copy activated pre-installed software.

  22. Bruno Girin
    Thumb Up

    What's on my list

    For starters:

    - support HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0 and CSS 2.1 fully without bugs (fix the box model, etc); don't bother about more recent versions of (X)HTML and CSS before those work completely

    - support the application/xml+html MIME type for XHTML documents, including XML namespaces

    Then when this is all working, include SVG and MathML as standalone documents or through XML namespaces in XHTML documents.

    The most important thing, and this goes for all browsers is to fully support a given version of the specs. It doesn't matter which version (well, a reasonnably recent one would be nice) but support it completely. At the moment, every single browser supports part of CSS 2.1, bits of CSS 3 but none of them completely which makes developing web content a complete minefield. Maybe the W3C should look at the Java Community Process and J2EE and come up with a Browser Compatibility Kit. Any browser that fails the kit's test results for a given version version of HTML, CSS or any other W3C technology would not be allowed to claim they are compliant with that version.

  23. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Damage

    "The DAMAGE ... is when your mom/friend/general-helpless-on-a-pc-user goes on the web using microshits latest ball of turd and gets infested because they(MS) can't possibly secure what they don't understand and another friggin zombie pc is born."

    Indeed, but zombie PCs make no money for Microsoft, so you can't haul them through court on anti-trust law. You *might* be able to haul your mom/friend/etc through court for being reckless-in-charge-of-a-PC, but I don't think they've passed that law, yet.

    Another respondent suggests "They make no money out of IE but they do make money out of Live Search."

    So if I understand you, MS are accused of bundling IE through their Windows monopoly to create customers for their adware business. That *might* be illegal, except that as far as I can see it has been a dismal failure and in any case it revolves around user-awareness, not MS-compulsion. If you recall, the court remedy for one of Win95's anti-trust breaches was to force MS to include links on the desktop to a couple of other options. IE7 puts up has the "change your default search provider" as the first page you see after installation, so they've probably *already* done as much as a court would ask them to.

    Sorry, folks, you still haven't made a case that I wouldn't laugh out of court.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Opera and Acid 3

    I think it's more fair to compare Opera 9.5 beta with Firefox 3.

    Opera scores 64/100, which as far as I know is the best of the bunch. I look forward to seeing the figures for the final versions of both these browsers.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    MS pickle

    "I agree that Microsoft need to get IE up to form, but they can't do it over night."

    If with "over night" (or overnight) you mean "in the next version of IE", of course they can. Make it fully compliant with standards, and there won't be much of a problem.

    If your site now works with IE and with other browsers, it will work with IE(8) because it is "an other browser".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @Here is the Damage

    "Microsoft IE can _only_ run on Windows Operating System"

    Maybe I was dreaming at the time, but I dimly recall seeing a Solaris install package for IE many years ago.

    @Windows XP

    Will you people STOP repeating that Microsoft SELLS XP. They DONT. They sell LICENSES to USE it, which they can revoke as they please. Once licenses are revoked, the vendor is free to disable any activation mechanism which the software depended on.

    They will cease activation of XP when it suits them, even though Vista won't run properly on decent spec hardware like my girlfriends new laptop - Its slower that I remember Win98 even having been...

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Flocke Kroes

    "The only way users will learn that IE is defective is if web pages render badly in IE."

    The problem with that argument is that 99.99% of users are blissfully unaware of what standards are, how web pages "work" and who the W3C is. All they'll see is a b0rken website and they'll be yelling "fix that site so I can see it on my interweb thingy!" If you come back to them with hard-to-understand gobbledeygook like "try installing a standards-compliant browser to see the difference", they'll give you that deer-in-the headlamps look because they don't understand what "install", "standards-compliant" or "browser" mean.

    PH because the average Internet user has about the same smarts as her.

  28. Laxman

    I'm bored of all the cringing...

    ... by everyone non microsoft. Netscape died becuse it got old and bloated. And if I use IE and everything renders properly, why should I even care?

  29. RW
    Alien

    Analysis: Wherefore art thou so buggy, MSIE?

    Reasons pour le bouggienesse from reading the entrails:

    1. Business model: establish monopoly via proprietary software in order to lock in and coerce customers to continue using MS software.

    2. Corporate culture: internally, MS has no dedication to standards of any sort so no matter what their stated intentions. Even if the intentions are genuine at the smoke and mirrors level (i.e. Ballmer, spin doctors, etc), the working level grunts don't pay much attention.

    3. Lack of expertise and experience: too much turnover in the grunts writing the code. Why? I don't know. Perhaps someone who's worked at MS can tell us. Some might call this "sheer incompetence". Perhaps the main reason is that IE 7 was left more or less untouched for so long that most of the programmers who understood it have long since moved on to greener pastures so IE code is written by greenhorn rookies with little experience.

    4. Reuse of old code with old bugs unfixed: IE's original base was the long-gone Mosaic. I'll bet a jelly donut that the guts of IE8 still includes some of that code. Cue the fairly recently discovered bug in WMF rendering, a bug that turned out to have existed from Windows 3.1 on, iirc. It's quite clear that MS hangs on to elderly, bug ridden code.

    5. Enforcing the MS monopoly: Andrew Carnegie, the great Scottish-American steel magnate, had the nasty practice of driving his competitors out of business by selling steel railway rails below his cost of production. Since his enterprise was large and extensive, he could target one hapless bastard after another for destruction simply by dicking them over in their more localized market.

    In a way, the various types of software comprising a modern desktop computer (OS, wp, spreadsheet, db, media player, web browser, email client, etc) are analogous to these local markets. MS uses the profits from Windows and Office to subsidize IE in the same way, though bundling IE with Windows is a tactic Andrew Canegie had no equivalent to.

    I should add that American anti-trust law specifically forbids Carnegie-like price undercutting…except in software!

    6. Failing to charge a reasonable price for IE: The MS beancounters undoubtedly view IE as nothing but a cost center, since the profits from it are diffused across that vague entity "monopoly". Hence, IE development is chronically strapped for money, to the point that software quality suffers. If MS started charging realistic prices for Outlook Express, IE, and various other "free" parts of the Windows package, the quality of IE would go up—unless, of course, there was a mass flight to other browsers, cutting off the income stream.

    It appears to me that in the face of this kind of institutional inertia on the part of MS, the only way to break the logjam would be for some major web destination to announce it's going to begin adhering to standards strictly.

    Suppose Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, or Google did this, and emblazoned their pages with "works okay in standards compliant browsers, here's Ballmer's phone number to register your complaints".

    If that happened, you'd see a sudden upturn in use of non-MS browsers. I speculate that if this happened, MS would be so far behind the 8-ball they would be unable to upgrade IE before its market share collapsed. But this isn't going to happen unless there's some kind of plot to torpedo MS amidships.

    This explanation is so wordy only an extraterrestrial could love it.

  30. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Alien

    A Walk on the Wild Side of the Internet and ITs Systems for Operations

    Microsoft aren't worried or even interested in what is run on the Windows and Vista OS just so long as the Virtual Machine, which is recording and sharing your thoughts and hopes and aspirations and inspirations, keeps on allowing them a sneaky back door, trojan look to keep Uncle Sam one step ahead of everyone else.

    As a stealthy industrial espionage tool it works very well and who would have thought it would have been so capable and yet so badly abused and poorly used ....for all of its years.

    Ooops ...there's that nightmare whistleblower scenario again which they constantly BetaTest against.

  31. Ed
    Thumb Up

    WebKit & Acid3

    WebKit/Safari nightly build scores 82/100 on Acid3 - better than any of the other browsers.

    This is more significant than Opera in many ways as WebKit has a larger market share by most counts...

    http://nightly.webkit.org/

  32. Alastair

    Microsoft cannot make IE standards compliant overnight

    Stop saying they can. Looking at the web stats for my site, I'm still looking at 20-odd% of users using IE6. I even have 1% using IE5! If they release an all singing, all dancing IE8 that does everything in a standards compliant mode, it'll be years before everyone is using it, if at all. It's not like Firefox, people aren't used to updating it. They use it because it's there.

    Which is why this MS standards meta tag thing makes perfect sense. If they do nothing like it, then I have a choice of having my site broken in IE8, or broken in IE6/7. Of course, I can do some conditional comments to tweak my CSS, but if I'm doing that, why not just use the meta tag thing?

    Everyone moaning about this meta tag doesn't live in the real world. I don't like IE-specific sites any more than you do, but they exist. Radically changing IE in IE8 would result in a lot of annoyed (and borderline clueless) amateur web people, and could very easily impede upgrades, as IT admins find out their intranet doesn't work any more, etc etc.

  33. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    @Ken Hagan

    "zombie PCs make no money for Microsoft"

    Zombie PC's are slow, and slow network access for machines on the same connection. People replace the entire machine instead of the software, so they buy another Microsoft license.

    One ISP tried phoning customers with zombies and recommending security programs and patches. The majority of the customers considered the calls useful. They did loose a few customers, but sending bandwidth hogs to their competitors is a good move for budget ISPs. In a twisted way, it makes some sense to give legal hassle to owners of zombies.

  34. Keith Langmead
    Coat

    Getting old sites to work in IE

    Surely that's simple enough, MS just need to add a function into IE to allow the user to specify a different user agent, and set it to Opera / Firefox! Then any IE specific code in a webpage won't be run, and history will come full circle! :-)

  35. Morely Dotes
    Jobs Horns

    @ AC

    "Will you people STOP repeating that Microsoft SELLS XP. They DONT. They sell LICENSES to USE it, which they can revoke as they please. Once licenses are revoked, the vendor is free to disable any activation mechanism which the software depended on."

    However, the terms of the contract under which the license has been sold are not disclosed until *after* the transaction has been consummated, and Microsoft has received payment either from the consumer, or from the PC's OEM. Under standard contract law, therefor, no "meeting of the minds" has taken place, and therefor no legal contract for licensing exists. Ergo, Microsoft is liable to support the product as if it had been sold outright, not licensed for an indefinite term at the whim of Microsoft.

    I am not a lawyer, but I'll bet dollars to donuts that the argument I have written above *will* be used by thousands of lawyers when (or if) Microsoft decides to disable the XP activation mechanism.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    re: Pie chart of web design

    Why do developers always complain they do all work and get it looking good - then have to redo it to make it work on IE. Since the other browsers have far more flexibility and tricks available then surely it is much easier to develop for IE and use that flexibility to make the other browsers show the same. I suppose the real answer to this is it would only take you half the time so only half the pay

  37. Morely Dotes
    Jobs Horns

    Oh, yes

    Remove ActiveX from Internet Explorer. The fact is that ActiveX is one of the biggest security holes in Windows even today.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ WebKit & Acid3

    Just by way of comparison, Safari 3.04 struggles to reach 39 with a couple of big old hangs along the way, all the while looking like a POS. As for Safari on iPhone/iPod touch v1.1.3, that craps out at 39 too, spewing errors around the 7 mark, but doesn't look as bad while it's doing it

  39. Dana W
    Gates Horns

    @ Laxman

    "And if I use IE and everything renders properly, why should I even care?"

    Where does that happen? Bizzaro world?

    IE is the biggest security issue on the net bar non.

    I won't even support widows boxes running IE.

  40. Claire Rand

    parallel versions?

    why not just make IE8 support being installed along side earlier versions? in otherwords nail *all* of it into one directory, even if this means having multiple versions of some files.

    you can now install more than one instance of it if you want, it will not break anything, since IE6/7 can still be used, so all those company sites are fine.

    also make it so you can add add-ins like firefox, make it good and usable and it will be used.

  41. Paul

    Just make standards the default already.

    Standards compliance should be the default if the markup is valid. I've already signalled my intent to use "standards mode" by taking the time to write HTML and CSS which validates against those standards. That's my "opt-in" right there.

    If they're so worried about "breaking the web", the browser can always fall back to bonehead mode if it encounters poorly-formed markup. It already knows how to detect tag soup, because it has to make a best-guess attempt at correcting it in order to render *anything* at all.

    @Laxman: "And if I use IE and everything renders properly, why should I even care?"

    That's an end-user issue. This isn't about end users, but you're right: you shouldn't *have* to care. You should be able to choose *whatever* browser you want and have the web "just work", because that's what the web is supposed to do.

    But the poor bastard making the pages you visit shouldn't have to beat their head off a wall for a week to make that happen when they adhere to published, established standards. Yet, that's exactly what happens.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    I call bullshit.

    "After a firestorm of criticism from the web design community about Internet Explorer 8's misguided mode switching proposal, Redmond would have publicly backed down."

    Bullshit. The so called firestorm is evenly split between those who want the mode switch and those who don't. They are most certainly considering their customers needs by not breaking the Internet for the majority of its users.

    "Second, Microsoft would have bowed to 90,000 users demanding that Windows XP continue to be sold."

    90,000 users is a drop in the bucket for Microsoft. Why should they listen to a small (but vocal) minority? -- Note that I still use XP and don't want to switch to Vista either, but I'm not whining about Microsoft ignoring me.

    So, yes, I applaud Microsoft for deciding not to break the Internet. Mr. Wium Lie is not a neutral bystander here kids. If Microsoft is forced to only distribute a standards compliant browser, the results will be a flood of users downloading Firefox and Opera because their favorite sites no longer work. What, you think web developers are going to rebuild their sites to work in IE8 and then break IE7? Yeah... Right...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On W3C complience

    A smart web developer starts by writing their sites to be web compliant, then adding fixes as needed for IE6 and 7. If you do this, then MS could turn around and make IE8 fully compliant, and nobody should be able to see any difference in your web site.

  44. JC

    You gotta be kidding.

    MS doesn't make money off IE? Of course it does, being an integrated feature (the most prominent one some would argue) of their operating system.

    Suppose for example we had two alternative OS sold on a Dell system. OS #1 had IE and OE exact clones running on 'nix. OS #2 had some other browser and email client that Joe Sixpack wasn't familiar with yet running on Windows. Joe goes to the store and plays with both for a moment and sees Vista (or past Windows, take your pick) environment he isn't familiiar with, brower and email he isn't either, then shuffles over to the 'nix box with the familiar browser and email client. He may not prefer the 'nix box but there's a good chance of it.

    Similarly it is so with discouraging use of another browser, MS doesn't want anyone using anything but IE to keep the windows fondness and as such, gives it away for free to deprofitize competition.

    What is windows really if not a lot of applications piled on an interface that has changed significantly recently with Vista? The average buyer is not enthralled by readyboost or the other marketing fluff, nor impressed with supposed security enhancements that just remind them they had a lemon for years (until, supposedly (like they heard as a marketing pitch for WinXP also) thanks to MS who now say you get what you paid for last time if you buy their next great OS.

    @ Laxman, you should care even if you use IE now and it works ok because it is inevitable that internet capable devices that do not run Windows or IE be in your future unless you're old enough you'll kick the bucket soon. These devices will depend on standards compliance on the 'net. You should also care because it's the whole point of standards. If MS felt they had a better way they are always welcome to voice their opinion during the formation of standards and let that opinion make a change in what standard emerges if the idea has merit.

  45. uncredited

    Just ignore IE in private websites

    One way to make more people aware of IE's horrible standards support is simply to design non-commercial sites only with standards in mind and display a prominent message on the site pointing IE users to more standard compliant browsers. Blogs for example could be a good way to do this. Even news sites like The Register could do this if the owners find this to be an annoyance.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    @Ken: Where the real - economic - damage is.

    "Microsoft make no money out of IE, so how are they abusing their Windows monopoly?"

    Giving away IE gives IIS an anti-competitive advantage in the server market, that's how. It's a complex economic argument, but it's well explained by Joel on Software:

    http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html

    and there are some very perceptive comments on Schneier's blog at:

    http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/microsoft_and_i.html

    And yeh. The whole zombie thing is kind of relevant: the associated spam and crime are real economic damage too, it's not just a mere inconvenience that granny's pc is always running slow, it's a real social harm.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real damage is how badly behind IE is

    How long did it take MS to add tabbed browsing to IE, ffs?

    The real damage to the end user is that MS simply stopped developing IE (to all intents-and-purposes) once it had won the browser war with Netscape, and it fell woefully behind in its capabilities compared to those browsers coming from developers that actually give a fuck.

    IE is STILL woefully behind in its capabilities, yet people are forced to use it to access many, many websites. What damage? If you enjoy using a stone age browser, then by all means ignore the complete lack of progress that MS has made with IE, but don't expect others to do so too.

  48. Mike
    Alert

    amanfromMars making complete sense?!?

    I am suprised to see amanfromMars making complete sense today...

    Prehaps the AI is getting better...

    The warning triangle since if AI is getting better it really is time to run for the hills...

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Just ignore IE in private websites

    99% of the public have no knowledge or desire to know about web standards – so all that will do is make the public think you are a) incompetent and b) arrogant and thus unlikely to listen to you

  50. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: Where the real - economic - damage is.

    "Giving away IE gives IIS an anti-competitive advantage in the server market, that's how. It's a complex economic argument, but it's well explained by Joel on Software: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html"

    This must be the wrong link. Joel doesn't even mention IIS in this article.

    Anyway, by any reasonable measure, IIS *has* no competitive advantage in the server market. IIS gets some market share from the large number of Windows Server installations, but Apache has a respectable user base even on those systems. *Windows Server* has an unfair advantage, because MS refused to document the domain protocols that the monopoly Windows Desktop uses, but happily MS have lost in court on that one and we may see some improvement in a few years.

    In fact, it is hard to see how IIS *could* have an advantage. It's job is to serve up pages. It has to follow the HTTP protocol and it certainly shouldn't be modifying the page contents to make them non-standard HTML. Do you have evidence to the contrary?

  51. TeeCee Gold badge
    Stop

    Advantage?

    I can fully understand how giving IE away for free gives MS an unfair advantage given the extortionate prices demanded for their competitor's products (F'Fox, Opera, Safari et. al.).

    Oh, hand on a second.......

    Remember what happened with the Euro special, slightly cheaper, now no longer with bundled Media Player edition of XP? Yup, nobody bought it (alright, almost nobody - before the two who did both post here). If you were to demand that MS did likewise with IE, to expose the cost, I strongly suspect that sales figures of the shiny, new, IE-less Vista would remain firmly down in so-close-to-bugger-all-it's-impossible-to-tell territory.

    However, maintaining a genuine level playing field would demand that all browser providers charged a commercial rate for their products (if giving something away for free, using revenue from other sources to fund its provision, is anti-competitive by MS then it is also so for anyone else, be that revenue source sales of Windows/MacOS or gobs of ads on a website - you can't have your cake and eat it).

    MS would piss themselves with laughter if they were "forced" to comply with terms like this.

  52. uncredited

    re: Just ignore IE in private websites

    Of course most of the public don't know about web standards and as a result don't care. They can be made aware by telling them about these standards. Even a short explanation about how this hinders the progress of web sites could be in order. People, by default, don't care about problems they don't know about but if they know about the problem - some of them might start caring.

    As before, I suggest this only for non-commercial sites, such as personal blogs etc. to start with because then you are not damaging any business and people most likely are visiting because they already know and trust you.

  53. This post has been deleted by its author

  54. Tom Chiverton

    @Stephen Melrose

    "If they were to change IE over night to be standards compliant, a lot of websites around the world would cease to work properly,"

    Those are exactly the web sites that would have to be changed to include the majic 'please have the exact same bugs as ie7, but no others' tag.

    So you're saying that if IE were better, a lot of sites would have to change. Why not make them change so they work ?

  55. Andus McCoatover
    Gates Horns

    @Alan Tustain

    ""Internet Explorer is the browser of choice for around 95% of web users. Ergo it is THE standard by default""

    Bit like saying "Force feeding is the feeding manner of choice for paté - donating canards"

    D'ohhhhh.....

  56. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    piffle and balderdash

    This forces web designers to prioritize coding for IE. Coding for standards-compliant browsers becomes a secondary consideration.

    ---

    Bollocks basically - it's not _that_ hard to write standards compliant code that will work on IE 7 - mostly. You need to just accept that the DOM is broken and to be careful with your CSS use. For instance if you want to make a DIV 200 pixels wide with a padding of 10 pixels instead of making 1 div 220px wide, make a 200px wide div and put another div inside it with "width: auto; padding: 10px;" - problem solved.

    The biggest issues are things that are obviously missing from IE - obj.setAttribute() for instance.

    ----

    @Adam Tustian

    Define Standard - the irony here is that MS have representatives in the W3C so they do, in part, help define the standards - they don't however adhere to those standards that they helped create.

    Furthermore, you can't claim that IE is "standard" - there is still a split between IE6 and IE7 in the wild (even some instances of IE5 still) - and they handle CSS/JS/DOM differently and so should really be considered different browsers.

    Here's the browser stats from the W3Schools site for Jan 08 - bear in mind the site is fairly techy and therefore more likely to attract erm, well, techies:

    IE7: 21.2%

    IE6: 32.0%

    IE5: 1.5%

    FF: 37.2%

    Moz: 1.3%

    Saf: 1.9%

    Opera: 1.4%

    By that metric Firefox is the standard - if you wanted to get really silly, you could add up the values for Firefox, Opera, Mozilla and Safari - since they are ALL (pretty much) "W3C Standards compliant" and so render the same - it's only IE that isn't.

    You get slightly different results from my work website (a largely non-techie user base):

    IE7: ~53%

    IE6: ~26%

    Standards compliant browsers: ~20%

    Other: ~1%

    IE7 is by far the most popular, but thankfully it's also the version (of IE) which most closely follows the W3C standards so you can sort of code for IE7+Standards browsers to cover 73% of the user-base; drop your CSS to the basic IE6 implementation and use JS _very_ sparingly and you cover 99% of the user-base.

    Basically, to keep IE happy, follow the standards from about 5 years ago and you should be OK. IE is _badly_ in need of updating, and IE users really need to update their browser - there really shoudn't BE any instances of IE <7 left.

    The way "standards" actually come about are that browsers conform to a standard, they then extend that standard - filter: alpha(opacity=x); for instance, the extension gains popularity and is modifed to become part of the next standard - that defines the standard.

    Someone came up with the idea of semi-transparent objects (possibly even MS) and the "alpha/opacity filter" spread with IE and Firefox having different implementations. Eventually both implementations were scrapped and "opacity: 0.x;" became the standard. Firefox, Opera et al were all updated to conform to this new standard but IE7 still languishes behind with their old "filter:alpha".

    Having won the "browser wars" first time around and getting IE on every desktop has meant that MS haven't done anything serious with it for years - even version 7 didn't greatly improve the underlying rendering engine.

    ----

    Posted AC so that you can't match those stats up to where I work by using "me" as a commonality!

  57. Wolf
    Thumb Up

    @Adam Tustian

    Hear, hear!

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @Alastair re: Microsoft cannot make IE standards compliant overnight

    > Stop saying they can.

    Oh, way to go, nice straw man there. Name one person who did.

    Oh, you can't? Damn straight you can't. That's because nobody at all ever said it.

    It's pretty hypocritical to go around criticising people for "not living in the real world" when you just completely invented your accusation out of thin air. Nobody said they could. In case you haven't been paying attention for the past decade, though, the point is that they've already had *years* to make it compliant, and they haven't done much in that direction, not because years isn't enough time, but because they don't *want* to, because they *want* to maintain an illegal monopoly.

  59. stizzleswick
    Flame

    Best thing to do

    The best thing MS could do would be to opensource its browser development. Anything that's usable will then be borged into the Mozilla project and the rest of the developers will probably move to webkit, thereby killing off developement of Internet Exploder.

    MS definitely missed a few calls since the mid-1990s; integrating a tool meant to work with an environment full of malware (the internet) into the foundations of an operating system is a mindbogglingly stupid idea (well, OK, Windows isn't really an OS, just a pretty program starter for NT). ActiveX is one of the main reasons why I Don't Do MS Internet Exploder. But then again, I Don't Do Windows most of the time either.

    @Anonymous Coward from 17:05 GMT

    "Maybe I was dreaming at the time, but I dimly recall seeing a Solaris install package for IE many years ago."

    Yep... they dropped Solaris in roundabout 1995 or ’96. It used to be available for MacOS, too. The point, though, is that no version of Internet Exploder past v. 5.1 exists for any OS except Windows. Since many halfway modern websites don't work with MS Internet Exploder v. 5, that old piece of tat is unusable for most purposes.

  60. This post has been deleted by its author

  61. Teddy C

    the Solution is simple - force Microsoft to charge for and decouple its Browser

    By forcing MS to charge for their browser and forcing them to decouple it from their operating system it subjects MS IE to market forces and standards compliance. It forces MS to be more accountable at the consumer level.

    Right now it can be said you get what you pay for. Essentially whatever crumbs MS dishes out. Since MS IE is free I believe MS feels little compulsion unless coerced to comply with anybody elses standards.

    Forcing MS to charge for its browser will raise the bar so that other competing browsers can charge and make a better quality product.

    regards

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @Ken Re: Re: Where the real - economic - damage is.

    >> "Giving away IE gives IIS an anti-competitive advantage in the server market, that's how. It's a complex economic argument, but it's well explained by Joel on Software: http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/StrategyLetterV.html"

    > This must be the wrong link. Joel doesn't even mention IIS in this article.

    Are you actually really that thick, or are you just pretending to be completely unable to generalise for rhetorical purposes? I said it was a complex economic argument, you aren't going to be able to grasp it by opening the web page and hitting Ctrl-F and searching for "IIS".

    In the economic model presented in that article, IE is the commoditized product, IIS is the complementary product. Now go back there and try actually reading and comprehending it this time, instead of just grepping it, FCOL.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Flocke Kroes

    "If supporting IE is a problem for web designers, then they do not have to support it. The only way users will learn that IE is defective is if web pages render badly in IE."

    You may be pleased to know that I run such a Web Design firm that specializes in creating Marketing sites for the small/mid-sized business world. And we completely ignore wasting our clients time testing with IE (We DO look at our work in IE6/7, but don't obsess over the MS renderings). We explain what is at risk, show them Firefox (or another compliant browser) and ask them if they want us spending their money accommodating Microsoft's arrogant mistakes. They all say 'No, thank you'. Today, they are all enjoying healthy growth.

    /

  64. W. Anderson

    Story on Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) by opera CTO

    The one thing not mentioned much in all previous comments is that "good" web developers succumb to the will of Microsoft and are part of the problem. If most developed to ACID2 test - at minimum and IE did not work correctly, they could then demonstrate to clients how bad IE is, and possibly then convince clients to allow "standards compliant" sites, which surely would help force Microsoft to change and adhere.

    There is no accounting for the Microsoft shills and dupes that respond to such article with outragious and non-sensical (plus totally innacurate and false) claims apologizing for and supporting Microsoft in their ridiculous behavior. I am very pleased that at least the European Union (EU) plus many Asian, all South American and some African nations are rejecting this foolishness from Microsoft, which more people, organizations (including states governments) and businesses in USA need to do.

    The USA is going down the tube quickly in regard quality technology.

  65. Geoff Mackenzie

    Break the internet?

    If IE went standards compliant overnight, it would only break a few shitty sites. Web developers, by and large, take one of two options; either they code for standard browsers and try to use a workable subset that will also render OK on IE (this is a minority approach, but some people do it - it's what I do and there must be others) or they code for standard browsers and then painstakingly go through the code adding hacks to make it work in IE too (the only way to make flashy looking sites - no pun intended - but not worth the hassle in my opinion).

    Therefore if IE went standards compliant, all those sites would continue to work - IE would just naturally start using the code that was written in the first place, for all the other browsers, and ignoring the hacks. People still browsing using bad old IE would still be OK a while since the hacks would still be there; some people would continue to maintain the hacks and use them in new sites for a while to support the people who had been left behind. So the shift would be gradual in practice.

    It's not the internet MS fear would break; it's the intranet. Plenty of companies that 'standardised' on Windows on the desktop have built internal web apps that only work in IE. Mind you, there's no problem there either - just keep the broken old rendering engine and allow users to turn it on for a list of crap old sites and the problem is solved without pissing on anyone's standards.

  66. Red Bren
    Linux

    @Teddy C

    Or force Microsoft to release IE for mac & linux. It will cost them money, it ruins the leverage of their non-compliant browser requiring their proprietary OS and might even spark some innovation.

    Then follow it up by making MS release mac & linux versions of applications that come free with basic Windows and only permit bundling in expensive premium versions.

  67. Sam Hiser
    Thumb Up

    Applause for Håkon's 5 Points!

    Applause! Applause for Håkon's Five Points, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe!

  68. Kirk M
    Happy

    Re: Get your browser tested for damage

    The nightly builds of Firefox 3 are now up are now up to 67/100 for the Acid3 test. Looks like the developers are aware of the problem and are working on it.

  69. Clint Anderson

    opera against capitalism?

    a 'functioning market'? i hate to tell you this but just because something sucks dosen't mean it isn't functioning perfectly. i'm not sure about your country, but we have something called 'capitalism' here, in which the thing most people buy becomes the most popular and powerful. a monopoly is a natural result of that system because of course the more money you make the more you can invest in becoming more efficient, making cheaper products, killing off your competition thorugh the creation of intentionally divergent standards, etc.

    by saying microsoft can 'fix' their browser issues, you infer that it's somehow 'broken' -- that it isn't exactly the way it is intentionally through careful forethought. i think that is pretty naive of you not to realize that the whole creation of microsofts own standards has always been with the intention of monopolizing and controlling not only web development but every other technology they can tie to the web browser.

    opera is a capitalist company, its my belief they only have strong standards support because they have a tiny sliver of the market and need some bullet points to compete with. there's no ad blocker in opera for a reason, it's free now but remember, it used to be like $35 a pop.

    if you want a standards compliant browser not driven by capitalism and greed, it's called firefox.

  70. Laisvunas

    Opera is secretive about its own non-compliance

    It seems to me that before demanding from Microsoft to be more standards compliant, Opera should learn to be more open about its own non-compliance.

    Opera keeps in secret their browser's bugs. You cannot search for a bug in Opera's bug tracking system to see if it is already reported, and if you report a bug they do not even care to inform if it is reviewed, confirmed, found duplicate or fixed.

    There is a forum thread about it: http://my.opera.com/community/forums/topic.dml?id=222870&t=1202656953&page=1#comment2445288

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