November 28, 2007
Two weeks ago, Apple announced a new version of WebKit, the underlying rendering technology of their Safari web browser. The feature list is impressive:
- Enhanced Rich Text Editing
- Faster Page Loading
- SVG support
- XPath support
- Styleable form controls
- Additional advanced CSS support: 2.1, 3.0, and experimental.
- Reduced memory use (~14%)
- Web Developer Tools included
That's a awfully compelling list of new features for an essential application I spend many, many hours a day in-- my web browser. Although Safari on Windows is little more than a glorified, feature-poor Mac emulator, the killer core WebKit feature list is enough to convince me to download it and run it through its paces. Apple is a serious competitor in the browser space.
Last week, the first Beta of Firefox 3.0 was released. I'm similarly impressed with the giant list of improvements and new features in this browser, too. It appears to have some innovative changes to the UI, along with native GUI rendering which was one of my pet peeves with previous versions of Firefox. Firefox has been a contender since version 1.5, and it looks like version 3.0 will push up their mindshare even further. Deservedly so. Firefox is great stuff, and the add-on ecosystem is second to none.
Clearly, the browser wars are heating up to a level we haven't seen since the heady bubble days of the late 90's. That's good news for everyone who uses the web. Nothing drives innovation quite like competition.
Given the level of fierce competition out there now, Microsoft must have some really killer features up their sleeves for Internet Explorer 8, right?
(Pretend that I've inserted the sound of gently chirping crickets here.)
Microsoft hasn't released any information on Internet Explorer 8. None. Nada. Zilch. Believe me, I've tried to pry it out of them:
During a session at Mix today, attendee Jeff Atwood asked Internet Explorer platform architect Chris Wilson for more information about when it might be released. The five-year gap between IE 6 and IE 7 notwithstanding, Atwood noted that people have come to expect a new version of a browser every couple of years. He asked whether the next IE would come with the next Windows version or before then -- "out of band," as they say.
Wilson reiterated Microsoft's promise that it will never again go five years "without an upgrade to the platform." He noted that the company was suggesting a 12- to 18-month development cycle at last year's Mix conference. "There's no exact date," he said, adding later, "I think that your expectation of having a new browser platform every couple of years is definitely a valid one."
Chris is an extremely nice guy, and clearly very technically competent. I'm sure he's under some kind of bizarre corporate gag order to say nothing. But how, exactly, does silence help the massive audience of people who use Internet Explorer on a daily basis? We're all left wondering-- what if they gave a browser war, and Microsoft never came?*
IE 6 was a great browser-- in 2001. By 2005, not so much. IE 7 was a critical stopgap, because IE 6 devolved into Netscape 4.7x during the five years it was the latest and greatest and only version. So consider the history. The entire world was trapped in an abusive relationship with Microsoft for that long, dark five year period. I think we'd like-- no, I think we deserve-- some assurances that this abusive cycle will not repeat itself.
My friend and colleague, Jon Galloway, said it best in a recent twitter update:
Just about every "Microsoft doesn't get it" problem boils down to long and secretive development cycles. Where's the IE 8 CTP?
Exactly. I don't think there's a more important single application on the planet right now than the web browser. If they can't get this right-- and soon-- I'm not sure there's any hope left.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
As a most-of-the-time web developer, I hate browsers.
I found myself thinking one day, "What if there was some kind of standard by which browser developers could follow and implement, so development for web applications was less painful and more enjoyable? What if every browser could pass the CSS acid test -- if not perfectly, then at least in the same way?"
I'm sure everyone knows the mallet that landed on my head.
Taking all indicators into account, which are a cancelled PDC 2007, Windows Vista, Silverlight and WPF, I believe Microsoft is preparing for the big coup: They must be working on a project with the codename "Active Desktop". This means that the next release of IE and the client OS will be bundled and going to be released as WIEndows (ween dos).
I think Microsoft will do what they always do - as soon as all the competition is presented they will release a competent browser that covers all of the latest technologies and features, but that contains no new innovations.
You can see the pattern from Windows Media Player. It gets prettier and more features get added, but its features that just keep up with the latest technologies. There is absolutely NOTHING exceptional about later versions of WMP except that it maybe caters for a very broad range of uses. But again, with all the little uses in the range it does not stand out from other apps dedicated solely the use.
I agree with you that a web browser is probably the most important application, and I really hope that Microsoft will break the habit and come up with something amazing. They certainly have all the resources but I hope they can mix a little innovation in with that.
With WPF Microsoft is reviving the desktop app. My guess is that the long term aim is to bring back desktop applications but with a few key changes. Being designed by designers (expression blend) and the same ease of access you get with a web app (silverlight?).
The browser will become a tool for online marketing, news and information. Applications will run on the desktop once more. Enhancing the browser to support a never ending list of new application based technologies may be less important than it seems.
I must be changing into a Microsoft geek, i didn't know about the new features in Safari and i'm pretty much a Mac geek.
I've been using Safari as my main development/test browser for almost as long as i can remember and haven't run into compatibility issues much, only some minor issues that existed only in IE.
My pet peeve with Safari on Windows is that it's painfully slow compared to Safari on a real Mac (of similar spec) but at least it supports the keyboard shortcuts that i've come to know and love.
But to answer your title question... If there was a browser war and microsoft never came... there would likely not have been a war at all. maybe some barfights, but no war.
I wonder - is there really an IE 8 yet? IE 7 was 5 years in coming because there's no money in browsers (at least, not in a 'X $ a box' way). It was only in the face of increasing numbers of users migrating to Firefox, and the increasing richness of web applications that the IE team was reassembled.
I suspect that someone at Microsoft realised "Good browser and good web applications - this could obviate our owning the OS. Why would people buy Windows/Office?" On the other hand, I suspect that parts of Microsoft don't get the importance of IE - you can't charge money for it, so why go through the expense of ongoing development? The principle of using it to offer more than other web browsers, so as to keep users buying other products is, well, less obvious.
(And yes, I know that that why buy Windows is still good question).
The Firefox 3 user interface updates look nice, but I really wouldn't see a use for anything else than the bookmark tagging and the secure browse mode.
Opera has had the option to tag bookmarks for a while. It just doesn't call them tags... When bookmarking, just write a couple of words/tags to the description box and you can use the bookmark search to find them like tags ;)
By the way, what is it with this HIDEOUS font you've switched to?
When a browser has the same features Opera does (native mouse gestures, native bookmark synchronization, notes, integrated e-mail cliente, ad blocker) I will consider trying it.
"IE 6 was a great browser-- in 2001."
That actually made me laugh out loud.
Firefox's inability to do anything in a tab while another tab is loading...how many Jetman games have I died in through another tab loading? :)
Alex: Out of curiosity, what do you mean by native GUI rendering? While I no longer use Firefox as my primary browser, I'm just curious as to what it does differently than a normal (themed) app.
Kris: While Microsoft is still in the lead, they are slowly losing ground. On my own site, IE6 is used by 31% of visitors, followed by Firefox 2 and IE7 with 25% each. Safari rounds out the top 4 at 3%. These statistics are for 18,021,750 hits.
1/4 of the users that visit my site use Firefox. That's a huge number compared to just a few years ago when almost everyone used IE. If Firefox's numbers continue to grow and Microsoft doesn't show up for the fight, they may lose by default.
This could impact Silverlight. Although Silverlight runs on Firefox for Windows and Safari for OSX, abandoning its primary platform could result in a PR mess on the development side. As Steve Balmer pointed out before, Developers (, Developers, Developers) are the key to Microsoft's success. Alienating them is not a good idea.
Just to set things straight on Webkit's "new features":
* Enhanced Rich Text Editing
Isn't a feature, it's just that now Webkit does support RTEs at all, it was painfully horrible before
* Faster Page Loading
* Reduced memory use (~14%)
Performance gains, always good but not "features"
* SVG support
* XPath support
Playing catchup, MSIE and Firefox have had that for a long time (even though MSIE's XPath notably doesn't work on HTML documents... and uses a non-standard interface to boot)
Playing catchup again, except maybe for XMLHttpRequest
* Styleable form controls
New features, but it could very well be a curse more than a blessing
* Additional advanced CSS support: 2.1, 3.0, and experimental.
* Web Developer Tools included
And they're not bad either.
as for innovations,
I thought MS was the one to come up with the XMLHttpRequest function, which evolved into the the root of ajax applications. Of course, this was back in 2001 ...
Who really cares about Internet Explorer?
Besides, the reason why MS can't tell anything about IE8, is that they themselves don't know what will be in! MS cannot innovate, it's as simple as that.
Has MS ever made anything totally out of the blue? Something that wasn't based on an idea of a competitor or bought in?
And especially wrt the Internet MS has always been a follower, never a leader. Sure, when they throw their weight behind something, they can easily catch up, but they cannot take the lead and for sure not with their stupid obsession with Google.
One of Microsoft's greatest problems iwth IE8, is that they are (finally!) moving towards following the HTML standard. Because IE has been so permissive in it's rendering before, loads of sites doesn't work properly in other browsers (that do follow the standard), so they are naturally afraid of "breaking" these broken sites.
If Microsoft never came, I am sure it is because there is no profit in browsers, for Microsoft at least. If Microsoft tries to force windows on the users, they become more unpopular. People want standards; people want to be able to create web pages that just work. You really can’t imagine that Microsoft created a browser today that would not support Google apps. Sure they could just improve IE, but they are forced to follow standards, just implementing new technology not supported by W3C would not be welcomed.
So that is why they look at Adobe with envy and create Silverlight. Nobody is complaining about Adobe not following standards with flash or acrobat. If everybody (windows, mac, linux, xbox, mobile, etc users) is running WPF/Silverlight, then people still have a need for windows. Especially if it performs better on the windows platform.
"IE 6 devolved into Netscape 4.7x".. There is the clue. Microsoft didn't need to release anything since Mozilla used forever to produce Netscape 6. So IE6 is more Mozillas fault than anybody else ;)
BTW: Check out Opera 9.5. It boasts more or less same feature list and their new JS engine and beats even improved Safari speed :)
I don't think that secretive development is the problem. Apple tends to be ber-sensitive about what they develop and still manage to be cutting edge and impressive most of the time.
Opera has closed-source model, "when it's ready" schedule and they've managed to create one of the top SVG rendering engines, most complete CSS 2.1 implementation and recently jaw-dropping JS+DOM engine.
So I think the problem comes down to fear of progress. Chris Wilson does not want any backward compatibility trouble which were trouble for IE7, and his solution seems to be do absolutely nothing about it. The less they upgrade IE, the less compatibility problems they get.
FireFox didn't take off due to features or functions. It was just successfully marketed to the same sort of people who "need" a new cell phone every 12 months. It catered to conspicuous consumption and short attention spans, something the Mac market is all about (to get back on topic). I'm not saying those other platforms lack abosolute advantages, just that those advantages are irrelevant to uptake in this world of Madison Avenue psyops.
"So I think the problem comes down to fear of progress. Chris Wilson does not want any backward compatibility trouble which were trouble for IE7, and his solution seems to be do absolutely nothing about it. The less they upgrade IE, the less compatibility problems they get."
And it's also obvious in other areas they work.
Vista: big upgrade for the user, everybody cries foul.
Office2007: big UI changes, many people don't like it.
(I've never used Vista or Office 2007)
If MS wants to move ahead, they have to make big changes to their existing products, but those products are their source of income! So they don't dare to. Because when they do, users are alienated and start increasingly looking at other products: Linux, OSX, OpenOffice, ...
MS is locked by their own money cows!
In Romania (East Europe) Opera has a market share of approx. 5% and Safari something like 0,3%...
I just want to say that i love your color scheme and minimalism design for this website. It's absolutely perfect in terms of readability and ease of use.
I'm sure Microsoft's IE engineers are smart and forward-thinking, but they have a huge backwards-compatibility problem to contend with, especially with some of those enterprise applications that most of us never think about. And the corporation's strategic advantage is to commit just enough resources to keep MSIE balanced in the most-popular but least-capable position. The web mustn't get good enough fast enough to let Google build a better MS Office in the browser.
Firefox, Opera, and Safari can all relaunch with your previous session's browser tabs restored. Add persistent storage and state, auto-launch the browser at boot time, and you might not bother ever looking at the OS again. Microsoft fears this, and Apple is probably keeping an eye out for it too.
But the current situation isn't likely to change, unless someone comes up with a next Napster or Facebook and has the balls to ignore MSIE compatibility. Perhaps such a thing might first appear on a phone, or game console, or in your car rather than on the computer desktop.
The real annoyance from my perspective is that IE7 isn't *enough* of a stopgap - the fact that they didn't release IE7 for 2000 is a dealbreaker that means many web developers must continue to suffer with IE6 for a long time yet. That's YEARS MORE of the increased development times and painful workarounds that we all know and hate. There are of course no shortage of people in MS who understand and would like to have avoided the costs to the development community at large which that decision would mean - but they lost out to the "platform uber alles" pinheads. Microsoft as a company still just fundamentally doesn't get it.
Working on a greenfield web app project right now, blazing along. Guess what? At least 20% of our existing customer base is on Win2K (these are people who got dragged from Win9x kicking and screaming), and we don't think we can be prescribing Firefox in a hard-line "use it or go home" sense. IE6 of course botches all kinds of standards-based (X)HTML and CSS, where most every other browser out there treats it in a relatively uniform way. So, add a tremendous amount of thankless, head-splitting analysis and hacks to what is otherwise a fast-moving and fun project - because we still need to support this pig. Thanks Microsoft!
"FireFox didn't take off due to features or functions. It was just successfully marketed to the same sort of people who "need" a new cell phone every 12 months. It catered to conspicuous consumption and short attention spans, something the Mac market is all about (to get back on topic). I'm not saying those other platforms lack abosolute advantages, just that those advantages are irrelevant to uptake in this world of Madison Avenue psyops."
Actually hmmm, firefox started getting popular due to its superior security features. Many end users only started using firefox because it's more secure. Micro$oft is far behind in the browser world, something as simple as tabbed browsing, I remember tabs in netscape!
Hmmm most of the reviews of Firefox 3 Alphas that I've read say that it is still insanely hogs memory, doesn't give it back and calls it a feature. Wish they'd fix that. It is also strange not to mention Opera since it has had the supposedly impressive list of new Safari features for a while.
Firefox took off because it was the best by a long shot, they successfully marketed to me and my cell phone is 8 (yes 8) years old. At the start it was fast, secure (except its password store feature) with an amazing add on facility. It won on merit. EB needs to get his facts straight.
Opera 9.5 FTW
Funny you didn't even mention it.
"Besides, the reason why MS can't tell anything about IE8, is that they themselves don't know what will be in!"
Possibly true. Though at the very least they could/should have had an "IE 7.5" out by now with more progress made on the fixes and catching up to standards they begun in IE7.
"MS cannot innovate, it's as simple as that.
Has MS ever made anything totally out of the blue? Something that wasn't based on an idea of a competitor or bought in?"
Disagree. Microsoft can innovate as well as most of their competitors, at least in some areas and at some times.
XBox 360 was quite an innovative hardware design, for example.
IE4 was quite innovative in its day. Some of its ideas didn't take off too well at the time but look at Widgets / Gadgets now and tell me that isn't inspired by (among other things sure) IE4's Active Desktop.
Staying with IE, the whole damn problem with that and netscape navigator was that back in the day each company innovated a little too much by trying to extend HTML in their own directions instead of sticking closely to the standards.
Actually speaking of standards. Active Directory could arguably be described as an innovative series of extensions to LDAP type services. If those changes were made by someone else I think that is exactly how they would have been described, but instead Microsoft are blamed for using proprietary extensions. But... surely that's how a lot of innovation can be described?
Was the car really a brand new thing or was it embracing and extending the horse drawn carriage by removing the horse and adding some kind of proprietary self-propelling engine?
Is slagging off Microsoft for everything they do regardless of whether or not they deserve it really innovative on the part of the slashyawn crowd, or simply embracing and extending the reception IBM got back in the day?
"And especially wrt the Internet MS has always been a follower, never a leader. Sure, when they throw their weight behind something, they can easily catch up, but they cannot take the lead and for sure not with their stupid obsession with Google."
Ok. We can all agree that being obsessed with another company instead of being obsessed with the cool things your own people might build if you only gave them the resources they ask for then get out of the way is no way to innovate.
Of course, innovation is all well and good but all these companies are measured by the money they make, not the innovation they display. Putting a bit of meat and some salad between two bars of soap might arguably be called innovation in the field of sandwich making, which just goes to show you that being obsessed with "innovation" at the expense of making what people want isn't a good thing either.
Hey Now Jeff,
I agree with you the add-on to Firefox are 2nd to none the competition is good for everyone. After reading this post I realize Apple is a contender. The reality is that such a large percentage of users will only use IE not even know about other browsers. I like thee last statement too, it is the most important app. For some it's the only app they use.
Coding Horror Fan,
I think the perspective is all wrong. Why do we want I.E. complicating matters regarding standards etc. A better solution for both the consumer and Microsoft would be declaring explicitly that MS will never ever ever produce another browser, and that future versions of Windows will be shipped with an open source browser, with a default home page pointing to a Microsoft site, listing the latest versions of the major browser software (Firefox, Opera, Netscape etc.) and a detailed description of the performance and how well it adheres to standards, so that those who wish to change browsers can do so informed. I NEVER want to see another I.E. rolling out 'special' MS only features and quirks.
While we're on the subject of browsers, I have just had to take my car for an MOT (road worthiness test). Why can't code be built into all browsers, that tells a user (who is using IE 5.5 for example) that the internet 'superhighway' no longer supports the use of such a piece of crap, and that they can upgrade (link) or go back to the encyclopaedia and snail mail. My company is currently developing a variant of a usb jack in the box, that punches users instead of throwing up the error beep. This I hope will become a standard
Ouch! looks like I've just joined the S.S..... now where did I stash those hard disks with digital art....?
Why shouldn't Microsoft be allowed to ship a browser? Do you think they are the only ones with a shady past wrt standards support *cough* netscape *cough*?
I like the idea that someone else suggested where the current IE codebase is taken out and shot and Microsoft ship and all-new browser. I suspect that the current IE codebase has too much political and technical baggage now to ever produce a great new browser.
"IE 6 was a great browser-- in 2001."
That actually made me laugh out loud.
Seconded. I began using Mozilla in 2001. It was already better than IE6.
I found your article to be very inspiring. Specifically, it inspired me to find out who came up with that annoying "not so much" catchphrase that is polluting almost every blog I read. It was kind of funny the first few times I read it, but a few thousand times later it began to grate. Apparently it was coined a while back and used sometimes on Buffy but Jon Stewart is to blame for its current popularity:
More on topic, who cares if Microsoft even comes out with an IE8? Would it be such a travesty if they bowed out of the browser market? There's obviously value in competition, but there's plenty of competition without Microsoft being in the game. The bad thing about Microsoft is they have too much influence, so if they choose to ignore broad areas of the standards, then that becomes the accepted way of doing things.
Most of the non-Microsoft browsers compete with each other on standards compliance, which is great because it moves everyone closer to the standards and makes browsers more of a commodity (exactly what Microsoft wants, hence their actions). That is good for the user, because they can they use any browser with the assurance that its page rendering will the the same, so they can choose the one with the feature set they like best.
Correction to a typo in my previous comment: Making browsers a commodity is exactly what Microsoft does NOT want, hence their actions in putting their twist on various aspects of the standards and forcing competitors to render in "IE-compatible" mode.
I don't buy the without Microsoft we be in green fields argument with rosey glasses and waterfalls argument.
If Mozilla and Mac are so much better equipped why haven't they. There are a lot of fish in the browser pond. I think there are reasons why your list hasn't made it in any browsers beyond Microsoft.
Could it be technical or the fact the browsers are free and do not make any money. No those are practical arguments right ?
I think the main reason people use Internet Explorer over other web browsers is that IE comes pre-installed on Windows machines.
Does Microsoft actually make any money from IE? I can't see how they would. So why not open-source it, or just plain abandon it?
They need to
redo their browser from SCRATCH!
"But how, exactly, does silence help the massive audience of people who use Internet Explorer on a daily basis?"
You don't use a Mac do you? Apple hasn't announced anything about anything before they are ready to put it on the shelf. Maybe they are taking a page from the Apple playbook. Though it seems comments here would suggest that there is some news out there.
All 97% of web users care about is **do the web sites I CARE ABOUT work properly in my browser?**
As long as google mail, facebook, and Deb's Big House of Smut work fine on what they have, the general population isn't going to care about CSS 3.0, RSS 2.0, or even browser security.
One exception: browser tabs. That's worth a switch, and I think that's when IE lost a fair portion of its userbase. Then it became "cool" to use ffox, and that carried some additional momentum.
I wonder if we'll see a mainstream, non-Safari webkitbased browser emerge. Safari is such a bizarro app on Windows.
Why do you care?
Wondering about what Microsoft could do for web browsers is like wondering how castration could solve your impotency.
The net input Microsoft has had in email and browsers are billions of dollars of damages, and millions of developer hours of frustration.
Why, then they'd bring the war to Microsoft...
I have Safari 3.0.4 installed on Windows but the web development tools are not available for Windows. Netscape never died. You can download Netscape 9 but it is just Firefox with Netscape branding. All of my Firefox extensions work in Netscape 9. Opera has some nice developer tools but only the XMLHttpRequest logger seems innovative. Fiddler is great if you want to mess with raw HTTP requests and responses.
I'm assuming that the next release of IE is being tied to Silverlight 1.1, and that we'll be hearing a lot of noise about both at MIX in March.
The quote about perceived problems with MS being due to long and secretive process is dead on. Some areas of the organization are improving in that respect, hopefully they'll become clueful on a wider scale some day.
I was hoping Atwood would say something like 20% of programmers (the alphas) use FF or Safari, while the remaining 80% dorks use IE *rolleyes*
I noticed this new feature in the FireFox 3 beta:
"Memory usage: Over 300 individual memory leaks have been plugged, and a new XPCOM cycle collector completely eliminates many more. Developers are continuing to work on optimizing memory use (by releasing cached objects more quickly) and reducing fragmentation."
Microsoft wants every piece of the pie. There would be NO chance that they wouldn't show up. They need the homepages to point to their search engine to keep it high in the rankings :)
Let's all plunk on our conspiracy theory caps for a second, but lets do so for good reason. I think that all those who say "There's no money in browsers" are missing something vitally important.
Having to support a wide variety of other non-Microsoft browsers bloats their development tools, delays product shipment times, and makes things generally difficult for Microsoft. Difficult = costly.
Over time, the push for standards compliance has actually worked out in Microsoft's favor. IE7 is far more compliant, but it's no golden child. Further, Microsoft can't just break all the existing pre-IE7 applications/sites out there. But supporting standards makes sure that Microsoft looks like one of the browser good guys, and that their browser maintains control of the market, so that developers will continue to use it with their tools.
As someone else has pointed out, it's all about the developers.
Tear-off tabs in Safari 3 for Windows/OS X make my heart sing.
Another interesting aspect of the new browser war is that of the big 4 browsers, 2 of them, Firefox and WebKit, are Open Source.
Webkit is also making some inroads as *the* choice if you want to embed a web browser in your framework/app/device. It's in Adobe AIR, Google Android, and Nokia is working on a port of it.
I'm looking for a new browser. At last glance, FF Beta 3 was eating my PC, using 700+ megs of RAM. Solved the buffer overflow problems? Not yet. Damn! FF2 just froze again. What to do? What to do? Konqueror? Nautilus?... Big is the enemy of cool.
I've used firefox.... it sucks big time. There's just too much to it, and it tries to do to much for me. If I want something done, I'll go do it myself. I've used IE for years and have never had a single complaint about it. It opens every web-page I've ever been to (which is in the hundreds of thousands) perfectly. It's a simple browser, and why would I ever want anything more?
Opera Firefox Safari
I have a mac there is no IE
GooGLE inspirational experiences
You're wrong about the "Browser Wars". Safari for Windows isn't a browser as much as a platform for developers to test their WebKit applications on.
Safari has some very interesting features. It doesn't use an Apple produced rendering engine. Instead, it uses the open source KHTML rendering engine. This rendering engine (much like IE's) is built into Mac OS. Any Mac OS X application can use the engine to render HTML code.
What makes Safari really interesting is that it is one of the few browsers that can actually pass the ACID2 test (http://www.webstandards.org/action/acid2/), and to Apple, that's the real key. Apple sees its future as a company that will produce really cool hardware that interfaces with the Internet and webpages.
If you ask someone who uses the iPhone what they really like about the phone, its the browser. The iPhone is a mediocre camera, a mid-quality phone, and a pretty good MP3 player. However, the iPhone is completely unsurpassed as a portable Internet browsing platform.
And, that's why there is Safari for Windows: It allows Windows developers to create web-enabled applications for the iPhone and for the many other web-enabled products that Apple will be producing in the coming years.
What is really interesting is that Android also comes with a Google version of the same WebKit. And, this same WebKit is being ported over to Gnome.
It isn't a browser war. It's a browser rendering engine war. The winner controls the way small web-enabled electronics will work over Internet. Apple and Google are banking on an open source KHTML engine.
Microsoft's problem is not coming out with a new version of IE 8, but a rendering engine that can be used with IE 8.
zeroturn's link to IE 8 leaked information is bogus, as any regular reader of Channel 9 could tell you. That was Jamie's imagination running wild, not actual Microsoft specs.
"Over 300 individual memory leaks have been plugged": I think that's THE great weakness of Firefox, glad to hear they're fixing it, though some guys who have tested the beta version didn't find it improved very much.
I don't use IE, mainly because of the 'integration' with windows and the big danger than comes with it
Who would be dumb enough to use IE ?
Well Microsoft is just gonna copy them all anyway and make a less secure ripped version of Mac's and Mozilla's
Chris: "Firefox's inability to do anything in a tab while another tab is loading...how many Jetman games have I died in through another tab loading? :)"
Huh? I don't have that problem at all (currently with FF 18.104.22.168). I always right click links and choose "Open in New Tab" and then continue whatever I'm doing in the current tab while the other one is loading. I often have six or more tabs loading while I continue reading in the original one, scrolling through the page.
ChrisVB: Back to /. with you, script kiddie. Senseless MS bashing is ridiculous, and shows a severe lack of intelligence. Go back to the other kids - grownups are talking here.
As a developer, more browsers is bad news ... more potential browser compatibility problems, more development headaches, end user getting confused. We should all campaign for just one open source browser!
You have actually left opera, which had and has more features than firefox from its first version, which is also a very good competitor in browser war
Ya know, we can't always blame Microsoft folks. If the W3C specs for CSS, HTML, XHTML, etc were more rigidly defined, we probably wouldn't even be having this discussion right now.
The purpose of IE was to break Netscape Corporation, so for their purposes it's an obsolete technology. It's the default browser on Windows, which is pretty much it's only business requirement. After they murdered their competition, you can almost see their blase attitude toward maintaining this now largely useless product. They didn't really care if you used IE or not as long as you weren't using Netscape. They can't murder open source in the same manner, so they are more or less just abandoning the fight and relying on the fact that most people will just use whatever is already installed on their machine. IE exemplifies Microsoft: destroy the competition by any means and then settle for good enough. The only reason they update IE is when it starts getting so behind that it's perceived as an embarrassment.
I'm impressed with the XPath support alone
Does this include the XPath support on the DOM parser? That would be awesome. Even moreso if M$ did it. Isn't that a no-brainer? Especially if you're doing SVG
IE exemplifies Microsoft: destroy the competition by any means and then settle for good enough. The only reason they update IE is when it starts getting so behind that it's perceived as an embarrassment.
I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I think Microsoft can do much, much better. Other product groups actually innovate, even when MS has a huge lead (eg: Office 2007), and they are more honest and open about what they're doing and where they are going.
We just need that attitude to bleed over to the IE group. If MSFT doesn't start treating the browser as the mission critical app that it is -- and honestly, what app would users possibly spend more time in today? -- then they're in deep, deep trouble.
OpenSource people with Firefox, Opera just help Microsoft to keep clean on the platform at web browsers sphere. Other aspect is that Opera has functionality like little system perhaps the target is platform not a web browser ;-).
This isn't the only abandoned non-box product. What about Windows Scripting Host? I was blown away by the various scripting options on Mac. Automator is awesome. Windows only has WHS, which has effectively been abandoned years ago without a replacement. Does MS really believe the whole world is going to learn .Net or that no one needs something like WHS?
The resource allocator as MS should be fired. Products that people use like IE and WHS are ignored, while money losers like MSN and XBox can blow the whole wad.
What's the downside to Microsoft if Internet Explorer stagnates? People start making Silverlight apps to take advantage of faster js rendering and Microsoft gets a decent install base.
You ended your article with "any hope left".
Any hope left for what?
For Microsoft? For the web?
I love programming for the web. Because really, having to fight who's actually following what standards, and hacking/bypassing/stitching together a bunch of BS to make an 'in browser' desktop app is just ... fantastic.
Flash is hilarious: what's the best way to make a website/app immune to the browser/web BS? Easy -- don't make it a website. Load this plugin, and run a desktop application that's compiled into this little web panel thing.
"What If They Gave a Browser War and Microsoft Never Came?"
Why, then, war will come to you.
I have very little faith in Microsoft in this point to deliver a quality web browser. Simon had it right: the question is whether or not browsers are the future. I think Microsoft's answer is "no".
I believe Silverlight is their key focus for online market share; if Silverlight is the means by which rich Internet applications are delivered, then what does it matter if the hosting application is Firefox, Opera or Safari?
Bundle Silverlight in future versions of Windows, make it a 'critical update' for existing versions and do little to further the implementation of W3C standards...and you've gone a long way towards making Silverlight the de facto standard for any web applications more sophisticated than a simple blog comment form.
Make your Silverlight development tools freely available, and you can attract developers otherwise dissuaded by the price tag of the Adobe's products. Allow .NET developers to easily create Silverlight applications and you've attracted a crowd that wasn't too eager to fight with ActionScript and can now use their favorite language to do the trick.
Where Netscape was the target in the 90s, I believe Flash and (to a lesser extent) advanced browser features are in Microsoft's sights now. If you have greater market share than the former and a more consistently-implemented version of the latter, then you've conquered the Online Platform.
Then it doesn't matter as much what competitors like Google do -- since they're going to have to use *your* tool to deliver content to the end user.
Then again, I could be completely wrong and the IE8 division is staffed by incompetents...in which case we'll continue to see gains by Opera, Firefox and Safari until the issue of a Microsoft web browser is moot.
I think MS are going to do the usual (I suspect this is why IE7 was late) ... I'm not sure enough MS people really get it that the web is what we want and back in the day they tried to shove smart clients down our throats and when the web became hot they just dumped IE7 on us - because ... come on ... its crap and I think now they probably still think google is a phase and that IE8 isn't really important until its too bloody late and then bang ... another steaming pile of rushed catch-up style coding. Silverlight is another reason IE8 doesn't matter ... get it yet? (smart client part 2) - if SL is "the" thing who cares about the browser.
We all like to think it will be different, we all hope and pray that IE8 will be WOW but without community involvement ... its going to suck. I just deal with firefox and its crappy rendering but at least its fast.
David, Safari does not actually use KHTML; it uses WebKit. The latter may have begun life as a fork of KHTML, but the code-bases diverged pretty significantly, to the extent that the two are now effectively two different rendering engines. In fact, the KDE team has chosen to replace KHTML with WebKit in KDE 4.
And as for all the comments which state that browsers make no money, you could not be more wrong. Browser vendors earn a decent amount of income through the integration of search, with Google and Yahoo paying them for each search request sent through the browser's integrated search bar. The income from this is substantial enough to keep Firefox going and it was sufficient for Opera to make its browser free. In the same vein, even though Microsoft can't make a profit on IE directly (because it will only partner with its own Live Search), the extra traffic that IE moves to Live Search's servers instead of those of Google and Yahoo make it more than worth the cost of development. That's why IE8 really will launch within a year or two.
So all these apps are moving to the Web and Microsoft is acting like it didn't notice... or doesn't want to. Considering the vast amount of daily exobytes that gets package by HTTP packets, why would they suddenly stop believing in HTML?
Let me rephrase that question: why would anyone in their right mind would go on believing in an ajaxified kludge when you could theorically improve the Web platform itself, the end results and the development environment by the introduction of a pre-packaged toolset that would work on the world's largest userbase, namingly Windows OS?
What if you could change the world (again) by revamping the deploy once, run everywhere paradigm made popular by the Web and cash in on it?
The next war won't be a browser war. It will be the fight for the ultimate application platform. Some of the concurrents are already lining up: Adobe (AIR), Mozilla (Firefox/Prism/XulRunner), "Open"Lazslow, and Microsoft Sliverlight, ... You may even throw in Android, if you like. Who else am I forgetting?
I truly belive that the need (or temptation) for a "browserless Web" is very real, but until the infrastructure is there for developers and content producers to really start leveraging the coming medium, we'll be happy to welcome any sort of enhancements made to that good old Web-2.0-enabled technology.
If we ever trade for the new platform our klunky (by comparison) browsers and habits, I'm only concerned that somebody might end up "owning" a considerable part of the Web.
And what about all of those great, innovative features that IE 7 gaves us like..... tabbed browsing, and..... anti-fishing????, and...... tabbed browsing? Surely that should tide us over for another 5 years.
I can't even use IE7 at work due to some compatibility problems with an internal app that another department uses, but I can't say that I miss it.
Some might say that I just don't like it because I always use Firefox and hate anything different after so much dedicated use, but I beg to differ. For an entire two week period on TDY I was forced to use IE7 in lieu of Firefox, and I found NOTHING in IE7 that would even make me consider using it.
That being said, there are a few areas in which IE has Firefox beat, mostly at the enterprise level. For example, many of my internal sites at work use smart card authentication, and several of them even use client certificate mapping to map to AD accounts and control access. Here is where Firefox falls flat on its face. I'm not sure if Firefox will ever surmount the obstacle of IWA and Client Certificate Mapping, but I'm not too worried. For internal sites that use those features, I use IE. When I want to browse the web, I ALWAYS go to Firefox.
I just wish all of these browsers would be more standards compliant. I am not sure if any of you run websites, but I still see 80% of my traffic coming from IE. They are still in the lead, and as much as we would like to think Opera, Safari or Firefox will jump into the lead, that is assuming most internet users are somewhat tech savvy.
The scary part is most users will use what is originally installed on their PC. Unless Dell, Gateway, Lenovo and the other PC (not Mac) manufacturers start bundling these browsers, you won't see that market share beat Microsoft.
Market: I imagine the reason he didn't mention Opera is that a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers#1999_to_present"nobody uses it/a.
Under-1% marketshare is a no-show - and Opera can't manage to even meet that by most measures, most quarters. Even with nobody running Safari on Windows, to speak of, it's managed to do at least half-again as good, in the less-favorable measures, to four times as well.
So why did Microsoft take 5 years to develop IE6-IE7?
WPF - In early 2000's (not sure of exact date) MS gutted the trident rendering team and threw them on to WPF.
"browser war" only matters to web developers. . . . your average joe/sue who only use email, surf the web, some office apps could care much less.
That's right. The browser war is about what capabilities Joe and Sue's desktop will have next year, not about what they have now.
But I guess that means that the browser war of a few years ago is why you curse Joe and Sue for sending you five lines of text or a scan as an email attachment in .doc format.
microsoft realizes that they don't really need to invest much in continuous improvements since they will always have majority market share as long as their browser is bundled as part of windows.
hopefully even the novice computer users will continue to get the point and download / use the better alternatives.
developing for ie6/ie7 is the bane of my existence.
Yeah, you are right about something heating up. But it's not a war, it will be a small revolution. Mozilla will lose it, as will Microsoft. The winner is Webkit and thus Google and Apple. I've written about it in my blog when I first tried Safari for Windows: http://nikolai.prokoschenko.de/archives/147
It doesn't matter when Microsoft puts stuff out, as some companies refuse to let their workers upgrade until they say that is okay. I'm still stuck using IE6 at work, and there are no plans to move to IE7. We're also not allowed to use any other browser.
IE4 was inovative and great in it's time and long after it. No one catched up. Do you remembere MS's massive inovations? DHTML, WebHTTPRequest?
The team was destroyed, because it jeopardize MS's core businness. Windows and Office might be replaced by online apps.
The will newer repeat the mistake with too inovative Browser. And it seems no one else is close to such inovative power past IEs showed to us.
I want a 3D interface where I can use my hands to move images around as Tom Cruise did in the movie.
Until then I guess MS needs to say something what goes on, I use the beta version of Firefox 3.0 and it works well.
Microsoft is a slow bear often just coming out from a bearhide winter.
Until they get better productcycles and know how to speed such I guess then they dont know much in how they are doing.
Silence from a company seldom is a good thing.
If you install the IE 7Pro addon (http://www.ie7pro.com/) you'll see Microsoft has added some features similar to firefox (crash recovery, user scripts, inline search,etc...) which will probably become standard in IE 8.
David, Safari does not actually use KHTML; it uses WebKit. The latter
may have begun life as a fork of KHTML, but the code-bases diverged
pretty significantly, to the extent that the two are now effectively
two different rendering engines. In fact, the KDE team has chosen to
replace KHTML with WebKit in KDE 4.
Yes, Safari's rendering engine is really WebKit based. However, any changes Apple made in the KHTML portion of WebKit were submitted back to the KHTML project and accepted.
You're right because, although Safari is considered a KHTML browser, WebKit is really so much more than just the KHTML rendering engine.
Apple decided to open source the whole WebKit. Not only is the KDE project replacing the KHTML project with WebKit, but also the GTK+ team is as well. And, of course, Google is also using WebKit in Android.
What's really important is that there is an open source web framework and HTML rendering engine that will be ported to almost all flavors of the Linux desktop, and to Google's Android project. This presents a very formidable web platform.
This is so much more than the name on your Web Browser. It's the whole underlying technology.
So why did Microsoft take 5 years to develop IE6-IE7?
In the meantime it had developed on the OS side: XPSP2,XP64,W2K3,W2K3-64,Vista. On the Office side: XP,2003,Mac2004,2007. Internet apps: Messenger 4.6,5,6,6.1,6.2,7.0,7.5,8.0,8.5. Media apps: Windows Media Player 7, 8, 9, 10, and now 11 (not including various versions for pocketpc, mac, etc).
One can argue many points, but one single reason comes to mind: Developing IE6-IE7 wasn't part of their business strategy. Why? Ask microsoft.
The browser will become important to Microsoft when it becomes a business case. And I think we can all see this with recent developments.
What has become important is they don't want to lose application market share to web applications and the ability to tie in desktop applications to the web is very appealing. Which is why we see Silverlight/WPF and Adobe AIR.
While Microsoft may or may not be innovative or not, it is not their competitive advantage. Their competitive advantage comes from owning the OS.
But they can no longer intermingle the OS and the browser because:
1) A federal judge said they can't
2) Whenever they do they seem to expose wicked security holes.
So with no advantage, their returns to time and capital will be smaller. They realize that Firefox has won. But at the same time they realize they've lost very little. Since they make no money off of it, further browser development is merely to hold their seat at the table.
I don't know what all that fuss is about. If Microsoft does not develops a new web browser, well we can and will just download some other web browser. I'm sure there are more than enough browsers on the net to satisfy anyones apetites.
Your second to last statement is the very reason they are in no hurry to update it: "I don't think there's a more important single application on the planet right now than the web browser."
That is not acceptable to the Windows franchise. It does not serve them well to innovate in this arena because if they ship the newest and latest standards based features, it will destroy the Windows and even Office markets by making things available to the entire web.
By not shipping new browsers they essentially are able to hold the market back, because as much as a bunch of people here and elsewhere say "dump-em", that will not happen. That is an absurd statement... therefore, developers still have to develop for IE 6/7 which helps fracture development and make it more difficult to ship really compelling products that will eat their lunch.
This is further evidenced by the fact they have no problem shipping out proprietary (not that I am against proprietary) platforms such as Silverlight that will help tie things to something they product (sort of like prop browser extensions).
To me, it is pretty clear, especially when you look at the actions where they have NO issue shipping CTP after CTP of 10s of other products - that just so happen to help the franchise. I mean, Silverlight 2 is even being talked about already and 1.1 is not even here!
"browser war" only matters to web developers. 95% of the web public don't care, and don't have a reason to. it's like arguing which OS is better. you can throw out pros 'n cons based off statistics gathered by alpha geeks, but when it comes down to it, your average joe/sue who only use email, surf the web, some office apps could care much less.
If I'm Microsoft, I'm looking for a way to sunset the Internet Explorer program entirely. Let Mozilla have the browser market! No skin off my back.
My company sells software that uses an Active X control to pull Microsoft Word into Internet Explorer (and then fiddle with the permissions, etc.) for our "web-based" app. Might as well send MS a cut of our revenue with how much our software worships it.
While many of us hate IE, and would love to have our software work differently, none of our clients would agree because they only use Windows, Word, and IE.
As long as the Mac continues to grab more and more market share (it's not just consumers making the switch), and Linux continues to make it to enterprise employee desktops, we will see an indirect effect on browsers.
But for now, you develop for the user, and the user simply eats what is put on their plate.
Honestly, they're friggin' web browsers. What exactly is one missing that we so very badly have to have? I'm a desktop app developer with little to no experience with any serious web programming (I guess that puts me closer to the "end-user" group for the purposes of this discussion), and just off the top of my head, aside from Java, ActiveX (implementation quality notwithstanding), AJAX and tabbed browsing, I've really just not seen anything to get all that excited about over the years. Really, my only concern - and I don't even worry about *that* very much - is having a browser with a small footprint.
"If they gave a browser war", would *anyone* care? /shrug